The farther you get away from St. Louis, the less likely you are to have heard of (or tried) a pork steak which is a shame because they are both inexpensive and amazing. There are many ways to grill them and I recommend trying many of them, but this is my preferred way to grill a Midwestern BBQ staple – Pork Steaks.
Invented in St. Louis
If you are not from the Midwest, and particularly St. Louis where they were invented, you are probably asking what exactly is a pork steak. Originally considered just a St. Louis thing it is now pretty prevalent throughout the Midwest due to its low price, ease of preparation, tenderness, great flavor and the vast multitude of preparation/cooking options.
A pork steak can be prepared in a multitude of ways. It can be marinated, rubbed, brined, sauced, or left naked. Once on the grill it can be smoked, indirected or grilled directly. It can be made spicy or sweet or salty or any combination thereof. One of my favorite ways of cooking these is indirect with nothing more than salt and black pepper. The most common method of grilling pork steaks is to slather them in your favorite BBQ sauce. Another beautiful thing about pork steaks is they hold up well for large groups in that they can be stacked up in a disposable aluminum pan, slathered in sauce and kept warm and tender for hours.
For this post it will be a tag team between myself and Dad. Dad will go over exactly how to get a pork steak in areas that carry pork shoulder/butts but don’t have pork steaks and I will go over one of the many ways to cook pork steaks.
What is a Pork Steak?
Outside of the Midwest region of the country (where pork steaks are an extremely popular grilling staple) they aren’t well known and retail grocers do not offer this particularly tasty cut of pork. My cousin, Carol, lives in Maryland and has used the information provided here to obtain pork steaks in her area where they are not normally available. You can obtain them most everywhere if your local purveyor handles whole Boston butt or pork butt roast or any of the myriad of other names such as the pork shoulder butt shown below:
Pork steaks are also known as blade steaks and simply put, pork steaks are merely a sliced Boston pork butt or pork shoulder or pork butt, pork shoulder butt or…
***Editor’s Note ~ But why is it called a butt? It’s not from the butt of the pig, it’s a shoulder. And what does Boston have to do with it? The reason is that this cut of meat was often sent on old wooden sailing ships to feed the crew. They were packed with salt in huge barrels called butts. And those butts (which were really just barrels) were often sent to Boston as it was the primary port for our country at the time when the name took. That’s how a pork shoulder became known as a Boston butt***
This is what the whole butt (which is actually a shoulder) looks like prior to getting the band saw treatment:
And the band saw:
The Boston butt is sliced into steaks (usually ½” to 1 1/4” thickness) on the saw:
Not all butchers will slice the whole butt into pork steaks. Some save a portion of one end to sell as a small roast and sell the small end pieces as finger ribs which many think are the tastiest part. The steaks cut from the middle are known as center cut pork steaks which is what we are using for this recipe:
Some grocers slice the entire Butt and that’s referred to as whole butt sliced into pork steaks and usually offered at a lower retail price since the smaller end pieces are included.
Finally we have view of the pork steak from above so you get an idea of exactly what it looks like. That bone in the middle is a cross section of the scapula:
Hopefully you’ll be able to take this information to your local butcher (careful here, they usually prefer to be called meat-cutters) and obtain pork steaks in your area.
What is the difference between pork chops and pork steaks?
***Editor’s note – now Scott takes over with the cooking of the amazing pork steak. This recipe is so good that it was featured in a cover article for Feast Magazine that Scott wrote***
Time to discuss exactly how to grill these pork delicacies. The good news is that the pork steak has a great deal of fat and collagen inside so they are very forgiving and thus they don’t dry out very quickly. And while they can be grilled many different ways, we have found this to be the best process. And that process is the reverse sear method. Other than the method, I’m going to keep this recipe incredibly simple.
Pork Steak Ingredients:
- 6 pork steaks, each an inch thick (do not go with anything thinner than an inch)
- Coarse salt
- Your favorite BBQ rub
- Your favorite BBQ sauce
As we get to the meat of the matter, the pictures are going to get a little bigger.
Pork Steak Prep
Here are those beautiful pork steaks laid out on a platter:
After hitting one side with a healthy coating of salt, season with the BBQ rub:
Flip them over and repeat the process on the other side:
How are pork steaks supposed to be cooked?
Now, head out to set up the grill for two zone/indirect grilling. What is that? It means charcoal on one side and nothing on the other:
Putting coals on one side, and the meat on the other, allows the meat to cook slowly, breaking down that fat and collagen making the pork steaks tender and still juicy. So place the smoke wood on the side with the coals and the meat on the other side:
Notice, I moved the left grill grate over to on top of the one right to the right of it. This will make it easier for adding more smoke wood and charcoal later on. Target temperature inside the grill is 300F (+/- 25F):
Take one last look at what will soon be pork perfection and then close the lid and let the smoke and heat work their magic:
We used a combo of cherry and hickory wood, but you could easily use apple, peach or pear as well. For the most complete list on the internet of smoke woods and what meats they pair well with, click this link.
How long do you cook pork steaks for?
At the 30 minute mark, the smoked pork steak are bronzing up nicely:
But I’m out of smoke, so a couple chunks are added:
If you need help deciding what smoke wood to use, we got you.
At the 60 minute mark, the smoked pork steaks are sitting about 150F degrees and ready for the sear:
Notice I haven’t moved them once. I never flipped, rotated, or even nudged them, nothing:
I’ll wait if you want to scroll back up and see that first picture of them on the grill…
OK, now on to getting these bad boys seared. I add fresh charcoal to the bed of coals and wait for them to get wicked hot:
Time to put the sear in reverse sear!
Now place the smoked pork steaks on the grill over the hot coals and let’s get that sear:
They only need a couple minutes on each side to get that beautiful flavor char. Once both sides are charred, move them back to the side with no heat and hit them with your favorite BBQ sauce:
Normally, I would only submit one picture at this point, but they all looked so good, I had to give a couple bonuses. Basically, extra BBQ sauce porn! Oh, wait, forgot one. Here are all pork steaks sauced:
Close the lid and allow the BBQ sauce to thicken and get really gooey and sticky. You can go about 10 minutes and hit them with another coating of sauce, close the lid to let the sauce thicken. Once the sauce has gotten thicker, remove the pork steaks from the grill. These are over 180F degrees internal temperature and ready to eat:
How do you cook pork steaks so they are not tough?
The key is to take them slowly to 180F. I know to some, 180F degrees sounds too hot. These aren’t pork chops from high on the hog. Pork steaks are full of collagen and fat and come from a part of the pig that is used in every step which makes the meat tough. In order to get that pork steak to be tender and glorious you have to take them up to 180F.
And here they are on the platter, resting for a couple minutes before being served:
Reverse Seared Pork Steaks Summary:
The reverse sear method ensures that the meat has multiple layers of flavor. There’s the sultry smoke, the savory rub, the succulent sear of the caramelized proteins, and the satisfying sauce. Once you try this method, you will never go back.
If you have any questions about what a pork steak is, email Dad, or about the recipe, email me.
Check out these adobo marinated pork steaks or these chipotle pork steak tacos. You will not be disappointed!
Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube feeds
A Midwestern BBQ Staple - Pork Steaks
- 6 pork steak each an inch thick (do not go with anything thinner than an inch)
- coarse salt
- your favorite BBQ rub
- your favorite BBQ sauce
- Season the pork steaks with the salt and BBQ rub
- Prepare the grill for two zone or indirect grilling with coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the meat on the other
- Target temperature is 300 degrees
- Place the seasoned pork steaks on the side of the grill with no heat, toss on a chunk of smoke wood or wood chips and close the lid
- After sixty minutes (or the smoked pork steaks reach 150 degrees internally - whichever comes first), stoke up the hot side and give the pork steaks a quick sear on each side
- Place the smoked pork steaks back on the side with no heat and slather both sides with BBQ sauce and close the lid for 15 minutes
- Slather with more sauce and close the lid for another 15 minutes
- Optional: repeat the slathering and lid closing one more time
- Otherwise, remove from the grill, allow to rest for a couple minutes and serve
This look GREAT..I am going to fix this on my Gas Cast Iron Grill on Direct heat and then when I get my CG Grill next week I will fix them on that..LOOK Great again!!
I always use beer in my sauce for pork steaks.All beer has an ingredient in that breaks down proteins in the meat.
Remember to always simmer your sauce uncovered to allow the alcohol to evaporate completely or it will turn bitter.
Love your blog
A beer is a must for any sauce. As is cooking it down. I prefer to use a microbrew or an import over the standard New American Light Lagers (Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Miller, etc). Something with a little more flavor to it. O’Fallon Smokey Porter and Schlafly Coffee Stout are my faves. Porters and Stouts in general lend themselves very well to BBQ sauce (and chili).
Thanks for the props and check back often. We try to add content every week if not more…
Thank you so much for this website! I loved the recipe for the pork steaks! The photos are awesome and made my mouth water! Especially the “sauscy” ones. I miss St. Louie and the great prk steaks.
Just to let you know, no one from St. Louis calls st. Louis “St. Louie.”
Just to let you know, Joan, there’s plenty of us from St Louis who *do* call it St Louie on occasion. I’m from the St Louis area. My parents are from St Louis – my dad grew up in South County and my mom’s from Dutchtown. *Their* parents are from St Louis. Hell, parts of my family have been in St Louis going back to the Civil War. And, guess what? We’ve all referred to the city as St Louie on occasion. Please remember you do not speak for the entire metro area and refrain from gatekeeping something as stupid as what natives call their city.
I know that BBQ sauce is a personal preference, and that some prefer tangy or sweet or spicy or even a touch sour.
However, I found that the best base for ANY BBQ sauce is really very simple: Maull’s Original sauce and the juice from Bread and Butter pickles.
I usually use this as a base for slow cooking ribs, but it works very well as a basting sauce also. It goes well with just about any marinade or rub you care to use.
Our current favorite marinade is done by eye, and we use a vacuum container to force marinade.
1 small can V8 juice (spicy optional)
1 15oz can salsa verde
2 cloves of garlic, mashed and pan seared
8oz Jim Bean, Wild Turkey, or Jack Daniel’s
Moose Drool dark ale to top off the vacuum canisters
This should be enough for 6 – 8 pork steaks.
Perforate the pork steaks. Don’t try to cube them, just poke them with your favorite tenderizing needler.
Put 3 or 4 steaks in each of two vacuum canisters and add equal parts of the marinade. Top off with Moose Drool.
Seal the canisters, vacuum out the air (you will have to pump it more than twice because of the ale).
Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
When the grill or smoker is ready, drain the steaks and begin cooking.
The BBQ sauce should be in a pan large enough to hold all the steaks at once, and it should go on the grill the same time as the steaks.
After the first flip, begin basting with the sauce. Plan to flip at LEAST 4 times.
When the steaks are done, put them in the sauce pan, cover and let them rest on the grill for 20 minutes.
Remove, plate, serve, enjoy! I have to warn you, this recipe WILL come back at you after a few hours. But trust me, it’s worth it!
Moose Drool can be found @ Schnuck’s. Any other dark, heavy ale will work though.
A good tip when grilling pork steaks that I have been using for years is to baste them in a mixture of half apple cider vinegar and half apple juice, the vinigar helps to tenderize the meat and the apple adds a slightly sweet taste to the meat. I ususlly use a coffee cup and everytime I turn the meat, approx. every 5-7 minutes I will baste them with this mixture. If you use a rub or marinade when cooking pork steaks, you will not want to use this method. Hope this helps and enjoy.
i like your resp but what elas can marinde them in beside beer is beer a must or not ty walter
You can marinate them in just about anything. It doesn’t have to be beer…
the directions for the doctored BBQ sauce doesn’t say when to add the BBQ sauce it just says to add the beer and simmer on low for 30 min , when do i add the bottle of BBQ sauce ?
You can do that ahead of time and keep on a low simmer on the stove or side burner…
I was so thrilled to find this! I grew up in Southen Illinois and this was a summer staple for us. Having moved to Virginia about 7 years ago I’ve YET to find a single store or butcher who has any idea what one is – I can now explain and have them custom cut. Firing up the grill this weekend – Thank you!
You are very welcome. Thanks for checking out the website…
I don’t know what part of Virginia you live in but I have been here since 1975 and never had a problem finding blade steaks here ( butt steaks)
I saw some of these pork steaks at my local Ingles store in Georgia, and I had a vague idea of what they are but not exactly what I should do with them, so I bought them and looked it up online and now I think I will try cooking them using your recipe! I’ve never seen them in a store before, I guess they are becoming popular in the south? Just thought you’d like to know that they can be obtained around here!
Glad they are available in Georgia. I was in Atlanta last week and nobody had heard of them. Glad they are spreading though…
I LIVE IN SHREVEPORT LA. I HAVE BEEN GRILLIN PORK STEAKS FOR YEARS I WORK FOR THE SHREVEPORT POLICE DEPT.IN THE GARAGE I AM THE SHOP FORMAN I MAKE AND SELL MY OWN SAUCE IT IS MADE WITH APPLE CIDER VIN.AND 15 SPICES I HAVE WON FIRST LAST 3 COOK OFFs FOR PORK STEAKS AND RIBS YES I AM A GRILLIN FOOL JUST BOUGHT A 3X4 GRILL ON TRAILER FROM TRACTOR SUPPLY LOVE IT I AM COOKING 40 PORK STEAKES THE 24th AND BAKED BEANS AFTER THIS A NAP IS NEEDED THANK YOU
Glad to know you are a Grillin Fool! And glad you’re spreading the word on the pork steak…
Awesome site, my wife and I now live in GA and our local Publix grocery store is now carrying pork steaks.
We are fixing some tomorrow, can’t wait.
Awesome recipe! I finally cooked pork steak for the first time tonight. I used Maull’s BBQ sauce (figured that as long as I was cooking St. Louis food, I’d use St. Louis sauce) + doctoring ingredients from your recipe. I thought the Maull’s tasted too much like ketchup, so I added mustard and Franks Red Hot Sauce to the mix. Perfect! Thanks for helping me cook a great dinner!
Don’t use Maull’s just because it is a “St. Louis sauce”. Use it because the first, and therefore most prominent ingredient, is this thing known as “tomato puree”. Check EVERY other bottle of sauce at your grocery store and the first ingredient will be high fructose corn syrup. I cut 1/2 with beer and that’s it…
I accept that challenge. I see your Maul’s and raise you the revamped Kraft BBQ Sauce. It not only has no HFCS, but it uses real tomatoes, cane sugar and cider vinegar. Maul’s is my childhood in a bottle, but they are not the only sauce that doesn’t use HFCS. With the backlash against HFCS, I would assume there are more two but that’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head…
Rufus Teague has no HFCS. It’s one of my current favorites. Glad we can get it in Iowa now.
We are planning on cooking 20 pork steaks for a party. I’m sure the rub and sauce recipes are for lesser quantities. How many batches of each should we make? Everything sounds delicious. Thanks for your help.
Thanks for the tips, I am a big fan of cooking pork steaks and love those big green eggs!! The sauce tip brings back memories cause I used to do the same thing darn near and will try again in the near future -MMMMMM.
Hands down the best pork steaks are the one where only the bones are left to identify 🙂
Rebecca, a St. Louis Native
I love this St. Louis tradition! When I first moved to Baltimore, I couldn’t find them anywhere and had to ask the grocery store meat dept. to cut them special. Now, I occasionally see them in the meat dept. at some stores. I order Mauls BBQ sauce from St. Louis, and do a combination of Mauls, Swwet Baby Rays, Teriyaki sauce, and honey for my sauce. Cooking them right now, in fact! Great Article!
I can’t believe they sell them out there. My dad’s cousin lives in Baltimore and last time we talked said she has never found them and like you, has to order them special…
We are having a big family reunion and I would love to make some pork steaks! I would like to cook them the day before and then reheat them the day of the reunion. Any suggestions on how to do that?
I would cook them like normal till just short of done, place them right away in big aluminum pans with high sides, cover the top with foil and place in the fridge immediately to stop the cooking process. The next day, add more sauce to the aluminum pan, place back on the grill and bring the sauce up to a simmer and serve. Let me know it comes out!
I left St. Louis in 1995 and had worked at Charlotte’s Rib in & on Manchester Rd. (Charlotte Peters, Pat & Herb Schwartz) when I was 18, where pork steaks were on the menu and everything was the best BBQ, Herb was a master. Last week I found Golden Bear Farm in Kiel, Wisconsin carries 3/4″ pork steaks, finally!!! I was just getting ready to put them on the grill and looked here first. Thank you so much for reminding me how to prepare these. I appreciate your time and energy to share.
Sharon Wasileski, BBQ fool in
Village of Harrison, WI
Thank you for coming to our site. We so very much appreciate it!
I will be grilling about a 3lb pork steak bone on tomorrow that hase been marinating for about 24 hours now. 1/2 bottle of ML, 1 cup of sweet baby rays BBQ sauce, some garlic rid and a good.dry burger rub. Can’t wait til tomorrow
Just tried this recipe, tender and juicy pork steaks. Low and slow indirect at 300, then sear and sauce last, yeilds excellent bbq. Highly recommend-can’t believe there aren’t more comments.
Scott Thomas: The Grillin Fool
Joe, I just saw this comment. Sorry I didn’t see it earlier. Glad you enjoyed the recipe. And there used to be a bunch of comments but when we moved to a different comment plug in they were lost.
I don’t have a charcoal grill and am wondering if I could get similar results using a gas grill (omiting the smoking wood) and just turning on one set of burners on the end away from the meat?
Scott Thomas: The Grillin Fool
Rachel, that’s exactly how you do it. Here’s a post about how to smoke on a gas grill which would allow you to incorporate the smoke wood too if you want.
Make sure to get thick pork steaks as it’s usually difficult to get a gas grill down to 300, but it is possible. Let me know how they turn out!
From a native St. Louisan, those are seriously legit. Nice method
There is another way to prepare and cook pork steaks. Try this for a fall off the bone method. get your grill good and hot. Brown your pork steaks on both sides and remove. Use a large glass baking pan and put some Mauls BBQ in it. Put your pork steaks in and pour more sauce over the steaks (if more than one layer pour sauce between each layer). Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350° oven for about 2 hours. The meat will be so tender you will hardly be able to pick it up without it falling apart. My Dad did it this way and it’s the only way I cook them now.
nice thing to read,, just to share my experience an hour soak in a salt and sugar solution reshapes the proteins in the meat in such a way that they retain moisture better when cooking. The end result will be a juicier, and more flavorful chop, so it’s a step you don’t want to skip
That’s called brining. And I brine quite a lot and truly believe in it for chops. But these are not chops. They are pork steaks that have a ton of fat in them and don’t need a brine…
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a huge pork steak fan. I gave this a try last night with three 1 inch thick pork steaks. They turned out amazing!!! I used some hickory chunks and cherry chips. Thank you Scott for this recipe. The steaks had a definite smoke ring and the taste was awesome. Will be doing this again in the future. My family and I Thank you again!!!!
Bill, glad to be able to convert you over to pork steak fan!
Got a question for you Scott……did that charcoal grate in the pics come with your grill or was that something that you purchased after as a mod?
They come standard on a Char-Broil 940X…
I am in love am such a Foodie so this the best thing
Thank you for great recipe,I just bought grill so I hope I’ll handle it.
Tried this recipe last night, and it was fantastic. All the kids loved it too!
Glad that it came out so well! Have a fantastic (and safe) holiday weekend!
Looks great! Just discovered your site and I will be following it a bit more closely. From a South African Braai lover!!
Glad to have you aboard!
Do you have to soak the wood before you cook with it?
You don’t have to soak wood chunks. Wood chips, yes. Not chunks.
Scott, Would you give me your rub recipe?
Rodney, I just use whatever is in the pantry. I use all sorts of rubs.
Hey I am going to be following your recipe to cook about 40 pork steaks. I had a pretty good sized grill that I am going to be using. Since we are cooking them like they are in a “oven” by slow cooking and doing the two zone grilling am I able to like stack them kinda like first layer horizontally and then the second layer vertically? I know it will probably take longer but Trying to decide what the best way is to cook them all that way I dont have to do multiple batches and risk the first batch or second batch drying out before the party starts. Any advise is helpful thank you.
If you stack them they will take MUCH longer to cook and won’t be nearly as smoky. Have you considered putting cookie cooling racks in your grill to be able to stack them but still allow for the smoke to circulate? Or making some and then putting them in a pan of BBQ sauce on a very low simmer to keep them warm and moist?
I ended up just getting a few grills going on at once. Only had to do two batches. First batch I cooked to a lower internal temp and let them simmer in butter brown sugar and bbq sauce to finish cooking and they ended up finishing almost exactly at the same time as the 2nd batch. They were amazing! Both had all the great flavors and everyone loved them. Actually going to be reheating some of them today for dinner!!
Hi- when pork steaks get to 180, can you take them up as high as 190 without issue and they will just be more tender? I assume 200 would be too tender… Thanks!
Yeah, you could take them to 190 and yes, 200 is fall off the bone pork and would be too tender. The steaks would fall apart.
Love this recipe – I’ve done it a few times and works great! I have a question, though. Wouldn’t it be better to run the internal temp up closer to 200 like you would a pork shoulder or a brisket, sufficiently breaking down all that fat? I know people pull shoulders around 180 but I also know I usually wait longer. Just wondered why you wouldn’t wait? Just to get that middle ground between shoulder and chop?
The reason I pull at 180 is I want a little more of a crisp bite rather than fall off the bone. 200 is pulled pork. It would just shred as you ate it and fall apart when taking it off the grill. But if you want it uber tender you can go there. There is basically no wrong way of doing these!
If I Im going to use a RECTEC electric smoker should I change the temperature or anything?
No, same temps
My biggest mistake is reading this article on an empty stomach, ha-ha. Amazing guide, I’m definitely trying out all of this for my next BBQ. Thank you very much 🙂
Just bough half a pig and got a bunch of pork steaks. Wasn’t sure how to cook them so I googled it. I am looking forward to following your recipe. I don’t have a charcoal grill but a gas one. I am hoping this won’t cause an issue. Will it?
Yeah, you can do this on a gas grill. Try this method for smoking on a gas grill:
Cooking for a family of two-we have one pork steak, at least 1” thick, weighing just shy of 2lbs. Will be cooking in a standard Weber grill. Would cook time be approximately the same or less since the quantity of steaks is less?
Cooking time is the same…
I am barely using any charcoal on one side and the lowest temp i can reach with the lid closed is 450? Should I abandon this method or just not let it sit on cool side the whole 60 minutes? In worried will be dry and overcooked what do you think?
Something is going on with that cooker. 450 is wicket hot. There is no way to slow cook at 450.
Janice G McCreary
I almost succeeded with this recipe. It was too dark even with a flashlight to see if they were seared properly. Next time, I’ll start sooner so I can end with daylight. Thanks for the instructions. Next time my pork steaks will be great!
That’s the thing about BBQ, even on a bad day, it’s still a great day barbecuing…
I’m originally from St. Louis and what I’ve always done is boil them for 30-45 minutes first and then about 10-15 minutes on the grill to get the grill taste and sear. They end up being super tender. I don’t do rubs or salt, just a lot of sauce.
Don’t forget to use Pappy’s BBQ Sauce from StL
My husband and I followed your instructions and they came out tender and delicious! So glad we tried this. We will definitely be eating more pork steaks now instead of beef.
This is The Best pork steak recipe ever. We have been using this reverse sear method religiously ever since finding this recipe 1 year ago. We’ve tried all kinds of different rubs & seasonings. We’ve made these with and without sauce. As long as we follow the charcoal, smoke, and temp instructions – the pork steaks are Amazing every single time.
Got some pork steaks on now, following your method. Been doing this a while, always turns out great! Attended a private event you guys did a few years ago, been a disciple ever since!
I remember that private event. That was a lot of fun. One of the first ones we’d done like that. We’d done lots of TV, but it is one thing to go 3-4 minutes. It’s another to go 2 hours like that. It was a ton of fun!
When I grill my porksteaks can I grill mark them up at 1st ? Then stack them on indirect heat to finish them..I put yellow mustard on them then my rub. Pls reply..thank you from Ben
I know Greg a bit from Grappa Growlers. I have been grilling pork steaks for many years. Decided to try this method. I followed everything to a T. Had 1.25″ pork steaks that turned out great. My wife and friends said they were the best I ever did. Thanks guys!