Citizens! We are now entering high Summer and grills around the entire country are resplendently aflame and creating succulent, charred steaks of distinction for plebians and aristocrats alike! While I will be the first to admit that a top-grade steak needs no adornment, perhaps short of some melting compound butter on top, there is no question that a good steak sauce improves virtually every cut of consumer-grade cow it comes into contact with. Whilst it is true that A.1. makes a great product, it is – perhaps – a bit jejune for the mighty Citizens of TFD Nation! As such, I am prepared to at last share My own apex-level condiment that is truly unequalled in the culinary world!
Steak sauce is a tangy sauce commonly served as a condiment for beef in the United States. Two of its major producers are British companies, and the sauce is similar to the ‘brown sauce’ of British cuisine. Steak sauce is normally brown in color, and often made from tomatoes, spices, vinegar, and raisins, and sometimes anchovies. The taste is either tart or sweet, with a peppery taste similar to Worcestershire sauce.
Three major brands in the U.S. are the British Lea & Perrins, the United States Heinz 57, and the British Henderson’s A1 Sauce sold in the United States as A.1. Steak Sauce. There are also numerous regional brands that feature a variety of flavor profiles. Several smaller companies and specialty producers manufacture steak sauce, as well, and most major grocery store chains offer private-label brands. These sauces typically mimic the slightly sweet flavor of A1 or Lea & Perrins.
Heinz 57 steak sauce, produced by H. J. Heinz Company, is unlike other steak sauces in that it has a distinctive dark orange-yellow color and tastes more like ketchup spiced with mustard seed. Heinz once advertised the product as tasting “like ketchup with a kick”.
As noted in a very interesting article I found on enjoyflagstaff.com:
A.1. Steak Sauce was created sometime before 1831 by Henderson William Brand, who was a cook for King George IV. He may have first made or come across the sauce while in the King’s employ, but it’s highly doubtful that the King tasted it and pronounced it “A1”, as he is reputed to have said.
Now, the term A-1 in this instance would go back to the Lloyd’s Register, a maritime classification system which started in 1764. Under this system ship’s hulls are rated on a letter basis with A being the highest rating and the other ship components are rated on a numbering system with 1 being the highest rating. So the term A1 at Lloyd’s would refer to a ship receiving the best score, and in common vernacular A1 came to mean the best of the best. Whether or not the king stated that Brand’s sauce was A1 is unknown, but it would make sense that a sauce maker trying to sell his recipe would tout it as A1 quality.
In 1831, the chef created the Brand & Co and began commercially distributing his sauce, but by 1850 his brand went bankrupt and the company’s ownership was transferred to W.H. Withall then later purchased in 1873 by Dence & Mason. Henderson William Brand sued Dence & Mason in 1873 over the rights of the name Brand & Co. and so the name of the sauce was changed at that time to A-1.
The sauce was officially trademarked in the US in 1895, but it wasn’t distributed in the states until 1906. A-1 Steak Sauce changed hands a total of three additional times and is now owned by the mega corporation Kraft Foods. Interestingly, despite the many ownership changes it continued to be manufactured and distributed out of the Brand & Co location in Vauxhall, London until the 1950’s
One odd piece of information found on the bottle of A-1 itself is the wording “established in 1862”. This date doesn’t come up at all in our description above so where would it fit into this history? The company that owned the sauce when it was first distributed in the US was called Hublein & Brothers. This company was established in 1862 and it would make sense that they would have placed the established date of their business on their product and that the date would mistakenly be carried forward and misinterpreted as the established date of the sauce.
Heinz 57 first released their Heinz Beefsteak Sauce in 1911 to coincide with the rise of outdoor grilling. It was later renamed Heinz 57 Sauce in 1940 when people started using it for other grilled meats.
British manufacturer Lea & Perrins first created their steak sauce, which is often considered Worcestershire Sauce, in the early 1800s. This sauce came about because a nobleman named Lord Sandys returned to Worcester, England, with a recipe he’d discovered while traveling in Bengal. He hired chemists William Perrins and John Lea to recreate this sauce.
Entrepreneur John Duncan brought it to the U.S. in 1839, making it the first commercially bottled condiment in the country. It has remained a timeless favorite in steakhouses ever since. That said, there remains a stigma in most steakhouses when it comes to using steak sauce – as noted in this excerpt from a story in the Washington Post:
In the universe of steakhouses, there’s a coverup going on. It has advanced way beyond horseradish cream and bearnaise.
The longtime owner of the Prime Rib in downtown Washington dismisses as passing fad the tendency of steakhouse restaurants to offer more and more sauces. It’s just another way for chefs to prove their value, says Buzz Beler. Nonetheless, he finds it troubling.
“Why would anyone continue purchasing USDA prime beef? You get the same flavor if you just make a ground-beef steak and then put the sauce on it.”
Steak sauces have been around, of course. Henderson William Brand created A.1. for King George IV in the 1820s, although for much of its history, the sauce was not steak-specific: “It’s A.1. Sauce — a favorite with men who love good things to eat,” proclaimed an ad in 1948.
Somewhere between the 1930s and the 1980s, the word “steak” got added to the name, and then there was a central purpose for the product, according to A.1. senior brand manager Sudheer Kosaraju. “We hear a lot of these sort of hoary conversations about A.1. not being used with the prime cuts of meat. But consumers, they use it on prime cuts of meat. That’s basically what our consumer research tells us.”
Tom Colicchio was a fan. “I grew up using A.1. The rare times we actually had steak at home, I liked it. I enjoyed it,” the celeb chef and “Top Chef” co-host admitted in a recent phone interview. When customers at his restaurants began requesting sauce, Colicchio decided to make his own. The house sauce at his Craft restaurants, he says, “is based on the original A.1., which had a lot of anchovy and tamarind and a sort of char flavor with a lot of background notes.”
It is delicious, and not inexpensive for a home cook to make. The shrewd businessman sells bottles of it via Williams-Sonoma.
Now it’s tough to find a traditional steakhouse that doesn’t offer some sauce. Besides A.1., Beler’s Prime Rib will pull out Heinz 57, Tabasco and Worcestershire upon request. Morton’s carries only A.1. and Heinz 57. One of Morton’s restaurant managers recently observed, with some attitude, that customers who ask for sauce are usually the ones who order their steaks medium-well or well-done. According to a manager at the Palm, “we get requests for all kinds of sauce, including ketchup, though more customers ask for A.1.,” which the steakhouse carries.
Ketchup, however, remains for many the final insult. Tensions over its use on steak can be traced back at least to Joseph Mitchell’s 1939 New Yorker essay on beefsteak dinners, “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks.”
“I don’t even know how to spell the word ‘ketchup,’ let alone want to put it on a steak,” says celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
Steak sauce does indeed have a long and proud history in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and My unmatched recipe calls for ingredients and techniques common to versions from both countries, plus a minor detour to France, India and Japan in the process (at least, in My specific case). The vast majority of the ingredients in My recipe are British, as it is the ancestral home of ‘brown sauce’ and I have taken the liberty of enhancing it with my own unique flourishes. For example, Ketchup is the backbone of most commercial steak sauces, but mine calls for only one brand that is any good – this one.
Two kinds of mustard make an appearance in My recipe – classic French Dijon and the French spiced yellow mustard condiment known as Savora (far more noble than French’s Yellow Mustard!) in addition to French demiglace for richness. I use the British sweet and sour vegetable condiment known as Branston Pickle in my recipe, as well as London Porter Stout (any stout-style beer would work, though this is my fave) and mushroom ketchup (a precursor to Worcestershire sauce). I also use some red miso from Japan to add even more umami depth to My singular recipe!
There are many other ingredients that balance out the flavor profile of My recipe, including black truffled salt, Madras curry powder, ajwain seeds and more – trust Me when I say that this will be the best steak sauce you have EVER tasted! While there are many different ingredients, this is literally a ‘drop everything in the saucepan, cook and blend’ reicpe! Save this particular sauce for use with your supermarket steaks, as it will dramatically improve them! As for your Wagyu or prime beef – stick to compound butters only, please!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Homemade Steak Sauce Supreme!
- 1/2 cup Sir Kensington’s ketchup
- 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 Tbsp. beef demiglace
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup Savora yellow mustard condiment
- 1 Tbsp. freshly-ground horseradish (preferred) or ground white horseradish from a jar
- 1/3 cup Branston Pickle
- 1/8 cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 cup malt vinegar
- 1/8 cup flat London Porter or another stout-style beer
- 1/8 cup semi-sweet sherry
- 1/3 cup mushroom ketchup (strongly preferred) or Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 3 white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 2 anchovy fillets, packed in oil and drained – TFD endorses ONLY Ortiz brand!
- 3 roasted garlic cloves
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 Tbsp. fresh celery leaves
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tbsp. red miso or Hirshon umami paste (strongly preferred)
- 1 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground Indian ajwain seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp. black truffle salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Madras curry powder
- 1/4 tsp. mace
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add all the ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and mix well to incorporate. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Working in batches if necessary, ladle the sauce into a blender (or even better, just use an immersion blender in the same pot!), filling it no more than halfway. Purée on low for a few seconds, and then increase to medium speed until the sauce is completely smooth.
- Pour the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl, pushing the solids with the back of a spoon. Discard the solid pieces. Repeat with the remaining sauce until completely blended and strained.
- Let cool and transfer the sauce to a tightly covered bowl or individual jars/containers, and refrigerate. The sauce may be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 3 months. Serve with steak, in a breakfast scramble, as a cocktail ingredient and more.
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