Pair This St. Louis Pork Steak Recipe With BBQ, Baseball and Beer
Thin-cut pork butt became popular in St. Louis in the early 1950s
Sometimes referred to as pork blade steak, pork steak has an origin story that’s about as complicated as figuring out how the AI algorithms that control Contexto work. Or at least it seems that way as the St. Louis favorite has inspired pieces with titles like “The Unexpurgated History of Pork Steaks,” “Lies, Damn Lies, and Pork Steaks” and “The Untold Truth Of Schnucks.”
Schnucks, a privately-owned grocery store chain based in the Midwest, claims that members of the Schnuck family came up with pork steak in the 1950s while attempting to find a cut of meat they could offer for grilling that was inexpensive enough to fit every family’s budget. “True innovators, they cut a pork shoulder, one-half inch thick and found that it made an excellent cut of meat to throw on the grill,” per the chain. “The pork steak was born.”
As Southern Living barbecue editor Robert F. Moss points out multiple times in two of the pieces mentioned above, the claims from the Schnuck family cannot possibly be accurate as pork steaks were advertised in The Boston Globe in 1901 as being available for 13 cents a pound and were also topped with gravy and cost 85 cents at Young’s Restaurant in Illinois in 1925. “St. Louis may not have invented the cut, but it’s undeniably where pork steaks became a backyard barbecue favorite,” Moss concludes.
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St. Louis native James Peisker, a co-founder of Nashville meat purveyor Porter Road, co-signs on that opinion as he grew up eating half-inch thick cuts of pork steak that were sometimes bone-in and sometimes boneless. Seasoned with salt and pepper before being tossed on a hot grill to char on either side, the steaks were then dropped into a bubbling bath comprised of barbecue sauce and cheap beer to simmer until fork tender.
“Growing up, we used Gates & Sons barbecue sauce from Kansas City and Budweiser, but you can really use any barbecue sauce or beer you want,” Peisker tells InsideHook. “You’re gonna throw those charred steaks into that wet liquid and let it simmer for an hour or two basically until it becomes super tender. It just sits there and braises in the beer until it is nice and tender. My father wasn’t always the best cook, but he loved to grill. The greatest thing about this cut is that you can burn and it will still end up being delicious and tender.”
For Peisker, who insisted that Porter Road sell a cut of pork steak despite it being relatively unknown outside of St. Louis, the regional favorite conjures up memories of enjoying sunshine and suds in the backyard with a Cardinals game on the radio providing the soundtrack. “It’s the perfect thing if you’re listening to a baseball game on the radio because it does take a long time, but you’re not actually doing anything so you can hang out with your buddies, drink your beer and enjoy your summer,” he says. “It’s great for crowds it can sit there and simmer while you grill off burgers and dogs and have fun with your guests.”
So what does it taste like?
“It tastes like summer. It’s similar to pulled pork, but also different,” Peisker says. “It’s unique because you get the flavor of the grill with a layer of sweetness from the BBQ sauce with a little bit of bitterness from the char and the beer. It should be squish-through-your-hands tender and not overly sweet. You can have it on a bun or as is, but my favorite way to eat it is on a Hawaiian roll with a little bit of slaw on it.”
You can eat yours however you want after firing up your local sports radio station and using Peisker’s recipe.
St. Louis Pork Steak
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 90 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr 40 mins
- St. Louis pork steaks
- BBQ sauce
- Inexpensive lager beer
Fire up your grill and season pork with a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Cook your pork steaks over medium/high heat. 4-5 minutes on each side. Err on the side of overcooking — a little char doesn’t hurt.
Combine beer and barbecue sauce in a large deep pan (foil roasting pans are a great option). Aim for a 50/50 mix. You can use any sauce, but we tend to opt for a sweet sauce like Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Add cooked pork steaks to the BBQ mixture and cover. Either put the pan in a closed grill over low heat or place in an oven set to 275 degrees. Braise for a minimum of 90 minutes.
Pull steaks out and enjoy as wanted. For the best BBQ pork sandwich of your life, remove the bone and serve on a bun topped with pickles.
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