Salisbury Steak pairs best with medium-bodied red wines such as Malbec, Shiraz, Pinotage, and Cabernet Sauvignon. If your Salisbury Steak is in a mushroom gravy, Pinot Noir makes for an exceptional pairing.
Salisbury Steak isn’t a real steak but rather ground beef flavoured with minced onions, bread crumbs and other seasonings before being broiled or pan-fried and served with gravy. The dish was given its name after an American physician named James Salisbury recommended eating meat to promote stomach health.
Salisbury Steak recipes vary, as does their quality. Frozen Salisbury Steak dinners from the grocery store are good but lack a lot of depth, and thus pair best with red wines that add a bit of flavour while keeping you refreshed with the large amounts of fat and salt in the frozen entrée. Salisbury Steak sold at supermarkets often come prepackaged with sides such as mashed potatoes, green beans or biscuits. As Salisbury Steak is the star of the show, I’ve limited my pairings to the dish itself and not the sides.
Meanwhile, homemade Salisbury Steak can feature higher quality ingredients depending on the recipe, which can escalate it to a gourmet level if wished. If you’re going all out with your Salisbury Steak, you’ll want a wine of similar caliber to match it!
You’ll also find Salisbury Steak served at restaurants, but your wine selection will be limited as you’ll often find it served at comfort food-themed establishments like diners, hospital or workplace cafeterias and truck stops. As most restaurants offer takeout, it’s easy enough to bring your meal home and enjoy it with a lovely bottle of red wine.
A fruit-forward Malbec from Argentina has a short smoky finish that is great with Salisbury Steak in a rich gravy. A Malbec from Argentina is noted for its refreshing flavours of plum and blackberry and its smooth velvety texture, which makes it ideal for pairing with the ground beef. When pairing Malbec with Salisbury Steak, stick to inexpensive bottles in the $12 to $20 range, as it will offer you everything you need to go great with your Salisbury Steak.
If you are going gourmet with your Salisbury Steak and cooking up something that would floor Chef Gordon Ramsay (or at least impress him enough that he doesn’t call you a “donkey”), that would be the time to consider ratcheting up to an Oaked Malbec. Oaked Malbec is expensive ($20-$50) but will feature velvety chocolate and vanilla flavours that flood your senses with glee.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Salisbury Steak Pairing
A young Cabernet Sauvignon pairs up great with Salisbury Steak as the proteins and fats of the ground beef will smooth out the harsh tannin of the wine. Meanwhile, tannin also breaks down protein molecules, so your Salisbury Steak will taste even more savoury.
Seeing as Salisbury Steak is essentially cafeteria food, choose an inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon that is in the $15-$20 range. Save those pricier Cabernet Sauvignons for a real steak.
A Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Australia, South Africa or Chile will have delicious flavours of blackberries, cassis, and raspberry. You’ll also find interesting notes of black pepper, mint, smoke green bell pepper and smoke.
Shiraz & Salisbury Steak
Shiraz can be broken down into two styles which are new world Shiraz, or old world Syrah. Both new world and old world Shiraz will also have notes of chocolate, black pepper, plum and black pepper however Old world Syrah from France or Italy will be less fruit forward, and more herbaceous and earthy.
Old world Syrah is my preferred style with Salisbury Steak as the spices and earthy quality of Syrah complements the seasonings of rosemary, white pepper, onions, or garlic powder in the ground meat. Meanwhile, you’ll still find refreshing flavours blackberry and plum in Syrah, but it won’t be as jammy as a new world wine. Instead, intriguing notes of earth, eucalyptus, leather, smoke bacon fat, and spice fill in the difference.
If you’d prefer a Shiraz that offers more of a contrast to the savoury flavours of Salisbury Steak, then a new world Shiraz is the bottle for you. Australian Shiraz is a huge crowd-pleaser due to marketing and its lush jammy flavours tailored towards us non-Europeans. Pick something priced around $20 or less, and expect to have your senses flooded with blackberry, blueberry, plum and black pepper.
Pinotage & Salisbury Steak
Pinotage is a unique South African red wine loaded with refreshing plum, cherry, raspberry flavours followed by a smoky finish. For Salisbury Steak, you’ll want a mid-bodied Pinotage which will have hints of black pepper, earth, game, herbs, and spice that complement the ground beef and gravy.
Never go cheap with Pinotage, as inexpensive versions of this wine have a nail polish removal smell to it. Instead, buy a Pinotage that is around $25 and from a reputable producers such as Kanonkop, Neil Ellis, Simonsig, or Spice Route.
Pinot Noir & Salisbury Steak in a Mushroom Gravy
If you’re serving up your Salisbury Steak with a mushroom gravy, there’s no better choice than a Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a fresh and fruity red wine with lip-smacking flavours of tart cherry, wild strawberry and cranberry. The wine is also famous for its earthy or forest floor flavours that hide below the surface. It’s the truffle-like notes of Pinot Noir that drive wine drinkers wild, as the flavours are fleeting.
The mushroom gravy will complement the earthier notes of Pinot Noir, allowing you to lengthen the experience. Meanwhile, the tart cherry and strawberry flavours keep you refreshed against the saltiness and fat of the Salisbury steak. The higher acidity of Pinot Noir also cuts through the rich gravy and meat, keeping your mouth refreshed.
Pinot Noir is never a wine you want to go cheap with, and anything below $35 is often full of unnatural flavourings and colourings that do not do the wine any justice. For that reason, I only recommend Pinot Noir if you absolutely love Salisbury Steak. Instead, hunt down a Beaujolais-Villages, which costs half as much but delivers much of the same experience as a Pinot Noir would.