St. Louis barbecued pork steaks, a Midwestern favorite in summertime means backyard barbecues with the local pork cut being the classic, basted with a distinctive type of bbq sauce.
St. Louis BBQ Pork Steaks
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
For those who may not know, I was born and raised around St. Louis, Missouri. I have lived in Ohio for many years now, but some of my culinary tastes still reflect my midwestern roots at the Gateway to the West (as St. Louis is called). For me, that means White Castles, Ted Drewes, Toasted Ravioli out on the Hill, fun evenings on Laclede’s Landing, BBQ Pork Snoot from over in E. St. Louis, St. Paul sandwiches from any wok express and many other local favorites.
Some of these foods, like a concrete from Drewes, are pure ritual. Another ritual was the pork steak wars the markets would put on starting Memorial Day, with Schnuck’s, National (closed a few years back), Dierbergs and others duking it out to have the best possible price. You see, everybody bbq’s pork steaks in St. Louis, bar none.
And bbq pork steaks are one of my favorite things to grill or Q, pretty much tied with chicken on the bone, although I do love smoking pork roasts and ribs or rib tips.
What is a Pork Steak, Anyway?
If you are not familiar with a pork steak (it is NOT a pork chop) then let me explain. Certain pork roasts- the pork shoulder blade roast and the Boston butt, when sliced about 1/2 inch thick, become pork steaks. Another slightly thicker cut (about 2 inches) becomes the country style rib. So if you know those, this can help you figure it out. Pork chops aren’t the same as those come from the pork loin and are a bit leaner.
St. Louis Style Sauce
There are probably a billion pitmasters out there with their unique closely held secret sauce for the local version- and those who use bottled used to favor either Maull’s (no longer sold as far as I know) or possibly Open Pit sauce. This is because the traditional St. Louis style bbq sauce is not made with molasses or liquid smoke, as some other types might be. It is also a little bit tangy from the vinegar- not sweet at all like the west side of the state with Kansas City flavors. My Dad used to like to doctor up the Maull’s sauce, and baste heavily with beer.
Of course, I can’t get the Maull’s, and since I an pretty good making sauce from scratch, I have to just wing it. Which, if I am honest about it, I really would rather do anyway. Unless I am being lazy, there are a couple of bottled sauces I like- but they may not be the most authentic for this recipe.
You could do these in a smoker, but really, this is a grilling recipe so the cook time is short and sweet, about the same as a pork chop. You might worry about the meat being tough that way, since when making pulled pork you have to get the meat up past 190F to get the meat fibers to relax. But while that yields tender “pulled” pork, a quick cook gives you the texture of steak. And like any beef steak- you can certainly get a tough one even if you choose carefully, but well marbled meats from a reputable butcher are usually pretty nice.
Of course, if they do turn out tough, you can always pop them into a thin sauce and bake them for awhile until they become more tender, but most often you won’t need to do that.
When I was a kid, bbq huts would serve the pork steaks dripping with sauce on a slice of cheap white bread to soak up any extra sauce. I always loved the bread that way. It reminds me of when Mom would make stew or roast and there would be lots of extra gravy- and I sometimes loved that gravy on the bread even more than on mashed potatoes. Same deal with the bbq sauce, although I can’t say I would ever bbq sauce mashed. That would just be wrong. Ha!
It’s BBQ Week!
All week long bloggers will be teaming up to share their fav grilling recipes and sides for a cookout. Follow along from the daily recipe lists or by searching for #BBQWeek on social media.
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- Instant Pot Baked Beans by Kate’s Recipe Box
- Orzo Pasta Salad with Feta and Tequila Dressing by Food Above Gold
- Sosaties (South African Lamb and Apricot Kebabs) by Caroline’s Cooking
- St. Louis BBQ Pork Steaks by Palatable Pastime
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St. Louis Barbecue Pork Steaks
- 3-4 pounds pork shoulder blade steaks or pork butt steaks
- Sauce Ingredients:
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 11.5 ounces tomato juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Louisiana pepper sauce
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 tablespoon butter to reduce foaming
- Simmer sauce ingredients for 15 minutes
- Prepare grill for indirect cooking (coals or burners on one side only).
- Season pork steaks with salt, pepper, and garlic powder or bbq rub.
- Grill pork steaks over indirect moderate heat, basting with some watered down sauce (1/2 cup sauce mixed with half cup water or lager beer) until cooked through, basting with undiluted bbq sauce the last five minutes or so to get it to set on the meat and stick.