Grilled Steak with Ancho Chile-Coffee Rub

I made Chris Kimball’s Spice-Rubbed Steak on the Grill last week with a Spicy Chipotle Rub, and the results were amazing, 4-1/2 stars. But s I was afraid much of it’s greatness might have come from the more expensive cut of meat I had used; from the rib section. The overall technique of Today’s recipe is exactly the same; but uses ancho chiles, and also coffee grounds and cocoa powder.  The results were good, but not as good as the first time. I was sure that the coffee and cocoa powder would taste out of place, but they deepened the flavor of the chile.  I think that I prefer the slightly brighter flavors of the Spicy Chipotle Chile Rub, but the biggest difference was the reduction of meat quality. Sirloin steak is not very tender. Overall; 3-1/2 stars.

Another variation of CI’s latest grilled steak recipe.

The recipe slightly scores the meat to allow for deeper penetration of the seasoning, and uses salt mixed with tomato paste and a few other water-soluble spices (onion powder, garlic powder) during the “salting phase”. The spice rub was made by toasted whole spices on the stovetop in a skillet, then ground using a spice grinder. Finally, because the recipe called for a lean cut of beef I sprayed the steaks with vegetable oil just before grilling, which gives the crust a head start in becoming moist.


  1.  I used top sirloin steak, which was specified in Chris Kimball’s original recipe. The last time I used a steak from the rib section of the cow, which was more tender. The cost different was $7/lb versus only $4/lb today.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/Low.
Started: 5:00 PM.  Dinner:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 boneless sirloin shell steaks, about 1″ thick (about 1-1/2 pounds)

Spice Rub:
1 dried ancho chile
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground coffee
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
Vegetable oil spray

  1. In a small bowl, mix together equal amounts of tomato paste and fish sauce. Add kosher salt, onion powder and garlic powder.
  2. Use paper towels to dry both side of the steak. Use a chef’s knife to create a cross-hatch pattern on both sides of the steak, with the slits cut 1/16″ deep and 1/2″ apart. Evenly rub the tomato/salt mixture on both sides of the steaks, and place them on a wire rack. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. With about 30 minutes to go, completely open the bottom and top vents of the grill. Light a chimney starter filled with charcoal.
  4. Remove the stem and seeds from your chiles and tear into 1/2″ pieces. Place a 10″ skillet over medium-low burner, and toast the chiles, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes and whole peppercorns for about 4 minutes; until they begin to smoke. Empty onto a small plate and allow to cool for 5 minutes, before grinding in a spice grinder. I used a small coffee grinder and processed until it was coarsely ground.  Empty into a small bowl and mix together the remaining spices: sugar, ground coffee, and cocoa powder.
  5. Evenly sprinkle half the seasoning mixture over each side of the steaks, pressing until the mixture becomes moist. Spray the steaks lightly with vegetable oil spray, before flipping to season the second side.
  6. Grill the steaks over the hot-side of the grill, covered, until the outside is charred, about 4 minutes per side. Move the steaks to the cooler side, cover, and continue cooking until the desired internal temperature has been reached. 125-degrees is medium-rare, 130-degrees is medium, etc.
  7. Allow steaks to rest on a clean wire rack, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain.

4 Responses to Grilled Steak with Ancho Chile-Coffee Rub

  1. Anonymous says:

    O.K. So, I don’t understand the coffee grounds. Isn’t the consistency a bit wierd on steak? I hate it when they get into my coffee by mistake, so I dunno about steak.

  2. David O'Connell says:

    I tried the Spicy Chipotle Rub on a sirloin steak as suggested by Cooks Illustrated, and I was disappointed with the chewy somewhat muddled results. I agree with the writer that the better the cut, the better the result; but, the point of the recipe was to salt an inferior cut to make it better.

    This follows upon a theory I have read elsewhere, where you bomb the meat with salt for about 20 minutes, wash it off, then grill. It works about half the time, depending on the fattiness of the meat. On a rib-eye, it turns out a great fatty steak that melts in your mouth. With a tough fatless slice of rump or sirloin, you get what you pay for.

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