The Best Cuts Of Beef For Sugar Steak

Created at Bastien's Restaurant in Denver, sugar steak is easy enough to figure out. It's a cut of meat coated in a rub that is heavy on the white sugar — and, some claim, Montreal steak seasoning — which is then seared over high heat to caramelize the exterior. It's important to note that, at Bastien's, sugar steak is only served rare or medium-rare, and it's only available on two cuts of steak, NY strip or ribeye. While it is unknown why exactly this is the case, it's likely that cooking a sugar steak beyond medium-rare would result in an acrid, burnt exterior. Also, NY strips and ribeyes have enough incumbent flavor to stand up to the sweet rub. But that got us wondering what other cuts of meat might work for sugar steak.

When all it takes is a good cut of beef, some sugar, seasoning, and a ripping hot grill, skillet, or broiler, who wouldn't be tempted to give this recipe a try? That said, there are a few things that can potentially go wrong here. Namely, you want a thick steak that can withstand the high heat needed to caramelize the crust without turning into a puck. This isn't the time for skirt or flank steaks. In addition to strips and ribeyes, T-bones, baseball steaks, and Denver steaks cut thick will fair well when glazed in sugar.

Why some cuts work better than others

You might wonder why thick-cut filet mignon wasn't on that list. It wouldn't be a bad choice for sugar steak, but for all of its famed tenderness, a filet mignon is lean. The leaner the steak, the less punchy it will be in the flavor department. The sugar rub used at Bastien's and versions found online are quite assertive and need a bold, beefy steak underneath so as not to fall out of balance. A filet mignon might just be a tender, yet insipid canvas for what's on the outside.

Bastien's preferred cuts (as well as the ones we mentioned) have commonalities, chief among them a rich marbling. Striated to varying degrees with fat and, in some cases, connective tissue, these steaks smack of steer, providing an umami contrast to the sweet, crackly crust.

Another factor shared by some of these cuts, albeit one that is variable and not necessary for a fantastic final product, is affordability. Ribeyes, NY strips, and T-bones, don't really fall into this subjective category, but baseball steaks from the sirloin primal and Denver steaks from the chuck have a relatively low price per pound. When you're talking about getting a thick cut of meat, the price per pound can become something of a factor, making these a great choice. But ultimately, the steak you love, paired with a great sugar rub and quality cooking, should result in a deliciously sweet take on a meaty treat.