Ornamental Separator

Beef Steaks

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

Grilled steaks have been part of the American diet for several centuries. This version does not use a seasoned rub but lets the flavor of the sauce, onions and horseradish complement the beef. Grillmasters should love this!

18th Century

The best part of the beef for steaks, is the seventh and eighth ribs, the fat and lean are better mixed, and it is more tender than the rump if it be kept long enough; cut the steaks half an inch thick, beat them a little, have fine clear coals, rub the bars of the gridiron with a cloth dipped in lard before you put it over coals, that none may drip to cause a bad smell, put no salt on till you dish them, broil them quick, turning them frequently; the dish must be very hot, some slices of onion on it, lay in the steaks, sprinkle a little salt, and pour over them a spoonful of water and one of mushroom catsup, both made boiling hot, garnish with scraped horse-radish, and put on a hot dish cover. Everything must be in readiness, for the great excellence of a beef steak lie in having it immediately from the gridiron.

— Randolph, Mary, “The Virginia Housewife,” 1827

21st Century


  • 4 rib eye steaks about 1 inch thick
  • 1 Tbsp. lard or solid shortening
  • 1 large onion (your preference as to type)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Fresh grated horseradish (about 2 Tbsp., or less if you like)
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup water

N. B. — Make sure all ingredients are prepared and ready to cook before you start the process. This dish is best warm from the grill.


  1. Make your steaks into 8 by slicing them in half laterally. Give them a slight pounding with a meat tenderizing hammer. Don’t overdo it.
  2. In a small sauce pan place the mushroom slices along with a couple of shakes from the salt shaker and 1 ½ Tbsp. of water. Over medium heat, cook the mushrooms to get their essence into the water and salt. Stir them at least once. Take them from the heat when the mushrooms look dark. Do not cook out the water. Take out the mushrooms (throw away or eat if you like).
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce and remaining water to the mushroom liquid, stir well.
  4. Slice your onion as thin as desired and layer it all over the serving platter.
  5. Grate your horseradish and have ready.
  6. Coat the gridiron of your gas or charcoal grill with a cloth smeared with the lard. This does not have to be a heavy coating.
  7. Have your grill heated to what you would normally do for steaks.
  8. Put your sauce mixture back on the stove at medium heat.
  9. Grill your steaks till they are medium rare to medium;  that’s when the flavor will be the best for this recipe.
  10. Plate them over the onions, sprinkle the desired salt over them and immediately pour over your sauce hot from the pan. Add the grated horseradish over the steaks and serve.

Learn More


Historic Foodways