The Perfect Sweet and Savory Steak Rub with Sugar and Salt

The Perfect Sweet and Savory Steak Rub with Sugar and Salt

AustinPublished: May 31, 2024
The Perfect Sweet and Savory Steak Rub with Sugar and Salt

Steak rubs come in countless flavors and combinations, but there's something uniquely irresistible about a rub that balances the sweetness of sugar with the saltiness of salt. If this sounds odd, chances are you might have actually tried something similar already, as it’s the foundation of Texas Roadhouse’s homestyle steak rub.

This sweet-savory blend elevates the natural flavors of the meat, creating a delectable crust that makes every bite delicious.

So, with that, we’re going to walk you through making your own.

The magic of sugar and salt in steak rubs.

When it comes to seasoning steaks, the combination of sugar and salt might seem unusual, but it’s a match made in culinary heaven.

Sugar, particularly brown sugar, adds a rich, sweet note that complements the meat's natural flavors. It also aids in the caramelization process, creating a beautiful, flavorful crust when exposed to high heat.

Salt, on the other hand, capitalizes on the beef's savory qualities and helps the flavors penetrate deeper into the meat. Together, they create a harmonious balance that enhances the steak’s overall taste and texture.

Sure, it sounds great, but there’s a bit more behind this blend.

The science behind the blend.

This is where the geeks in us come out.

The key to sweet-savory success lies in the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that occurs when proteins and sugars in the meat are exposed to high temperatures.

This reaction is responsible for the deliciously complex flavors and the mouth-watering crust on a well-cooked steak. The sugar in the rub accelerates this process, leading to a more pronounced crust and deeper flavor development.

Texas Roadhouse delivers flavor perfection.

Texas Roadhouse, known for its mouth-watering steaks (and their tasty rolls), has mastered the art of the sweet-savory rub.

Their signature seasoning blend, surprisingly enough, includes both sugar and salt. This creates a flavor profile that keeps customers coming back for more. The balance of these two ingredients is necessary to achieve the rich, caramelized crust and the juicy, flavorful interior that the restaurant is famous for.

At Texas Roadhouse, the process starts with high-quality steaks, which are coated with the seasoning blend. The steaks are then allowed to rest, letting the flavors meld and penetrate the meat.

This 30-60 minute resting period is crucial for maximizing the impact of the rub. When the steaks hit the grill, the combination of sugar and salt works its magic, resulting in a perfectly seared exterior and a tender, juicy interior.

Crafting your own sweet and savory steak rub.

Creating your own steak rub at home is simple and rewarding. You don’t have to go out to a restaurant to get this delicious flavor anymore, as you can make it yourself.

Homemade Dry Rub on a NY Strip Steak

Brown Sugar Steak Rub Recipe


  • 8+ ounce steak, cut of choice
  • 4 tsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin


  1. Combine the ingredients. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients thoroughly until well combined.
  2. Prepare the steak. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels to ensure the rub adheres properly. Don’t worry; it’ll still be juicy.
  3. Apply the rub. Coat all sides of the steaks with the rub, pressing gently to ensure it sticks.
  4. Rest the steaks. For the best flavor, let the rubbed steaks sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before cooking. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat. It’s similar to marinating.
  5. Cook the steaks. Cook the steaks in a hot cast-iron skillet or on the grill to your desired doneness. For a beautiful mahogany crust, cook over direct high heat. We’re big fans of wood pellets on the grill.

There you have it. A delicious sugar and salt steak.

Tips for the perfect steak.

Okay, we realize you want to jump in and start cooking. However, we’ll give you a few tips we’ve accumulated over the years. 

  • Use the right amount of rub. Aim for about one tablespoon of rub per 6-ounce steak. This ensures good coverage without overpowering the meat. You can tweak the amounts we used to find something that you like.
  • High heat is essential. Cooking over high heat is crucial for developing that perfect crust. The sugar in the rub will caramelize, giving the steak a beautiful color and a rich, complex flavor. After a minute to two, start to slow cook it to make the meat more tender.
  • Don't rush the rest period. Even though you want to jump in, this is extremely important. Allowing the steaks to rest after applying the rub and again after cooking is key to achieving the best texture and flavor. This resting period lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat, making each bite tender and juicy.

Even if you modify our sweet and salty recipe, don’t miss out on these tips as they’ll help you make the perfect steak.

Enhancing your steak experience.

You don’t have to follow our recipe step-by-step. Experimenting with different ratios and additional spices can take your personalization a step further.

For instance, adding a touch of cayenne pepper can introduce a spicy kick, while a bit of ground coffee can add depth and richness to the rub.

The possibilities are endless, and the key is to find the balance that suits your taste buds.

Why the combination works

The success of the sugar and salt combination lies in its ability to enhance the natural flavors of the steak without overwhelming them. The salt draws out the meat's inherent savory notes, while the sugar adds a layer of complexity and helps form a caramelized crust that is both visually appealing and delicious. This balance is what makes the steaks at Texas Roadhouse and those prepared with similar rubs so irresistible.

Versatile uses for the rub going beyond the steak.x

While this rub is perfect for steaks, it can also be used on other meats like pork chops, chicken, and even salmon.

The sweet-savory blend complements various proteins, making it a versatile addition to your spice cabinet. Frankly, we like to keep a premade bottle of the rub on hand just in case we want to use it for something else.

Fire up your grill and get the rub ready!

The blend of sugar and salt in steak rubs is a simple yet powerful way to elevate your grilling game. Compared to all of the other rubs we’ve tried, this is easily our favorite.

By understanding the science behind the Maillard reaction and the balance of flavors, you can create mouth-watering steaks that rival those from your favorite steakhouse.

Whether you're using the recipe provided or experimenting with your own variations, the sweet-savory combination is sure to impress. 



Professional Backyard Chef

Austin, a trained chef and graduate of the The Art Institute of Washington, has a deep passion for locally sourced ingredients. He spent several years working in farm-to-table restaurants, forging relationships with local farmers and learning about the benefits of fresh, local produce. As a regular contributor to various food and lifestyle magazines, Austin specializes in creating delicious, seasonal recipes for the backyard bistro. His dedication to local ingredients helps readers discover new flavors while supporting their local economy.