The Best Homemade Steak Seasoning – Easy Recipe
There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a hot and juicy steak. Oftentimes, the steak of your dreams includes a slightly charred and totally delectable crust of herbs and spices. But sometimes it can be hard for your dreams to translate into reality.
Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You soaked your steaks in a marinade for hours only for it to seem to evaporate before it reached your taste buds. You free handed your seasoning mix and ended up with a terribly unbalanced blend. You cranked up the grill too high and suddenly the carefully crafted spice crust on your meat turned into charcoal. Whatever trials and tribulations you might have had with seasoning steak in the past, we’re here to help.
The Scoop on Seasoning
So, what are the different ways to enhance the flavor of your steak? The first method is marinating. The basic premise of marinating is soaking meat in a flavorful liquid for anywhere for a few minutes to a full day. Often, an acidic ingredient is used to help break down and tenderize the meat as it rests. Over time, the marinade seeps into the meat to make it more tender, juicy, and flavorful.
Brining is the second method. You could think of it as the cousin of marinating. While the focus of a marinade is to infuse flavor, the main focus of a brine is to infuse moisture into the meat. In its simplest form, a brine is a solution of salt and water. Sometimes sugar, herbs, or spices are added for a little extra flavor, however the main goal of moisturizing the meat is attained through the salt and water. This method is typically used for meats like chicken or turkey which are especially susceptible to drying out.
The third method, rubbing or seasoning, is similar to marinating in the sense that you are tenderizing and adding flavor to the meat. However, rubs are entirely made up of dry ingredients like different herbs and spices. Rubs are great for getting a nice crust on the outside while locking the meat’s natural juices within. Coupled with an exciting sauce or grilling your rubbed meat over different types of wood (such as hickory, apple, or mesquite) you can create incredibly mouth-watering steaks.
Complement your Meats with the Right Seasoning
Seasonings are incredibly easy to make yourself. You just need to know what kinds of herbs and spices pair best with your meat of choice. For example, warmer and lighter herbs and spices like rosemary, sage, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice pair well with the natural sweetness of pork. When seasoning chicken, you can hardly go wrong with any herb or spice since the chicken has such a mild flavor. You can try anything from bay leaves to thyme or basil to curry powder. Bright herbs such as dill, chives, parsley, and marjoram go really well with fish. You also can't go wrong when breading fish with cornmeal and a little cayenne. Beef needs more robust herbs and spices such as cumin, oregano, cayenne, or chili powder in order to stand up against its intense meaty flavor. Those same robust herbs and spices will also complement most varieties of game meats well.
Today we’ll be focusing on how to season steak for grilling. Although you can never go wrong with just salt and pepper, there are so many other more exciting ways to season your steak. Forgo the preblended bottles in the grocery store, and take full control of your flavors by mixing up your very own homemade steak seasoning.
The Best Steak Seasoning Recipe
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt or 1 tablespoon of table salt
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- A couple shakes of your favorite hotter spice such as cayenne, chili powder, or ancho chile pepper (experiment with whatever combination you prefer and adjust the amount depending on how mild or spicy you prefer.)
Of course, these measurements are all merely suggestions. Everyone’s flavor preferences are different, so feel free to use this as a guide for experimentation. Only you know what flavors you like best. If you’re really into your pepper, don’t be afraid to add a few more shakes. If you know you can’t handle spicy foods, take out the cayenne, chili, etc all together. The beauty of a homemade steak seasoning is that you can customize it entirely to your preference.
Step 1: Mixing up your homemade steak seasoning
Measure out your salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, thyme, and hotter spice of choice, and put them into a small bowl. Combine the herbs and spices with a whisk, making sure everything is well mixed.
Pro Tip: Double or triple the recipe so that you can have a readymade blend on hand the next time you make steak. Simply pour the leftover mix into a glass jar and store in a cool, dry location. You may even find that this seasoning works fantastically as a dry rub for chicken too.
Step 2: Applying your seasoning—Don’t rub it the wrong way!
Contrary to how it sounds, you don’t actually want to rub a seasoning rub into your meats. If you do, it’ll only clog the pores of the meat and give your steak surface level flavor. Pat down your steaks with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture (but make sure its not bone dry either. You want your seasoning to still be able to stick onto some of the meat’s moisture.) Then, you’ll want to sprinkle your seasoning blend onto the top, bottom, and sides of the steak. If you sprinkle from a height, you’ll get the best distribution of the seasoning over the surfaces of the meat. You can lightly pat down the seasoning with the palm of your hand to ensure that it sticks, but you don’t want to get any more aggressive than that.
Step 3: Playing the waiting game
The secret to a flavorful and succulent steak is allowing time for the rub to do its job. Cover your newly seasoned steaks and let them rest in the refrigerator. Wait at least 15-20 minutes for the seasoning to get into the meat. If you’re able to plan ahead, rest the steaks in the seasoning overnight to get the most out of your homemade steak seasoning.
Pro tip: To achieve that crispy steak crust of your dreams, you’ll want to opt for the overnight seasoning option. By the next day, you should notice that the surface of the meat is very dry. Thanks to the salt in the seasoning, it drew out the excess moisture from the surface while permeating deep into the meat to season it. This dry coating will allow you to be able to develop a great crust while grilling.
Step 4: Cook it up
Once your meat is rested and well-flavored, it’s time to get your grill on. Make sure to do your research about how to properly cook your cut of steak. A New York strip steak and a filet mignon require completely different approaches to grilling. But no matter which cut of meat you cook, they will all benefit from a quick rest after you remove it from the grill. Waiting just five minutes will help ensure that the meat’s juices will redistribute and not just spill out all over the cutting board when you go to cut it.
Just like that, there you have your seasoned steak. Using a seasoning or rub on your meats is one of the easiest ways to get a lot of flavor into your food without a lot of extra effort. Unlike marinades or brines, there is nothing to drain off or waste afterwards. All you have to do is just sprinkle on the seasoning and leave it on throughout the processes of resting, cooking, and even eating. Even better, you can store your homemade seasonings in a glass container for months whereas marinades and brines have to be used right away.
All that's left to be discovered is how you will make the seasoning your own. Incorporating dry mustard or oregano might be a good starting point. If you try this steak seasoning recipe yourself, let us know what you think in the comments below. Have you already concocted your own version? We'd love to hear all about it.
See, there is a way after all to seek redemption from your steak seasoning horror stories. Get your spices and get to the grill. Seasoned steak is calling your name.
Frequently Asked Questions
What spices go well with steak?
Some people like keeping their steak dishes really simple, but we’ve found a few spices beyond salt and pepper can really take your meat to the next level. Try adding spices like garlic, onion, mustard powder, curry powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, or dried thyme to your steak to really amp up the flavors.
How do you make a steak flavorful?
There are so many ways to add flavor to a steak. You can use a steak seasoning like the recipe we included above, or you can rub your steak with a cut garlic clove before cooking it. Basting a steak with a rosemary sprig is an easy way to add flavor, and you can play around with the different cuts of steak to see which one has the most appealing flavor.
How much seasoning do you put on a steak?
We like sprinkling our steaks with seasonings instead of rubbing it into the meat. Most steak doesn’t need to be massaged, which can break down the muscle fibers and cause the meat to turn out mushy. Instead, sprinkle just enough seasoning to cover the entire surface of the steak. Lightly pat it in and let the steak sit for 15 minutes before cooking it.
When should I season a steak?
Some people like applying the seasoning to the steak the night before they cook it, which gives the steak 24 hours to absorb all the flavors. We like to do this if we have time, but we often don’t think that far in advance! You can add seasoning 15 minutes before you cook it and just add a little more than you would the night before and it will turn out just perfect.
Do you salt both sides of a steak?
In general, we recommend seasoning both sides of a steak. Otherwise, one side will taste flavorful and the other will be bland! Since our homemade steak seasoning recipe contains salt, you don’t need to worry about applying salt separately.