The Best Steak Sauces – A Chefs Opinion

There is nothing like the flavor and aroma of a perfectly done steak. Steak is a complete sensory experience, starting with the beautiful grain of the meat, the colors (red, pink, grey, or any combination, depending on how you like your steak cooked), the sound of the steak sizzling on the grill, the aroma of excellent cooked beef, and the exquisite sweetish, slightly musky taste. And steak is a very personal issue for many. Some people are very picky about how they will accept their steak. Some, like myself, prefer it rare, with buttered mushrooms on top. Others prefer it well-done, perhaps with grilled onions, and/or green peppers. Some will argue that a really good steak requires nothing but a knife, fork and an appetite.

Which brings us to the question; To sauce, or not to sauce…..I refuse to be drawn into the volatile argument on whether it is appropriate to pour sauce on a good steak, or not. It is your steak. Eat it anyway you want. I eat mine all kinds of different ways, depending on my mood, and what is available. I will, however, chime in on the relative merits of some of the more commonly available commercial steak sauces.

Here is my Top 5 Best Steak Sauce List

  1. Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – the oldest commercially-bottled condiment in the world, and still one of the best. A fish sauce called garum was a staple of the Roman Empire, especially in the Mediterranean. Like many great things, the modern evolution of this wonderful sauce was an accident. A few years prior to 1838, Lady Sandys, wife to the 2nd Baron of Worcestershire, had borrowed some special curry powder from a friend. It had been brought from India, and was somewhat unique, in that it contained dried anchovies, and was called garum. It was very difficult to obtain, so she took some of it to chemists John Lea, and William Perrins to see if they could duplicate it. They were doubtful, but tried anyway. The resulting spice mix was wonderful, and they wondered if, in a solution, it might make a good condiment. They mixed some up, but it was so strong they classified it as ‘inedible’, and stored the barrel in a back office at their shop on Midland Rd, Worcestershire. It was forgotten for a while, and it fermented, mellowing out significantly, much like soy sauce. In 1937, the barrel was discovered while trying to make more office space, and the contents was examined. The resulting sauce was outstanding, and in 1838, Lea and Perrins made it available to the public. Even though Heinz bought Lea and Perrins in 2005, the sauce is still made in the same Midland Rd. factory. Lea and Perrins is the only real Worcestershire Sauce. That being said, Worcestershire Sauce is one of the few condiments that actually compliments the taste of steak, rather than covering it up. It has a slightly tart, slightly smokey taste that is wonderful on most grilled meats, and as a base for other sauces.
  2. A.1. Steak Sauce – another legendary sauce that originated in England. The original A.1. Sauce was created in 1824 by Henderson William Brand, personal chef to King George IV. He made a sauce for a special dinner from orange puree, raisins, vinegar, and other herbs and spices. It is said that the King declared it ,”A.1.”, which was a popular saying at that time, having to do with keeping ledgers. It meant, “top of the list’. It was a resounding success, and in 1831, Brand marketed his creation to the public. The Brand company changed hands many times over the years, finally to Kraft Foods in 1999, but the sauce remains unchanged for the most part. It has a slightly smokey, slightly sweet, slightly fruity taste that does not not stomp on the flavor of the meat. A true classic.
  3. Catsup – this is such an old condiment that no one knows it’s exact origin, or the date of it’s birth. We do know that as far back as the 1690, the Chinese made a sauce from anchovies and spices, and by the 1800s, it had spread all over Europe and Asia. It was called (in Mandarin) kê-chiap, meaning “fish brine”. The modern version was created by an American, Sandy Addison, in 1801, and was identical to the original except for the addition of cooked tomatoes. By 1837, ‘Catsup’, or ‘Ketchup’ was being nationally distributed by a man named Jonas Yerks. F & J Heinz bought the company in 1876, and the rest is history. Catsup has become the #1 most loved condiment in the world. People put it on anything, and everything. You can get kids to eat anything, as long as you put catsup on it. You can go into someone’s house that only has a bag of potato chips, and a jar of instant coffee in their cupboard, but there will be a bottle of catsup on the shelf somewhere. You’d be hard-pressed to go into any kitchen in the US, commercial or private, that does not have catsup in it somewhere. Maybe because it makes such a good base for other sauces, such as barbecue sauce, and hot sauce. Heck, in an emergency, I have even used it as a base for a very passable spaghetti sauce. So it is little wonder that many people, especially youngsters, delight in pouring mounds of it on their steak. The sweet, fruity, tomato-y taste does blend pretty good with just about everything.
  4. Barbecue Sauce – this one is tough, because there are so many different types, from vinegar-based, to mustard-based, to tomato-based, and in my opinion, they are all great. Many a fight has started over discussions of which barbecue sauce is best, so I will not dwell on that here. The origins of most of them are lost to antiquity, anyway. It’s enough to say that the universal smokey flavor of almost any barbecue sauce will certainly compliment the taste of any steak.
  5. Heinz 57 – Developed in 1911 at H. J. Heinz and Co., it was never intended to be a condiment. It was made thick so that it could be used as a grilling sauce, while the meat was still cooking. Nevertheless, there are people who love the astringent, tart, slightly bitter sauce right from the bottle. Used as a grilling sauce, much of the tart and bitterness goes away, and it makes a delicious, slightly tart, smokey covering on burgers and other grilled meats. As a grilling sauce, it is one of the best. As a condiment, the taste always reminds me of bitter oranges, catsup, a lot of yellow mustard seed, and a little vinegary. Some people will use nothing else (except maybe catsup….). As the Vulcans say, “ Infinite diversity in infinite combinations”. Heinz 57 is most certainly a good example for that. Oh, the name…..despite all the urban myths surrounding how it got it’s name, the truth is that the company president, Henry J. Heinz, regarded the number ’57’ as his personal lucky number. For lack of a better name, they simply called their creation ‘Heinz 57 Sauce’.

These were listed in the order of my personal preferences. As always, your mileage may vary. Whether you sauce, or not, just remember, any steak is better than none at all (in my opinion….).



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