Normally I don’t waste my time posting a replicate or review of another site’s recipe. Partially because I generally change the recipe and then link to the origination of its former self. But also because, why reinvent the wheel? But, in this case, I think you fellow Wichitans should take advantage of pork shoulder steaks and make this happen. Soon. Maybe on the 4th of July? That’s when I plan to make it again!

So, what do we have? Well, we have a replica of Cook’s Kitchen’s recipe, with one clarification (it frustrates me when a cooking show that claims to be scientific misses the specifics), and one modification for my tastes. First, let’s get our salivary glands going with an unnecessarily close up shot of meat. Mmmmm. Meat.

ImageSeriously, I am NOT a huge BBQ fan, and this is delicious. I don’t lie. Why would I? 

So, where do we start? Well, I guess this type of BBQ is famous in St. Louis. I have never been to St. Louis. I know, blasphemy! But, I haven’t. And if I had, I probably wouldn’t have taken much time to eat BBQ anyway since I’m not a huge fan. But one lazy Saturday afternoon I was watching PBS (we used to watch PBS before church when I was a kid, so I was feeling nostalgic) and Cook’s Kitchen came on. I love America’s Test Kitchen because I feel like cooking is a science. Everyone’s tastes are different, and everyone has their preferences for how to do stuff, but perfecting certain things is a science. And the magic of cooking is also a science. And a little magic. And a lot of luck.

Anyway, they first made a recipe for St. Louis pizza, which I have made before. And I liked, even though I didn’t give myself much chance to perfect it. So when they started making St. Louis BBQ after, I thought, “Meh, probably not for me.” But I watched anyway, and got sucked in.

On the show they talked about how pork shoulder steaks are regional, and I thought, “Wichita is regional to St. Louis, right?” The process seemed easy and they were all things I’d done before: sear something on the grill? Check. Braise for a long time at a low temp? Check. Sear again? Double-check.

And when they braised the pork for several hours at (an unspecified) low temp, I was re-inspired by these paleo ribs I’ve made several times (I’ve never posted about these, but that’s because I’ve changed my recipe a little each time – but the base is solid, if you have never made ribs and are intimidated).

Plus, I have this smoker I bought last fall and have only used about five times.

All of the ingredients are coming together. I told myself if I could find precut pork shoulder steaks, I’d try it out!

And I did. Find the steaks that is. Yes, Wichita is indeed regional to St. Louis. Write that down somewhere in case anyone ever asks.

I lit my grill and then made the sauce. The only thing I changed was I used cheap light beer instead of Budweiser because that’s what I had in my fridge. Otherwise, I was probably spot on on the other ingredients (I was closer to 3 1/2 pounds of pork, however). I also crushed a few garlic cloves and added them to the sauce. For kicks. Because, well, garlic.

Then I peppered my steaks top and bottom and took them out to my scorching hot grill. I even went ahead and oiled my grill grates like instructed because I don’t do that often enough. I cooked the steaks on high for 5-7 minutes per side. Then brought them in the house and put them in a pan with the sauce. You can either cover a roasting pan with foil or use a disposable pan, depending on how your’e going to braise the steaks.

I have done it two ways (neither as suggested by the recipe). I smoked mine and I’ve done them in the oven. If you smoke, you probably want a disposable pan. If you braise in the oven, you can get away with a foil-covered roasting pan.

Either way, move your steaks to the braising pan, and try to lay them in one layer, and cover as best you can with sauce. Since I have more sauce per ounce of meat (since I had just a little over half the meat suggested), this was pretty easy. Mine easily fit in one layer. If they don’t, do the best you can, and you’ll have a chance to rotate meat later.

We have no arrived to the part of the post where I clarify the thing I was frustrated Cook’s Kitchen didn’t clarify. They said to turn your grill to low and cook on low for 90 minutes (or until steaks are tender and sauce thickens). However, after some mad googling, I couldn’t conclude what temperature a typical “low” grill comes to. In fact, I’m not even sure how to qualify low on my grill. I ended up somewhere between 200-250 degrees. And I figured I’d settle at 225 and give myself 2 hours of cooking.

This assuming crap is for the birds. I was making dinner for my sister’s family, including young children. And my meat was not done in 2 hours. Or even 2 1/2 hours (an hour over the projected time). At the 2 hour mark, I cranked the smoker up to 275. The meat was OK, but it could have cooked longer.

The second time I made this recipe I wasn’t feeling great and didn’t want to drag the smoker out. So I braised in the oven at 250. I set the timer for 3 1/2 hours. And ended up taking them out at the 3 hour, 15 minute mark. They were perfect.

So, for you people who like specifics: cook at 250 degrees for 3-3.25 hours. 

I rotated my meat halfway through. I had one piece that was kind of layered on top of another piece, so I moved those around and flipped the meat over. If your meat’s covered, this probably isn’t even necessary. I had a hard time with telling whether the meat was done the first time (mostly because it wasn’t). but the second time, by the three hour mark, you could feel the meat starting to fall apart. You don’t want it to cook so much it falls off the bone because it’s hard to do the second sear, but you want it close to that point.

Then I remove them from the oven/smoker and go back to the grill for the final sear. Here’s the other small change I made: I took some sauce with me. I sauced one side of the steaks and put them sauce side down on the grill, and sauced the other side as it cooked. After two minutes, I flipped the steaks and very lightly sauced the cooked side. When I took the steaks off the grill, I lightly sauced the second cooked side. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce on the meat, but I REALLY liked the steaks with a final sear with the sauce.  If you like the sauce, you might have to reduce it on the stove. Mine didn’t thicken as the recipe suggested it would. So, here’s the recipe. I have copied it exactly from Cook’s Country’s site, but I made my notes in red.

This recipe really is worth it. I smoked it with a mix of apple and cherry wood. I did let it smoke the entire time, but since you’re covering the top tightly, I’m not sure how much difference that makes. I realize you’re adding liquid smoke to the recipe to get the smoke flavor without the smoker, but I still like smoking I suppose you could take the foil off the top of the meat for the last 15 minutes or so, if your meat is covered. Either way, oven or smoker, this recipe’s delicious and worth the time. And it’s mostly just waiting. You dirty one bowl for the sauce. And I use one set of grill tongs for the first sear, for rotating the meat halfway through cooking, and the final sear. And a brush to brush on the sauce. If you use a disposable pan, you don’t even have to clean that!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups beer (Budweiser suggested, but I used Bud Light one time and Miller Lite another)
  • 1/4 cup A.1. sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
  • 1teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1(5- to 6-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into steaks according to Butchering Boneless Pork Butt step-by-step
  •  Pepper (I used between 3 1/2 and 4 pounds of precut pork shoulder steaks.)

INSTRUCTIONS

MAKE SAUCE Whisk ketchup, beer, A.1., sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic powder, hot sauce, and liquid smoke in large bowl. Transfer to large disposable aluminum pan.

HEAT GRILL Heat all burners on high, covered, for 15 minutes. (For charcoal grill, light about 100 coals. When covered with fine gray ash, spread evenly over bottom of grill. Set cooking grate in place and heat covered, with lid vent open halfway, for 5 minutes.) Scrape and oil cooking grate. (Use a paper towel and tongs. Dip the paper towel in oil, then rub across grates. Be careful because it will flame up. Good for seasoning the grates, especially since I just washed my grill at the start of the summer.)

SEAR AND SIMMER Season pork steaks with pepper and grill until well-browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to pan with sauce, cover with foil, and place pan on grill (or in smoker or oven). Turn all burners to low (set oven/smoker to 250 degrees) and cook, covered, until steaks are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about 90 minutes (at 250 degrees, the braising takes at least 3 hours – grills must cook at a much higher temperature).

4. FINAL SEAR Using potholders, remove pan from grill and turn all burners to high. (For charcoal grill, light about 50 coals. When covered with fine gray ash, remove grill grate and scatter evenly over spent coals.) Remove steaks from pan (and brush one side with sauce, then place the steak, sauce side down, on grill) and grill until lightly charred around edges, 2 to 4 minutes per side. (While the steak is charring, brush sauce on the top side of the steak. And flip. Then you can continue to brush the original side, which is now face up, with sauce, if you’d like.) Skim fat from sauce and serve with steaks. (My sauce didn’t thicken, but you could reduce on the stovetop in a pan if you want a thicker sauce. Since I brushed a small amount of sauce on my steak, I didn’t need much or any sauce. The sauce is a bit spicy for children, but the steaks without the sauce seemed to be fine, even for small children.)

IMG_1143
Steaks after the first sear. They almost feel like they’re cooked most of the way through at this point. I probably could have cooked them longer. I was mostly looking for grill marks.
IMG_1144
Here they are, as much as I could get them under the sauce. This is from the time I cooked them in the oven. I was really pushing the volume limits of this roasting pan. In fact, there was some spill over in the oven because it was so full. I used a turkey roaster in the smoker, and there was plenty of room there. You’ll cover this tightly with foil for the braising.
IMG_1145
Here they are, off the grill after the second sear (when I brushed them with sauce). I brushed them more heavily before the sear. And after each side was seared, just lightly brushed more sauce on them. You can also serve the extra sauce (there is plenty) on the side. I swear this meat reheats almost better than when you eat it fresh off the grill. I love it on salads, but one day this week I had this leftover meat and half a bag of baby carrots (with homemade ranch dressing). Hey, I didn’t claim to be classy all the time!
IMG_1146
And for posterity’s sake, one more unnecessary closeup of the meat. We all like grill marks and meat magic, right?
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