The first time I met my wife’s parents, in Missouri, we made steak. “Great!” I said, “I love steak!” We went out and bought these huge slabs of pork. I said to Valerie, “What the hell? This isn’t steak.” But I wasn’t going to fuss the first time I met her parents. We got back to the house, grilled the pork, and when it was all said and done, it was incredible! I was so impressed that I cooked the same cut again and again after we got home.
Pork steak is basically a bisected shoulder blade that still has the bones. It has a ton of different muscle groups, and they’re all connected by little pieces of fat and connective tissue. The fat and connective tissue melt as the steak cooks, so a pork steak is essentially self-basting. It’s one of the most idiot-proof cuts you could ever throw over a fire. You can leave it on the grill for a half hour and it still comes out moist and juicy. The longer it cooks, the softer the meat gets. If you want a firmer texture like beef steak, shoot for medium. If you want a more flake-apart texture like pork barbecue, go for well-done over a lower fire. At medium doneness, you’ll see liquid beading up between all those muscle groups but the meat itself will feel kind of firm when you press on it. At well-done, the liquid will mostly stop flowing but the meat will flake apart in shreds. The exact cooking time is somewhere between two and ten beers. I like it steaky – four or five beers.
Kansas City-style barbecue sauce is a natural here. I slather it over the steak during the last half of cooking. My version of the sauce has less sugar than your typical bottled barbecue sauce, so if you’re using the sweet stuff, only baste during the last 10 minutes to prevent burning.
Feeds 4 folks
Pork shoulder steaks – 2 bone-in steaks, each about 2 pounds and 2 inches thick
Salt and ground black pepper
KC-style barbecue sauce (recipe follows) – 2 cups
1. Heat a grill for direct high heat.
2. Generously season the pork steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Scrape the grill clean and coat it with oil. Grill the steaks directly over high heat for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes. Baste with a thick coating of sauce, then flip and cook for 5 minutes. Continue basting and flipping at 5-minute intervals until the steak reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, 3 or 4 more turns. Brushing the steaks with the sauce midway helps create a rich-tasting mahogany glaze. Pull the steaks from the grill and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
3. To serve, thinly slice the steaks and serve with more barbecue sauce on the side.
KC-Style Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
Apple cider vinegar – 1 cup
Yellow mustard – 1/2 cup
Dark brown sugar – 1/4 cup packed
Ketchup – 1/4 cup
Worcestershire sauce – 1/4 cup
Tomato paste – 3 tablespoons
Sweet paprika – 2 tablespoons
Salt – 1 tablespoon
Celery seeds – 2 teaspoons, finely ground
Ground black pepper – 1/2 teaspoon
Cayenne pepper – 1/2 teaspoon
Garlic powder – 1/2 teaspoon
Onion powder – 1/2 teaspoon
Ground cinnamon – 1/4 teaspoon
Ground allspice – 1/8 teaspoon
Ground cloves – 1/8 teaspoon
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cut the heat down so that the mixture simmers, and simmer until thick and terra cotta–colored, about 45 minutes.
Prep Ahead: The barbecue sauce can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It’s modeled after the sauce served at Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. It’s dead easy to make, but if you’d rather buy Arthur Bryant’s, you can order it online.