Mike LangBeef, Grilling

What's on the Grill #266: Brown Sugar & Bourbon Steaks

Mike LangBeef, Grilling

When grilling steak, history shows I prefer dry rubs versus wet marinades.

Rubs make a wonderful textured crust.  They are also fast and easy.  Win, win.

Marinades are different.  They take time.  A lot of time and if you skimp on the time, good luck finding a hint of flavor when the steak hits your plate.  If you are going to marinade, do it right and plan ahead.  Note, this is mostly a reminder to me.

Therein lies my fork in the road.  It's the whole "do it right" thing that so often steers me down the rub path.  However, I think I've found a tool to help me take the road last travelled: the vacuum sealer.

It was just recently I applied the vac to a marinade.  It was by far one of the tastiest chickens I've had in a long time.  With success in my rear view mirror, I knew I just had to try a marinade again and when it comes to crazy marinades, I look no further than Ted Reader.

Brown Sugar & Bourbon Steaks
Adapted from Ted Reader's King of the Q's Blue Plate BBQ 

Bourbon Marinated Steak


1/3 cup + 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme
1 t bbq rub (make your own or choose your favorite)
4 thick cut steaks (cut of your choice…as usual, I opted for one filet and one ribeye)


In a large bowl, mix together 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/3 cup of bourbon, 1/4 cup brown sugar, kosher salt, thyme, and rub. 

In goes Thyme

Notice the ice crystals with the thyme in the photo above?  The thyme came direct from the freezer.  I harvested as much as I could in the fall, and pull it out as needed all winter.  It keeps great and is a lot cheaper than having to buy small amounts at the store every week.

With everything in the bowl, stir unit the sugar is dissolved.

Ready to marinade

Pour the marinade over the meat, or if using a plastic bag, add the meat and marinade to the bag and seal, releasing as much air as possible.

Filling the container

Enter the heavy equipment.

steak in marinade

One of the coolest features of my Foodsaver vacuum sealer is the marinade container and function.

The container is slightly recessed at the bottom and has a silicone sealed top.  The top connects to the accessory port on the vacuum sealer.


Once connected, the vacuum sealer goes through a 20 or so minute process of vacuuming "pulsing" as it pulls the marinade into the meat.  

Vacuum Marinade

In theory, you could cook right after the process, but I like to go through the process, re-vacuum, and cook later.  

When ready to grill, remove the steaks from the container.  Rinse them well and dry them even better.  There is nothing worse than trying to grill "wet" meat.  Discard the leftover marinade.

Mix together 1/4 cup bourbon and 1/4 cup brown sugar until dissolved. Set aside.

Grill the steaks over direct high heat.  Depending on how thick the steaks are, leave an area of the grill unlit in case you need to move them to indirect.

Busy Grill

For medium rare, shoot for about 10 minutes, turning once, or until the internal temperature hits about 130 degrees.

Steak and Flame

Remove from the grill and allow to rest.  Serve with the set aside sauce.

Bourbon Marinated Steak

The flavor was simply incredible.  My total non-scientific guess is that it would take at least 24 hours to achieve the level of marinade penetration the vacuum sealer pulled in 3.  

Yes, I'm a firm believer wet marinades take time and planning, but if I can employ technology to speed things up, I just may become a convert.