You Gotta Take Sides! 8 Perfect Grilled Side Dishes for Steak
I have always loved steakhouses. From the scruffy roadhouses of my youth with their vinyl-upholstered booths, where five bucks would buy a sirloin and a lusty round with the salad bar, to the clubby, wood-paneled (and considerably more expensive) temples of steak like New York’s The Palm and Chicago’s Gibsons.
Whether humble or haute, the focus in these establishments is undeniably on the meat. So why, then, does my fork always gravitate to the sides first? (Yours, too?) Smooth and buttery mashed potatoes? Oh, yeah. Creamed spinach? Just try to hold me back.
If you’re an avid griller and a frequent visitor to this website, you’ve likely learned how to grill the perfect steak—one with a crusty, flavorful exterior and a tender, rosy center. Are the sides an afterthought? They shouldn’t be. A perfect steak deserves perfect sides.
Here, mostly channeling old-school steakhouses but with a few Raichlen twists, are recipes for some of our favorite accompaniments to your next steak dinner, whether it be Father’s Day, July 4th, or a special evening with family and friends.
Side Dishes for Steak
We’ve always been smitten by the simple and somewhat neglected Gibson cocktail with its unique garnish. For those unfamiliar, it’s roughly similar to a dry martini, but festooned with a smoked cocktail onion instead of an olive. And it makes a fantastic prelude to a steak dinner. It’s possibly our new go-to cocktail when the living is easy.
Many steakhouses (even the premium ones) feature shrimp cocktails on their menus. You know the kind—boiled shrimp with a horseradish-inflected cocktail sauce. Boring, to say the least. But there’s nothing ho-hum about this explosively-flavored shrimp cocktail. The shrimp are marinated in garlic, cilantro, and chipotle chiles, then smoked over mesquite. A fiery cocktail sauce inspired by the Yucatan brings them home.
Another steakhouse staple is the wedge salad—a crisp wedge of crunchy iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese dressing and bacon. But here’s Steven’s live-fire twist: You quickly sear the lettuce wedges over a hot smoky fire and serve with a delectable ranch-style dressing. Finally, it’s crowned with smoked almonds.
These fly off the plate whenever we make them. The rings can be assembled up to a day ahead, then covered and chilled until you’re ready to grill them. And man, do they look great on a platter of steak. Be sure to use thin-sliced bacon for maximum crispiness.
Step aside, twice-baked. These have you beat. If you like smoke, you’re going to love these smoked potatoes. The flavor comes at you from all directions—smoky bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), and of course, smoke-roasting the whole potatoes on the grill.
Creamy, crunchy, and cheesy, this side dish will quickly become a family favorite. When corn is in season, smoke extra kernels so this dish can appear on your Thanksgiving table. BTW, you can make this even if you don’t have an outdoor smoker. Use a stovetop smoker with maple sawdust.
Could this be the most singular grilled corn you’ve ever eaten? Steven first tasted it at the Maxwell Street Market near the Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago, and published it in his book, BBQ USA. Mayonnaise, cheese, and corn may seem like strange bedfellows—but the dish is wonderfully interactive: You and your guests get to slather and season your corn however you please.
This recipe came from our friend Russ Faulk, the chief designer for Kalamazoo Gourmet, a company that makes some of America’s most stunning high-end grills. (You’ve likely seen them on Project Fire and Project Smoke.) Russ really knows his stuff, as this to-die-for peach cobbler proves. (It’s one of our website’s most shared recipes.) If desired, replace the bourbon with apple juice.