Food & Drink

Cane Syrup & Spice-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

Serves 6

Fire up the grill with a recipe from The Southerner’s Cookbook

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Cane syrup is traditionally made by boiling down sugar cane juice in a cast-iron cauldron over a fire for five hours. Thankfully for the time-pressed and cauldron-less, it’s also available at local farmers’ markets or online from producers like Steen’s. The first cook of sugar cane juice (molasses is the second, blackstrap-molasses is the third), cane syrup is naturally thin and only mildly sweet. Its slightly smoky edge is a natural for grilled meats. Here the syrup anchors a rub that’s paired with the king of beef cuts: tenderloin. The syrup holds the rub onto the tenderloin so that a hairline crust forms, redolent of coffee and spices combined with a distant hint of smoke.



    • 2 1/2 lb beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied

    • 3 tablespoons cane syrup

    • 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil

    • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground espresso

    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

    • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

    • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    • Pecan hulls (for smoking)


  1. Remove tenderloin from refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 20-30 minutes).


  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cane syrup, oil, and espresso, chili powder, paprika, mustard, ground ginger, and garlic powder to form a thin paste. Pat tenderloin dry with paper towels. Rub cane syrup-spice mixture evenly onto tenderloin, turning to coat it completely. Season evenly with salt and pepper.

  3. Heat a charcoal grill to medium-high, with coals banked on one side for direct and indirect cooking.

  4. Sear tenderloin approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side on the direct side of the grill. Add a handful of pecan hulls to charcoal, transfer the tenderloin to the indirect cooking side of the grill, and cover the grill so tenderloin roasts and smokes at the same time, 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover the grill, add more pecan hulls if necessary to maintain the smoke, and turn tenderloin. Cover and grill 10 to 15 minutes more, until a instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 125° for medium-rare.

  5. Remove tenderloin from grill to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before untying and slicing.

Recipe from Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook