Beef Steak and Whisky Pairing
By: Jack Mancuso
When it comes to meat and whisky pairing, the two flavors work well together fabulously. They’re both savory, robust, and complex. Whisky can taste strong, but the juiciness and fats in beef steak balance that out. And there are notes in whisky (caramel, smoky, fruity) that enhance the umami flavors of the beef.
So, Where Do You Begin?
Standing in the whisky aisle at the liquor store, it becomes obvious how many choices exist. Finding the right spirit for your beautiful steak may feel daunting. You have single malts, which standalone against the rich taste of steak. Smooth bourbon or even woody rye also fit the bill. Coloring a little outside the lines, you can also consider brandy and cognac. The ways in which you’ll use these will be pretty much the same.
Then, too, there are personal preferences above all else. You may like peaty whisky with a stared steak, for example. Add to that an understanding of how spices affect the pairing, and you might need some experimentation to find just the right match for your meal.
Beef Steak and Whisky Cooking Methods
What techniques work best with steak and whisky?
- Grilling: the open flame imparts a smoky flavor that complements certain whiskies. This recipe for Tomahawk Ribeye is a good example. Here, I use my flagship Cuso’s Dirt® Seasoning to enhance the results even further.
- Pan-searing: Do you have a skillet and a small amount of oil or butter? Pan-searing creates the highly craved, delicious crust on the steak while keeping it tender. The caramelized flavors harmonize with the complex palate profile of whisky.
- Sous vide: Take your steak for a bath! Sous vide involves vacuum-sealing the steak in a bag and cooking it in a water bath. You end up with very even results. Whiskey creates nuance here.
- Smoking: Smoking and grilling can go hand in hand, deepening the smoky flavor that compliments whisky.
- Roasting: Roasting the steak in the oven and braising it with whisky brings out amazing notes in both the drink and the steak.
Remember that the way your whisky and steak go together must include the prominent spices. Peppercorns, garlic, soy, paprika, chili, and rosemary each change your meal’s flavor profile.
PitMaster’s Memo: Why Do Whisky and Steak Work Together?
People will generally find a whisky they really like to pair with their beefsteak. There is no hard and fast rule about this. However, there are reasons this liquor works so well with beef. First, the flavors dance well together. Neither are shy so that they can balance each other.
Then, there are contrasting textures. Whisky's smoothness provides a pleasant contrast to the juicy texture of a beef steak. The two together result in a satisfying mouthfeel with depth.
Finally, you can take a sip of whisky between bites to cleanse your palate.
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