Sugar Steak with Bourbon Recipe on Food52 (2024)

5 Ingredients or Fewer

by: Amanda Hesser



8 Ratings

  • Serves 3 to 4

Jump to Recipe

Author Notes

Katy Keck, a culinary consultant, told me about sugar steak, a dish completely foreign to me. What, you've never heard of it either? Good. Time for us all to get up to speed.

Sugar steak is very much what it sounds like: steak that's blanketed with a sugar rub and grilled. Katy, who got her recipe for it by surveying the chefs at the Spring Lake Yacht Club close to Lake Michigan, said, "Some use sirloin, some use rib-eye, I have even used CAB top round –- most agree whatever is cheapest. Also some use white sugar, some use brown, some use both." She uses dark brown sugar.

Katy has also come up with a fool-proof technique. "I have a Weber-performer and don’t use the lid on this, nor am I stingy with charcoal," she said. "It’s really impressive when you get 3 steaks going at once (total 14 pounds of meat), though I nearly set the porch roof on fire. Rip-snorting is the official temperature for the grill."

For the real sugar steak, Katy's version can be found here:
Amanda Hesser

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 flank steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cuplight brown sugar
  • 1/4 cupbourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoonred pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  1. Layer together the flank steak, sugar, bourbon, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Rub the sugar and red pepper flakes into the steak. Put the steak in a 1-gallon plastic bag, add the remaining sugar mixture, seal the bag, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
  2. Heat the broiler (or grill) and lay the steak on a baking sheet (one that you're ok with warping under the broiler). Generously season the steak all over with salt. Place the steak under the broiler -- it should be 4 to 6 inches from the flame -- and broil for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Serve with mashed potatoes and sauteed bitter greens.


  • American
  • Beef
  • Steak
  • Bourbon
  • Grill/Barbecue
  • 5 Ingredients or Fewer
  • Memorial Day
  • Father's Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Entree

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Michaelann

  • Jennifer Sheridan Moss

  • Bobby Aquitania

  • Chef Devaux

  • Kevin French

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

Popular on Food52

99 Reviews

In Quebec, sugar steak is an old recipe - my father made this for us in the '50s and he learned it as a child in the late '20s. But we make with maple syrup. Softer, cleaner taste. Better coverage when preparing.

Amanda H. May 30, 2020

Love this tip -- thanks for sharing!

Michaelann August 29, 2019

I made this tonight using a strip steak & grilled it outside. Didn’t actually taste the bourbon but it added to the overall flavor. A little kick from the crushed red pepper flakes and just a bit of sweetness from the brown sugar. I enjoyed it with a nice glass of red wine.

Jennifer S. March 6, 2018

this was tasty, mostly sweet with a bit of heat. We did not taste the bourbon much, although I used good stuff.

Bobby A. June 7, 2017

I find this kind of funny, because my country has a breakfast dish called tapsilog, that translates in Tagalog as tapa with egg. Tapa is basically flank steak marinated with garlic, msg, soy sauce and sugar. It is often served with garlic fried rice, and a sunny side egg that is served over top, before the egg craze ever hit, we were doing it for breakfast for decades.

But the thing is, this dish is sometimes made in strips, served with diced tomatoes and fish sauce, a staple in FIlipino kitchens. Or a soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce drizzled over the rice, and the egg is omitted.

But I've also had this in wide 2 x 4 inch strips, cooked either very well done and crusted, or how I like it, more tender and slow and low to get that awesome carmelization from the sugar.

I am really curious to try this without the bourbon alas, my cancer (liver) would not allow it. Is there a subsitute maybe for the liquor ingredient? My Canadian wife and son, aren't big on sweet marinades for meat, but I bet I could sneak this by them if I grilled it, and kept the red pepper flakes to a minimum...
I can't wait to try, thank you Food52 and Amanda, I love this site, even I am several years late in finding it.

Amanda H. June 11, 2017

Thanks Bobby -- so glad you found us!

Jeff H. June 2, 2016

If it is too sweet, just cut back on the sugar... Same with bourbon, as a chef, I stalk this site frequently, but rarely comment. People seem to have forgotten to employ common sense, I read some comments, and smack my head. If you think you can substitute something, go ahead, try it. I tried this with a steak in the smoker, and it was amazing, then seared it on high heat on the grill for a little char...WOW!

senorahughes January 4, 2016

I'm upset I made this without reading the comments, as I trust Amanda's recipes blindly. The taste of this marinade was worse than any of the comments lead it out to be. I made it last night, not only wasting a perfect flank (as nobody had but a slice) and have woken up today with the same sickly sweet taste in my mouth. Meat was cooked to perfection and looked like it does in the pic (gorgeous) however, the bourbon is too strong and the sugar too sweet. No bueno

Amanda H. January 10, 2016

Seems like people either love or hate this recipe -- wasn't intended to be so divisive! Sorry you weren't happy with it.

Bob December 17, 2015

I love this steak with bourbon. Sounds great. It is an absolutely winner.

Chef D. November 12, 2015

Steak and bourbon! YES PLEASE!

Kevin F. July 28, 2015

Made this recipe as directed, and despite being a HUGE bourbon fan, the bourbon was way overpowering for the meat. We did not care for this at all. I did not broil, but opted to grill it over an open flame.

jennifer March 3, 2015

This recipe looked and sounded lovely, but no one in my family really cared for it. Followed the directions regarding ingredients and marinating. Chose not to cook it under the broiler and was a little afraid grilling it for fear of fire, so opted to follow the suggestions of another commenter to heat a cast iron skillet on the grill until it was, er, rip-snorting hot. Texture and doneness was perfect, but we didn't enjoy the flavor - and it wasn't because we don't like bourbon. I have several recipes that call for it which we routinely make. There was just something about the caramelized sugar/bourbon flavor that was too cloying - sort of 'pruney' sweet.

Alex February 10, 2015

sorry but this was absolutely disgusting. Broiled it and it was unediable. The bourbon was way overpowering and just made the flank disgusting.

ATG117 August 26, 2014

I orignially tried broiling this, but the meat wasn't getting color so I brought it to the grill to finish it off. Are the photos of meat that was broiled?

Amanda H. August 26, 2014

It's been a while but I'm pretty sure we broiled it. I have a strong broiler so that might have helped. But either way, I think grilling is preferable so it sounds like you made a great call.

Nancy August 18, 2014

Can this marinate over night?

Amanda H. August 19, 2014

Yes, I think that would be fine.

Jason W. July 14, 2014

This looks so good! I can't wait to try this on my Weber gas grill. It would probably also go well with mix chopped carrots and corn. Thanks for the recipe by the way.

Rodger June 21, 2014

Suggestions on a good wine to go with this? Nothing too too expensive?

patty June 4, 2014

if using a gas grill do you put meat directly on grill over indirect or direct heat?

Amanda H. June 5, 2014

Yes, you can put it directly on the grill over direct heat.

Marc G. May 29, 2014

what's the remaining sugar? I only saw sugar mentioned once.

Amanda H. May 29, 2014

The remaining sugar is whatever doesn't stick to the steak after rubbing it. There's always a bit that drops off.

lisa May 18, 2014

we put a cast iron pan on the grill, heat it up for 10-15 min until it is smoking hot. We put nothing in the pan but salt, drop the steak in cook for a total of 5 min (1 inch steak) turn every min and perfect med rare every time. (nytimes recipe)

AntoniaJames February 1, 2014

Amanda, can the resting in the fridge occur in a small, covered glass box rather than a plastic bag? (You know what I think about using plastic bags for purposes like this . . . ) Thank you. ;o)

Amanda H. February 1, 2014

Yes, of course -- that would work just fine!

Michael C. July 26, 2013

HENDSCH, a 3 year old???? Really? Wake Up.

veneta V. March 17, 2014

what's wrong with giving your child nice tasty things, mr. Cook?

Sugar Steak with Bourbon Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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