It's Summertime, and that means it's time to break out the grill! One of my favorite things to make for those Summer cookouts and BBQs is pork steaks. They're easy to cook, and they always taste delicious when smothered in a tangy vinegar-based barbecue sauce.
This grilled pork steaks recipe will be on my Juneteenth menu. If you're looking for a new recipe to try this summer, give this one a try. You won't be disappointed! It's my rendition of James Beard Award-Winning Pitmaster Rodney Scott's original recipe which he featured in his latest book, "Rodney Scott's World Of BBQ."
In this post I not only pay homage to Brother Scott by making one of his recipes but also pin a short love letter at the end to my fellow brother in smoke as part of a Juneteenth initiative with my Eat The Culture partners.
Join me in celebrating Juneteenth with 18 other Black culinary creators. This year, we are honoring 19 Black American cookbook authors by recreating their recipes, amplifying their work, and sharing our connections to Freedom Day. Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day, the final emancipation of those enslaved in the US announced in 1865. Share these recipes with your family and help us continue the legacy of celebrating progress. Additionally, you can easily follow each participant by using the hashtag #JuneteenthCookout2022 on Instagram.
Grilled Pork Steaks (Inspired by Pitmaster Rodney Scott)
Grilled pork steak is a traditional favorite in the American South, and there's no better time to enjoy it than on Juneteenth. This holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, and what could be more fitting than a dish that celebrates the region's Black heritage?
The key to a good grilled pork steak is in the marinade whether you use a dry or wet marinade. A South Carolina-style (vinegar and pepper based) bbq sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy, and it penetrates the meat to create a delicious flavor that is sure to please any barbecue lover. So fire up the grill and enjoy a taste of history this Juneteenth.
Beats and Eats (music to grill pork steaks to)
Juneteenth is a celebration that's tied to some very dark times. People are looking to the past for motivation and inspiration for ways to move forward in a time when vestiges of that racism still exist. The song "Sunshine" is about being that light during the dark times. It is the optimism that this celebratory and commemorative day of resiliency represents.
Grilled Pork Steaks Ingredients
I made a couple of tweaks to the original recipe. One I eliminated the MSG the recipe called for and replaced it with allspice. Allspice and MSG aren't similar, I am just a big fan of allspice.
I also reserved some of the rub to make the sauce then just added in some extra cayenne and black pepper, plus sugar.
For The Pork Steak
Thick Cut Bone-in Pork Steaks
Pork Steak Rub Recipe Rub
- Kosher salt
- Black Pepper
- Chili powder
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Cayenne pepper
For The Sauce
The sauce is mostly vinegar, black pepper, and lemon juice. Despite the few and unorthodox ingredients for a barbecue sauce, this sauce has the goods and is addictive. You'll want to make a whole gallon and set aside.
- White vinegar (distilled)
- Lemon Slices
- Dry Rub Ingredients from above
- Red Pepper Flakes
How To Make Grilled Pork Steaks (step by step)
How To Season Pork Steaks
Place all the dry spices together in a medium mixing bowl. Reserve ¼ cup to make the barbecue sauce. Set aside.
Dry the pork steaks with paper towels. Season each cut of meat generously with the dry rub. Place the steaks in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.
Remove the steaks and allow them to reach room temperature.
Make the Sauce
Slice the lemon thinly in multiple slices.
Preheat a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the vinegar and warm for 5 minutes. After those 5 minutes add the lemon slices and cook until the lemon slices began to wilt.
Whisk in the red pepper flakes, sugar, the remaining spice mix, and additional cayenne and black pepper. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
Remove the pot off heat and allow the sauce to cool. If you plan to use the sauce later, remove the lemon slices, bottle the sauce and refrigerate.
Grill the Steaks
Set-up your outdoor grill for direct heat grilling. Pre-heat the grill to high heat. Target 450 degrees if you have a grill thermometer.
Place the steaks on the grill grate directly over the hot coals. Brush the top of the steaks with the sauce while it cooks for four minutes. Flip those bad boys then brush the other side cooking for another 4 minutes.
Use tongs to stand the steaks upright/vertical on the bone side and cook for another 2 minutes.
Remove from the grill and let cool covered lightly with aluminum foil.
How To Grill Pork Steaks Without Drying Them Out
The biggest risk to making the best BBQ pork steaks is overcooking them to the point of drying them out. Here are a few steps to ensure tender pork steaks:
Choose a good-quality pork steak or chop that is nice and thick. It will take a bit longer to cook them, but they won't dry out as easily
Choose a bone-in steak. The bone is actually somewhat of a buffer to heat which protects the moisture.
Use a dry or wet brine in your recipe. I used a dry brine here. The dry brine will add both flavor and moisture.
The dry brine will also serve as your seasoning so no need to add any extra. Plus the vinegar-based glaze will provide a crazy amount of bold flavor.
Allow meat to reach room temperature before grilling so they cook evenly throughout.
Cook the pork steak for 3-4 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit in order to ensure that it is safe to eat
Allow the pork steak to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into it. This will help to lock in the juices and prevent dry, overcooked meat.
Cooking Tips and Considerations
Preheat your grill before cooking. This will help to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.
Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the pork. Mine were about 1 inch thick and 4 minutes was just about right.
For a bit more smoke flavor add water-soaked wood chips to your hot coals.
The sauce is absolutely delicious. It may seem a bit unorthodox if you're not from the Carolinas and/or not familiar with vinegar-based bbq sauces. Don't worry about the heat levels in the sauce.
I know the amount of cayenne and red pepper flakes sound like a lot of heat!!! But actually, the sugar and lemon juice balance the overall flavor out. You can definitely lower the amount of cayenne if needed.
Follow these tips and you'll be sure to enjoy a delicious, juicy grilled pork steak every time!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Grilling Pork Steaks
Is the vinegar sauce spicy?
There is some heat to the sauce, but not like you'd expect given the amount of cayenne. The dissolved sugar and its concentrated sweetness along with the vinegar and lemon juice acidity things get balanced out.
Pork chops vs pork steaks - Are they the same thing?
No not at all steak refers to the cuts from the shoulder or butt vs chops that come from the loin. Pork blade steak, pork butt steak, and blade steaks all refer to the same cut vs. being different cuts of meats altogether.
Chops are leaner and at more risk of drying out. Steaks have a lot of marbling so the fat protects them from drying out and also adds more flavor as it melts during grilling. Chops can be either bone-in or boneless, but steaks are generally boneless.
In reality, often times the names are used interchangeably with the exception of boneless pork chops.
That being said pork chops and pork steaks both work in this recipe. However, I would avoid a boneless pork chop like pork loin.
What is the best cut for pork steaks?
Most pork steak recipes call for pork shoulder steaks. Shoulder steaks are definitely popular here in the old-school BBQ joints that make them. These are thick cut and boneless for the most part.
For this recipe, I stayed as true to Rodney Scott's pork steaks recipe as I could and used porterhouse pork. It was the closest cut I could find to Rodney's preferred T-bone cut.
Prior to settling on the porterhouse I did experiment with a few other cuts including your basic thin rib chop which I like, but admittedly you have to put in much work to keep it tender and juicy.
I also had some pure primal fun with this tomahawk pork chop I was able to get my hands on. It was delicious and a joy to eat for sure!
Where can you find pork steak?
Traditional pork shoulder steaks are pretty easy to find in your local grocery store. Thicker cut bone-in pork chops might be a little trickier. Grocery stores primarily sell thinner cuts. Go to your local butcher for thicker chops/steaks like t-bones or porterhouses.
Give Rodney Scott His Flowers Now!!!
Rodney Scott sits currently at the center of the BBQ world. He is a whole-hog pitmaster based in South Carolina who was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. More recently he was featured on the nationally accalimed Net Flex Series Chef's Table. His presence in the mainstream has led many to ponder about the contributions of black pitmasters to the culture. Well let me help you out if you're in that group.
Smoking and/or grilling meats is an art form mastered by black people around the world. When you study the origins of the craft, contributions by black folk globally are many - from Jamaican Jerk Pork/Chicken and South African Braai's to the different regional BBQ styles across America.
BBQ in America is tied to the fusion of Native American and enslaved Africans cooking and foodways. As culinary historian Michael Twitty says, "The traditional holiday cookout has its roots in the cooperation between black and indigenous peoples struggling to get or keep their freedom from colonialists. Long before Texas with its European roots in smoked meats became the epicenter of American BBQ black masters of smoke were roasting pigs over spits.
However, historically America's barbecue narrative has been absent of blackness. When you look at the media focus, BBQ joint rankings, and the "celebrity pitmaster" profiles like most things the black originators are rendered invisible in a clear case of whitewashing. How else do you explain David Chang's popular Netflix series "Ugly Delicious" not featuring any black pitmasters in their BBQ episode?
In recent years Rodney Scott's rising stardom has brought rightful attention to the dope skills and legendary contributions of black pitmasters. It's important that given his contributions to the culture we give this man his flowers now. Thanks to his persistent and sometimes unorthodox marketing efforts, hard work, and delicious food Rodney has helped to elevate his profile while directly and indirectly helping to shine a light on other brothers and sisters past and present in the game like Desiree Robinson, Ed Mitchell, Bryan Furman, The Jones Sisters.
I've especially appreciated the fact that he's magnificently balanced his strong grounding in the tradition with an ethos of challenging conformity. It's a duality of purpose worthy of attempting. Rodney has embraced the unknown and new experiences in efforts to not only share his amazing gifts of food and life perspective but also learn new and different ideas from others for the culture.
Now with contributions like "World of Barbecue" we've seen publication doors open for black pitmasters like Kevin Bludsoe and Matt Horn. Their inclusion will help to counter the impact of whitewashing and return the spotlight on black barbecue originators to demonstrate a broader view of the barbecue world beyond Texas brisket which unfairly and erroneously has become the standard for quality barbecue. Don't get me wrong - I'm a Texan and love my brisket, but there is so much more out there!
For Other Similar Recipes Try These:
It’s time to fire up the grill and cook up some pork steaks! This recipe is easy, delicious, and perfect for a summer weekend meal. We hope you enjoy it!
Don't Forget To Checkout All The Dope Recipes From The Other Juneteenth Virtual Potluck Participants
Black Pepper Strawberry Slab Pie by Dash of Jazz from the book Watermelon and Red Birds
Grilled Pork Porterhouse Steaks by Food Fidelity from the book Rodney Scott's World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Spicy Vegetable Relish by Kenneth Temple from the book In Bibi's Kitchen
Grape-Tarragon Spritzer by Sense and Edibility from the book Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora
All-Green Everything Salad w/ Creamy Sage Dressing by That Green Lyfe from the book Vegetable Kingdom
- 1 grill
For the Pork Rub
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ tablespoons allspice
For the Sauce
- 4 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- ¼ cup pork rub
For the Pork Steaks
- 32 oz pork steaks 4 8 ounce steaks, 1 inch thick
Make The Pork Rub
- Place all the dry spices together in a medium mixing bowl. Reserve ¼ cup to make the barbecue sauce. Set aside.
Marinate The Steaks
- Dry the pork steaks with paper towels. Season each cut of meat generously with the dry rub.
- Place the steaks in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.
- Remove the steaks and allow them to reach room temperature.
Make The Sauce
- Slice the lemon thinly in multiple slices.
- Preheat a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the vinegar and warm for 5 minutes. After those 5 minutes add the lemon slices and cook until the lemon slices began to wilt.
- Whisk in the red pepper flakes, sugar, the remaining spice mix, and additional cayenne and black pepper. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove the pot off heat and allow the sauce to cool. If you plan to use the sauce later, remove the lemon slices, bottle the sauce and refrigerate.
Grill The Steaks
- Set-up your outdoor grill for direct heat grilling. Pre-heat the grill to high heat. Target 450 degrees if you have a grill thermometer.
- Place the steaks on the grill grate directly over the hot coals. Brush the top of the steaks with the sauce while it cooks for four minutes. Flip those bad boys then brush the other side cooking for another 4 minute