Opt For A Smokier Whiskey When Pairing With Steak

Sometimes, inspiring a culinary "wow" means bringing contrasting flavors together — think salt and caramel, honey and mustard, and citrus and fish. Other times, it means doubling down on a dominant flavor to drive it out of the park. A great example of that is pairing the char of a succulent steak with the smoke of a good whiskey, cocking a one-two punch for a knock-out meal.

It's not just machismo the two accentuate in each other but also their shared savory, robust, and complex characteristics. The smoky caramel notes common to whiskey bring out the savory flavors in the steak. The tannins in whiskey — as in red wine — also bond with the fat to enhance the flavor of both in a culinary symbiosis, as the fat and juices in the meat return the favor by tempering the tannin taste of whiskey, especially in aged whiskeys, creating a nice balance. The warmth in the cockles that whiskey generates also dovetails nicely with the heat of the steak off the grill, enhancing the feeling of satisfaction a hot meal brings.

The right whiskey with the right steak

As with any food pairing, success often depends on smart selection; in this case, the right whiskey with the right steak. Not just any whiskey pairs well with any steak, so it's important to first familiarize yourself with the basic range of each — from bourbon to Scotch (and whiskey vs. whisky) and from T-bone to New York strip — to find the best combination. Fat content is a key consideration.

In short, the higher the fat, the bolder the whiskey. Ribeye, porterhouse, and T-bone steaks, for example, pair well with a peaty Scotch or smoky bourbon. Leaner cuts, such as a top sirloin or bottom round roast, benefit more from lighter whiskeys, which won't overpower the delicate flavors. This might be a Canadian whisky or single-malt Scotch. A relatively lean New York strip can work great with a rye whiskey, infusing spice into the tender texture of the meat. Side dishes can influence the decision too. A creamy dollop of mashed potatoes and butter-soaked corn may call for a bolder whiskey to counteract the richness, whereas simple preparations of green vegetables fit better with light and fruity Irish whiskey. How well you cook the steak also matters.

Ultimately, finding the best pairing of whiskey and steak for you is trial and error. But this can be fun, especially once you start playing with whiskey cocktail recipes. However, there may be less trial and error and more "wow" if you follow these basic guidelines.