How Coffee Became My Favorite Seasoning


I recently became interested in properly seasoning my steak.  Prior to adopting a Paleolithic diet, I only occasionally ate steak; I really didn’t like to cook and when I did, it was something simple like a sirloin steak pan-fried.  For seasoning, I would spray some ginger, Rosemary, black pepper, and salt.  More often, though, I would do without them and use A1 Steak Sauce, soy sauce or coconut aminos.

Rosemary and ginger on feedlot beef.

After switching to grass-fed beef, however, I realized that you don’t want to obscure the taste of beef with an overpowering steak sauce.  Grass-fed beef combines a slightly gamey flavor that is complex and aromatic, when properly cooked medium rare.  To savor it, you want some basic herbs and spices, not strong steak or soy sauce that crowds out the beef flavor.

Black pepper and salt, obviously.  Rosemary and ginger, too.  But I became intrigued upon reading that a coffee rub made from ground coffee beans is great on steak.  Jake’s Grillin is probably the best known brand.  Most large stores sell coffee rubs made with ground coffee, red pepper, paprika, and sugar.  However, they’re really “spice rubs” and often contain questionable ingredients like MSG, cornstarch, and anticaking or coloring agents.  So I decided to make my own coffee rub, using all natural ingredients.

Again, feedlot ground beef is ok with A1 Steak Sauce.

I fully thaw the steak first and spray some black pepper and Kosher salt, which is stickier than regular salt.  I also sprinkle some dehydrated, minced garlic, which brings out the pungent garlic flavor better than chopped garlic when oven-broiled.

Depending on how thick your steak is, you can put ground coffee on both sides.  For thin brisket slices, I use only one side.  For sirloins or T-bones, use both sides.  My starter coffee rub was ground coffee beans.  Soon, I graduated to instant coffee and instant espresso, which stick to the surface better and work just as well.  Recently, I’ve settled on instant decaf, which is less bitter but just as flavorful.

After broiling at 150F for about 8-10 minutes, you’ll notice dark streaks which look like burnt marks.  When done, the steak resembles a corned beef or pastrami round at the cold cut counter covered in black peppercorns and spices.

Back ribs are great with coffee.

Wow, the coffee rub brings out the strong beef flavor that is thick, toasty and rich.  With decaf, the taste is a bit more subtle but the smoky beef flavor is just as striking.

Hickory-smoked brisket slices from U.S. Wellness Meats.

Later, I experimented with various cuts and also with pork.  The rub goes well with pork loins and chops.  Since I slow-cook my pork, the instant coffee granules get seared even tighter and form a toasty crust, giving pork the faux burnt flavor.

Broiling your steak in an electric oven seems to be the best way of using the coffee rub.  I didn’t realize the depth of flavor which coffee brings out when used this way.  A whiff of bitterness and toasty flavor, balanced by the saltiness and delicacy of other spices.  The adjective robust was probably coined to describe the strong yet complex beef flavor which emerges.

So I stopped cooking my steak any other way.  And threw away my last bottle of A1 Steak Sauce.   Au revoir, A1.

Au revoir, A1.

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