Reverse Seared Pork Steaks in Adobo BBQ Sauce
Recently, I was walking through a meat market, looking for some companionship to hang out with on my deck that night. The huge bone-in ribeye was calling my name, and oh how I love thee, but that is such a mammoth chunk of meat that I decided to forgo my rotund, red meat mistress and wander a bit more knowing that some other beautifully cut would eventually cast me a come hither stare. And then I saw this beauty behind the glass, pretending to mind her own business, but I knew she was interested. I took a closer look and knew she was the one for me, or at least for me that night. I asked the man behind the counter if he knew anything about her and he told me she was shapely and the perfect size for what I wanted to do with her, or at least to her. I told the man, “She’s coming home with me tonight.” And here she is, my pork steak, back at my place, laid out and just begging me for a rub and some heat:
For those that you not from the Midwest, I’ll ask the question for you. What is a pork steak? Most people know what pork is and know what a steak is, but outside of the Midwest, few know what is a pork steak. A pork steak is sliced from a pork shoulder or pork butt which are the same thing. Wait? What? A pork shoulder is a pork butt? Confused yet?
How can a pork shoulder be a pork butt? Let’s answer that question first. Back in the day of wooden sailing ships, a staple of the men who manned those ships was salted pork, often salted pork shoulder. Those pork shoulders were stuffed into barrels packed with salt. The barrels were called butts. They were called pork butts because of the barrel they were packed in, not because of where they were cut from the pig. To complicate things further, at the time, one of our chief ports was Boston which is where many of those barrels, or butts, were shipped which is why pork shoulder is sometimes called Boston butt.
So what is a pork steak? From the pork shoulder (or butt), steaks are cut from 3/4 of an inch thick up to two inches thick. That’s it.
The next question comes, what does one do with a pork steak? Sear it over a raging hot fire, hit with a compound butter while it bakes and serve with some grilled asparagus and gogonzola mash potatoes accompanied by a robust Cabernet? No, these are pork steaks. They aren’t dry aged and served for $50 at a fine restaurant. Pork steaks are maybe the essence of Midwest BBQ. More prevalent at a Memorial/Labor Day BBQ in St. Louis than bratwurst, burgers, dogs, ribs, and chicken combined. This from a town with a rib named after it – the St. Louis style rib.
What’s so great about the pork steak to make it that popular in St. Louis? Many things. Maybe because it’s cheap. It’s a very inexpensive way to feed a crowd. Maybe it’s the fact that there are thousands of ways to prepare one? Maybe it’s the heavy fat marbling throughout the pork shoulder it’s cut from make it extremely tender and forgiving? Frankly, the pork steak is hard to screw up. All that being said, I’ll show you the best method to prepare them, but there are still thousands of permutations of this method. Come up with your own smoke wood, rub, sauce combo, but stick to this method. I have not found a better way to make them than doing a reverse sear and I’ve been eating them since I had pureed pork steak as an infant or since I was six and allowed to crank up a grill and make them for the first time myself. Okay, truth be told, I ate them since I was a child (not an infant) but never made them until I was in college. I never got to man a grill until I was out of the house and had a grill of my own. I think I was 30 before dad ever let me man one of his.
Now that you can answer the question, “What is a pork steak?” let’s move on to how to BBQ a pork steak.
This BBQ recipe will happen in two stages:
- Smoking the pork steak and then searing it
- The saucing with that sweet, spicy adobo BBQ sauce
Pork Steak Ingredients (stage one):
4 fat pork steaks
4 tbsp Crawdad’s Classics Cajun Blackened Gourmet Seasoning
Salt and pepper
I realize that the title of this post is Reverse Seared Pork Steaks, not pork steak. True, the recipe is for multiple pork steaks and the ingredients for the BBQ sauce are for four pork steaks, but I BBQ’d this for myself, so while you will only see one pork steak on the BBQ, the recipe is for four and you can apply the method to three more than the one I make here.
Hit the pork steak with salt and pepper and then with the rub:
See how thick that pork steak is? The top is seasoned, but what about the sides? Don’t forget the sides:
Then flip it and repeat:
Prepare the grill for two zone grilling, which means that you will have a side with coals and a side without. The meat will go over the side without coals and indirect cook/smoke before we sear. I will be doing this on a Char-Griller Akorn which is a Kamado style grill. It’s hard to do two zone grilling on an Akorn or any Kamado and then sear since the way to do indirect involves a place setter to divert the heat. In order to do the sear at the end, I would have to take the meat off the grill, remove the grill grate and then remove the place setter, putting the grill grate back on and then the meat, all while everything inside the grill is hot enough to blister in an instant. But not if I have one of these:
That is not a place setter. That is a half of a kiln shelf I ordered from a kiln supply store. The meat goes over the shelf and the wood, in this case plum, goes over the coals:
The goal here is to smoke the meat for 60-90 minutes at about 250 degrees before searing it, or the reverse sear method of smoke then sear rather than the other way around. So back inside to make the adobo BBQ Sauce.
Adobo BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup hard packed brown sugar
1/4 cup adobo sauce
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 chipotle pepper, seeds removed and diced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup syrup
1 tbsp Andria’s steak sauce (if unavailable, use 1 an extra tbsp Worcestershire Sauce and an an extra clove of garlic)
This recipe calls for only a half a chipotle pepper, seeds removed, but I made it with a whole one and did not remove the seeds. But I’m a spicy junky, so venture down that path at your own peril and that of your colon.
I combined all the ingredients in a food processor and blended till a thick, BBQ sauce consistency, since, well, that’s what it is:
If you are wondering what to look for in terms of adobo, find a can of chipotle peppers but make sure it says they are in the adobo sauce:
It was a windy when I reverse seared the pork steak and my temp spiked above 350. I was planning on going more than an hour in the smoke, but after 45 minutes, my instant read showed 150 degrees internal temperature and it looked like this so it was time to sear:
Some of you are thinking, that’s medium already so the pork steak doesn’t need anything more heat. If this were a pork chop, I would agree. But this cut has so much fat in it that needs to be rendered out it can’t be served at 150 like a pork chop or pork tenderloin. To do pulled pork, the meat has to go beyond 180. It would be edible, barely, at 150, but it would be bite after bite of fat. Remember when I said that the pork steak was extremely forgiving?
So over the hot part of the grill to sear:
See the flames above? That should give you an idea of how much fat is left in the meat because it hit the little chunk of plum wood below as it rendered out and I had a nice little flame sear action going:
And while I love red meat over open flame, it’s time for my favorite part – the slathering of the cloying sweet and spicy, adobo BBQ sauce:
Now close the lid for about 10 minutes to let the sauce thicken and caramelize. Then remove from the grill and plate. My instant read showed an internal temp about 175:
But how was it? Well, first off, the sauce was a wonderful combination of sweet and spice. The acidity of the vinegars from the ketchup, mustard and cider vinegar, plus the heat from the adobo and the chipotle are counter balanced by the sweets from the browns sugar, honey, and syrup.
But what about the meat itself? 175 is beyond well done. This has to be shoe leather right? I said it was forgiving. And I’ll show you with my first post to have four money shots. Here’s the first one:
Let’s move a little tighter on that chunk of meat on the left:
There are two things to be looking for here. Do you see them yet? Let’s go even tighter to show one, the smoke ring:
Some of you are rolling your eyes at the smoke ring. That it doesn’t really mean anything as some woods don’t give a great smoke ring and that chemicals can be added to the outside of the meat to amp the smoke ring. Sure, a lack of a smoke ring doesn’t mean there isn’t smoke penetrating the meat, and the presence of one doesn’t mean there is much smoke since I could’ve cheated to get it. But I didn’t cheat and that’s a nice ring, even if you don’t put much stock in it, the smoke ring still looks great.
And you can see the second thing to look for in the pic above, the juiciness of meat cooked to 175. Here’s a better shot of both the smoke ring and the juice from the other end of the pork steak using different camera settings:
So now you can answer the question, “What is a pork steak?” And you know the best method to BBQ it where you get the smoke flavor under the caramelized proteins from the sear, under the savory rub, under the gooey adobo BBQ sauce. As a coworker once told me after tasting a pork steak of mine, “The flavors just keep going and going.” Indeed they do.
If you still don’t know what is a pork steak, or have any questions about reverse seared pork steak with adobo BBQ sauce, please feel free to comment below or shoot me an email.
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- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup hard packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup adobo sauce
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ chipotle pepper, seeds removed and diced
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- ¼ cup syrup
- 1 tbsp Andria's steak sauce (if unavailable, use 1 an extra tbsp Worcestershire Sauce and an an extra clove of garlic)
- 4 fat pork steaks
- Your favorite rub
- Salt and black pepper
- Combined all the ingredients in a food processor and blended till a thick, BBQ sauce consistency
- Coat the pork steaks with the rub, salt and pepper
- Prepare the grill for two zone grilling: coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the other
- Place the pork steaks on the side with no heat
- Smoke the pork steaks for 60-90 minutes at 250 degrees
- When the pork steaks read 150 degrees internal temperature, dear over the coals until each side has a nice char
- Move the pork steaks over the side with no heat and slather with the sauce
- Close the lid for 10 minutes to allow the sauce to caramelize
- Remove from the heat and let the pork steaks rest for three minutes to allow the juices, in an excited state from the heat, to redistribute throughout the meat