What is the best steak sauce?

What is the best steak sauce? That isn’t an easily answered question. Let’s first answer why we are adding to the steak in the first place. Did we not season the steak? Is the addition part of a larger dish? Do we like the additional items more than the steak? Is the addition part of a cultural dish (Chimichurri comes to mind)? How about the addition of seafood as the sauce? Let’s go through some of these possibilities.

Traditional store-bought sauces: This covers your A-1, Heinz 57, horse radish, and the like. It’s for backyard cooking and date night restaurant goers. Not that everyone doesn’t have it on hand; it’s just that high-end steakhouses will turn up their noses at you when those items are requested. These sauces are for the sirloin, the chuck and the round cuts of beef. I will use one of these sauces when I go to the Golden Corral or get the $13 steak and all-you-can-eat combo. These filling but not well seasoned steaks require a heavy sauce.

Butter: Now we are on the higher end of things. The Peter Luger and Burns Steakhouses finish their steaks in butter or seasoned butter. This gives the steak a great mouth feel. They also have a protocol on seasoning their steaks. The best steak houses cook their steaks at high temperatures searing in the juices. Many use a finishing salt, always a coarse salt, and sometimes the steak is cooked on a block of salt. Now, French restaurants may use compound butter with herbs or exotic salts. This is all you need with a properly cooked and seasoned steak.

Pure French: There are three common sauces in French cooking: a Hollandaise based sauce, a wine based sauce,and a cream based sauce. They all have a place in the steak world. Classic Oscar treatment is Hollandaise with asparagus and crab meat. Add tarragon, and you have sauce Bearnaise which was invented by a Frenchman in 1836 as the child of hollandaise. The next sauce is a Burgundy wine and herb reduction often with pan dripping. Tart and acidic, this sauce brings a counterpoint to the richness of the steak. Steak Au Poivre is the classic cream based sauce.

Cheese: One of my favorite sauces on a steak is not a traditional sauce at all; it’s bleu cheese. The funkiness of the cheese enhances the flavor of the steak. Goat cheese is not as funky, but the tartness also gives balance to the meal. My rule is once the cheese melts, it’s a sauce.

Asian Tiger Sauce: This is purely a dipping sauce with the main components being fish sauce, lime juice, onions, garlic, hot chilis, and sugar. It goes by many names too numerous to mention, all with their regional differences.

Chimichurri sauce: It is fresh and herbaceous with oregano, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper, and vinegar. It brings an acid kick to the steak. It is the South American (Argentina and Uruguay) version of pesto. I have added basil, and that combination works perfectly as well. This also works with chicken or fish.

So the answer to the steak sauce question comes down to: whatever you like.

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