ST. LOUIS — No backyard barbecue or family cookout in St. Louis is complete without it: a pork steak fresh off the grill.
“Everybody has their stories about pork steaks in their backyard with Maull’s BBQ Sauce and pork steaks from Schnucks,” David Sandusky told the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast team on a recent episode.
It’s what prompted him to add the quintessential St. Louis summer dish to the menu at his Beast Craft BBQ locations.
But Sandusky also brought up the tougher side of the classic barbecue dish. Despite the well intentions from your crew’s grill master, we’ve all had a taste of chewy, leathery pork steak disappointment.
“There’s so many of us that tell that similar story of, you know, like what we’re used to growing up, and you’d have your dad or your uncle burn the pork steak,” Sandusky said, in a more flavorful way than we can write here.
It’s because so many St. Louisans are grilling one of our signature dishes — to put it bluntly — wrong.
Tips for a perfect pork steak
The meat pros at Kenrick’s Meat & Catering know pork steaks. They slice and sell upwards of 125,000 pounds of them a year.
They said the steaks are cut from pork butt, which means when done right, they can leave you going back for seconds.
“If you cook a pork steak right, it’s really got a lot of flavor, can be super tender. If you don’t really know what you’re doing, it can be tough,” said Mike Pesca, operations manager at Kenrick’s.
So, how do you get that perfectly grilled pork steak? Pesca and his colleague Steve Wineman gave us their tips. They said that overall, even though it has “steak” in the name, you don’t want to cook your pork steaks like a traditional beef steak. Instead, the key is to go low and slow.
How to grill a pork steak
Step 1: Start with a three-quarter inch thick steak that’s about 12-16 ounces.
Step 2: Fire up the grill and keep the heat low. Place the pork steaks on the grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, try cooking them indirectly, off to the side of where the flames are coming up, almost like you’re smoking them instead.
Step 3: Be patient. It could take 45-60 minutes for them to cook through.
Step 4: Slather on a light layer of sauce and grill just a little longer.
Step 5: Remove from the grill and enjoy!
Wineman said grilling pork steaks should be a savory process.
“You want to enjoy it. You want to be out by your grill having a cocktail and enjoying that time, because it's not something that takes 10 minutes. If you're cooking your pork steak in 10 minutes, you're not going to enjoy it,” he explained.
Done right, “they'll be just melt in your mouth butter and tender,” Pesca added.
If you want to leave it to the pros, Sandusky at Beast Craft BBQ described his restaurants' version as “elevated” and that it’ll “blow you back with flavor.”
“I wanted to take it to a different level where it was super moist, it was packed full of flavor,” he said.
And that flavor doesn’t come cheap compared to the cost of a typical pork steak you pick up at the grocery store.
Beast’s 30-ounce version costs $19 – without sides – because it takes a lot of work to make it taste as good as it does. Sandusky said his barbecue joints catch some flak for how much the pork steaks cost, but he promises one bite is all it takes to have you coming back for more.
“There was a lot of impact just in the first bite. Take a bite of it and you're like, holy [expletive], I've got to take another bite of this thing because it's just, it just blows you back with flavor,” he said. “That's what I wanted to accomplish.”
While it might be elevated in style, flavor and cost, Sandusky said it’s still rooted in those backyard barbecue roots.
“It's paying that homage to like where we come from with the cut, with the style of sauce, with the grilling and basting. But it's my own. It is what defines us and it's [expletive] beautiful,” he said with a flare.
You can hear more of this story on the Abby Eats St. Louis episode titled "It's pork steak szn." The Abby Eats podcast is available for free on all major podcast platforms.
About the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast
The Abby Eats St. Louis podcast tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.
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