How to Season T-Bone Steaks

Reading Time: 4 minutes Back to 4 minutes version
photo by BuBBy licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Seasoning the steak is the key to getting a different flavor experience each time you fire up the grill. While the best beef tastes great with just a little salt and pepper, there’s nothing wrong with getting more creative when you’re enjoying steaks once a week or more. Mixing it up with your own homemade rubs and seasoning mixes will give you so many options for changing your routine. Explore the wide world of dry rubs and other steak seasonings with ideas for mixes and a recipe for barbecue-inspired flavor.

What is the Difference between Marinating and Seasoning?

Marinating involves soaking meat in a liquid or mix of liquids that slowly penetrates the meat. Marinades are designed to add flavor to a steak much as seasoning does, but they can also soften the meat if acidic or enzymatic ingredients are included. You’ll marinate meat for anywhere from 1 hour to multiple days before cooking it. In contrast, seasonings are usually dry and powdered or ground spices and herbs. They’re applied directly to the surface of a steak right before cooking. If you added them ahead of time, they wouldn’t penetrate the meat very much and would mostly fall off from the moisture that escapes from the meat. Dry rubs are some of the most popular types of meat seasonings for smoking and grilling, but other mixtures work just as well depending on the cooking method you want to use.

How Should I Season T-Bone Steak?

First, avoid table salt when seasoning a T-bone steak, even if all you add is salt and pepper. Always use coarse Kosher salt for steak because the larger particles better dissolve and create a more even distribution of salt across the surface. Kosher salt also clings better during cooking. Make sure to use seasoning recipes that are designed for Kosher salt or adjust the measurements based on the type of salt that was used.

Different types of seasonings and rubs

Montreal Steak Seasoning: One of the most widely known steak seasonings, this staple of French Canadian cuisine started out as a rub for roasts. Now it’s popular for applying to steaks as well, including the T-bone steak. It primarily consists of garlic powder, ground coriander, cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, salt, and dill seed.

BBQ Rub: Anything smoking and slightly sweet can be classified as a barbecue rub for steaks. This kind of dry seasoning pairs particularly well with grilling, but it can bring a hint of smokiness to steaks fried in a pan or baked in an oven as well. BBQ rubs vary, yet it’s common to see ingredients like cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, and black pepper in addition to salt.

Smoker Dry Rub: Rubs for smoked steaks often follow the basic recipe for barbecue seasoning. However, they may feature interesting deviations that bring out the smoked flavor, such as the addition of granulated lemon peel, oregano and thyme, rosemary, or extra spicy Cayenne pepper.

Coffee Rubs: To add interesting flavors and rich color to the surface of your steak as it cooks, turn to the beverage cabinet. Ground coffee impacts a dark, caramelized flavor that isn’t sweet in the slightest. In fact, most coffee rubs contain at least a small amount of sugar to help balance out the flavors. It’s also interesting to experiment with black tea leaves for steak rubs.

Japanese Seven Flavor Seasoning: Widely used on steaks in parts of Japan known for Wagyu and Kobe beef, shichimi is a mix of tasty seeds and ground spices that combine for a unique taste. You’ll need to either order it pre-mixed or find ingredients like black and white sesame seeds, roasted orange peels, and ground nori seaweed to recreate it.

Tips and Tricks

Don’t apply too much seasoning at once. Sprinkle on a thin layer, then press the rub into the surface before adding more. This will keep you from wasting spices that just fall off while cooking and ensure plenty of flavor in each bite. You may want to pat the steak dry after letting it come to room temperature to get better adhesion on all surfaces.

T-Bone Steaks with BBQ Rub

Spicy and savory barbecue rub has a slightly sweet twist to make everyone happy at the dinner table. Apply this seasoning mix to your T-bone steaks before grilling or smoking.


For the BBQ Rub

  • 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon flaked red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons granulated or minced garlic
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce for a wet rub

For the Steak

  • 2 T-bone steaks, ¾ inch thick or thicker
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt


1. Take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Pat them dry with a paper towel, then rub the surfaces with salt.

2. Mix the rub ingredients. Apply to the steaks, rubbing it into the surface so it coats the bone and fat as well.

3. Grill or smoke to the desired level of doneness.


Making your own seasoning mixes can not only allow you to experiment with salt levels and flavor combinations, but it also gives you a great gift-giving opportunity for the holidays. Share your favorite seasoning combinations with your friends and loved ones by serving them up on the finest cuts from Chicago Steaks.

T-Bone Steak Seasoning FAQs

uncooked seasoned tbone steaks ready to grill

T-Bone Steaks with BBQ Rub

Course Main Course


For the BBQ Rub

  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp flaked red pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp granulated or minced garlic
  • optional: 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce for a wet rub

For the Steak:

  • 2 T-Bone steaks, 3/4 inch thick or thicker
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


  • Take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Pat them dry with a paper towel, then rub the surfaces with salt
  • Mix the rub ingredients. Apply to the steaks, rubbing it into the surface so it coats the bone and fat as well
  • Grill or smoke to the desired level of doneness


*photo by BuBBy licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0