Coffee rub and steak may sound like an odd paring at first, but once you try it, you’ll want it over and over again! Assuming, of course, you like steak… and coffee!
When it comes to steak, I’m somewhat of a purist, choosing to season my meat with little more than salt and pepper. A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to try to purchase smaller amounts of higher-quality beef (grass-fed, organic and humanely raised), which costs a premium, rather than buying larger amounts of low-quality beef (grain-fed, mass-produced, full of hormones). In my opinion, the more-for-less trade off is a fair one considering the impact on the health of my family as well as the environment.
All of this to say that if I’m paying a premium for beef, the last thing I want to do is drown out any of the subtle nuances in flavour with a boatload of seasonings. This usually applies to higher-priced, prime cuts like NY strips, ribeyes, or tenderloins. Not to say that you can’t marinade or rub any of these cuts in your favourite seasonings. In fact, this Coffee Rub is great for any cut. It’s just not my personal favourite thing to do. But hey, you’re the boss, applesauce!
Every now and then, if using a slightly leaner or tougher cut, like flank steak, skirt steak, or flat iron, I might choose to marinade it in some oil, herbs, citrus and spices to add flavour that may otherwise be lacking in the form of marbling. Less coveted cuts like these are not only delicious when cooked properly, but they’re also great entry points into purchasing higher-quality beef.
The skirt steak I used in this recipe, for example, cost just under $15/lb, compared to a NY striploin that can cost upwards of $45/lb! Making these kinds of decisions saves me money and provides more servings.
Another way to save money is to make your own spice rubs. It’s a quick and easy thing to do and allows you to control the quality of ingredients and sodium levels. Most spice rubs are very high in salt, even for a salt lover like myself.
This Coffee Rub is perfect for just about any cut of steak (even pork and lamb, for that matter) and there’s a strong chance you already have all of the ingredients for it in your pantry. It adds a tremendous amount of flavour and colour so please don’t knock it ‘till you try it.
The coffee in the rub is subtle and pairs beautifully with the chili powders, onion and paprika. For best results, try grinding whole beans at home, preferably ones that are freshly roasted. You’ll want to grind them very, very fine (set your grinder to the espresso setting). Otherwise, you’ll be left with shards of coffee beans that make the steak taste gritty. Same thing goes if you’re buying pre-ground coffee. Use a very finely ground espresso grind.
Note: Coffee varies wildly in flavour and quality. I find dark roasts to be a bit overpowering in this coffee rub so I recommend a finely-ground, medium-roast. Keeping with the whole more-for-less approach, try to source single-origin, fair-trade, organic coffee beans. Better yet, find a local roaster that roasts beans on site. Or, subscribe to a coffee subscription service that will deliver different fresh roasts straight to your door.
To balance the bitter notes in the coffee rub, I use a small amount of coconut sugar, which keeps things paleo. The coconut sugar is a key ingredient here so save it for your Food Freedom if you’re doing a round of Whole30.
To add even more flavour to the steak, I grill it on my Traeger Grill, which uses 100% all-natural wood pellets and indirect, convection heat. The wood imparts a slightly smokey flavour that is hard to beat and difficult to achieve on a conventional gas grill. Nevertheless, if you only have gas or charcoal then feel free to use that. If so, try substituting smoked paprika instead of the sweet paprika in the coffee rub. This little swap will trick your taste buds into thinking the steak was grilled over a wood fire.
To round out the meal, and make full use of my grill, I cooked some sweet potatoes, zucchini, green onion and red bell peppers (see video above). The result was an amazing end to a long and challenging week!
Try seasoning your favourite steak with this easy and flavourful coffee rub. It adds a serious amount of flavour and beautiful colour!
- 1 tablespoon finely ground coffee
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder substitute favourite chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1.5 pounds skirt steak substitute flank steak, ribeye, NY strip or tenderloin
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil
- ¼ teaspoon flakey salt such as Maldon, for serving
In a bowl, combine the coffee, coconut sugar, salt, granulated onion, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir with a whisk or spoon until incorporated. Pat the skirt steak dry with paper towel and massage both sides with avocado oil. Liberally season both sides of the steak with the spice rub, cover and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes. If preparing the steak in advance, refrigerate it up to 24 hours and remove it from the fridge 1 hour before grilling so that the meat can come to room temperature.
Preheat your Traeger grill to 450F. Transfer the steak to the back of the grates where the grill is hottest. Close the lid and cook until seared and slightly blackened, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook, for medium-rare, until the thickest part of the steak registers between 135F and 140F, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer steak to a board and let rest at least 6 minutes before slicing against the grain. Season with a pinch of flakey salt.
If using a gas grill, preheat your grill to high heat. Place the steak over direct heat and grill until seared and slightly blackened, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook, for medium-rare, until the thickest part of the steak registers between 135F and 140F, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
If using a charcoal grill, heat coals until they form a white ash. Place the steak over direct heat and grill until seared and slightly blackened, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook, for medium-rare, until the thickest part of the steak registers between 135F and 140F, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.