Last night we were in Walmart picking up a few things we needed, and I finally decided I was brave enough to try steak-flavored potato chips. These would be Herr’s Kansas City Prime Steak chips. I quickly discovered that they delivered on their promise: the chips taste quite deliciously like steak, while not losing their potato chip essence. After the J&D Bacon Salt fiasco (trust me; don’t try it), I was afraid this would be just another failed experiment. Now obviously these aren’t precisely like a juicy steak, but they had enough of a similar flavor to give me that steak essence I wanted. I wasn’t asking for miracles here.
Having enjoyed these chips, I now know that steak-like flavoring is possible. Which means it’s something I want to try making myself, so I can use it in all sorts of venues—including the greatest flavor vehicle of all, popcorn.
Looking at the ingredients list, a few things stand out: Garlic powder, salt, onion powder, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar, MSG, spice, natural flavor, and whey. There’s also butter far down on the list. Now I don’t know what they mean by “spice”, and “natural flavor” could mean any number of things, but I have to think the biggest contributors to the steak flavor are the garlic, salt, onion, and the glutamates. The yeast extract is basically a flavor enhancer high in glutamic acid; between that and MSG I could see it providing the base umami flavor that’s so important.
My tolerance for onion is rather low, but a little onion powder in some foods doesn’t bother me when it isn’t overdone. Here it isn’t. So I’m thinking that any attempt at a dry steak flavor blend I might make should start with an ingredient list very similar to the one above. Whey powder is probably a subtle contributor to the flavor as well, plus it’s awesome protein, so that’d be worth trying to obtain in sufficiently small quantities (it’s harder than it sounds). Is the yeast extract important as a companion to MSG, for maybe a rounder flavor or some subtle addition to the experience? I can’t say.
What I can say is that I have a number of these ingredients on hand already: garlic powder (or better yet, granulated garlic), onion powder, pickling salt (only some—I need more) for its fine grains, and MSG. I’m not sure about spoilage, but I also wonder if I could take some fat trimmings from a cooked steak and mix them with tapioca maltodextrin to form a powder, getting that wonderful steak fat flavor into the mix as well. That one I can’t try yet; the leftover steak currently in my fridge is teriyaki. Then again, maybe that’d add some nice things to the mix. I have to think black pepper has a place in here as well.
It’s too soon to say if this idea is worth trying without further research. I’ll have to think on it a bit. But my gut says I have the tools to make a killer steak-flavored powder already, which means I’m tempted to try it. The combo of garlic+salt+onion+pepper+MSG is probably already enough to come up with something convincing, the main question just being a matter of proportion. Still I have to admit, the idea of powderizing steak fat to go with it is awfully tempting.