Regional BBQ Styles: Saint Louis

Kevin Haberberger is a member of the award winning Slabs a’ Smokin competition BBQ team and the author of Extraordinary BBQ.  Kevin was proud enough of St. Louis style BBQ that he wrote and asked if he could write a guest blog post to sing it’s praises.  I was more than happy to have Kevin provide his keen insights with this excellent article.  He’s been kind enough to also provide a couple of recipes.

St. Louis, MO is tucked right in between two powerhouse BBQ cities; Kansas City is just 4 hours to the west, and Memphis is the same distance south.  This unique geography, I believe, has caused the Gateway to the West to be a forgotten BBQ town.  St. Louis loves it’s BBQ – AND it’s grilling.  Therein lies the biggest difference between this town and the other mammoth BBQ cities.

You’ll find dozens of BBQ restaurants throughout the St. Louis region, and most of them specialize in grilled options, rather than the distinct art of barbequing.  We have our fair share of world class BBQ restaurants (Pappy’s and 17th Street come to mind), but grilling is everywhere in this town.  In fact, Kingsford recognized St. Louis as, “America’s Top Grilling City.”  It’s also been said that St. Louis consumes more barbeque sauce per capita than any city in the nation!

Take our most famous creation as the best example:  Pork Steaks.  Maybe it’s because St. Louisans are impatient, or maybe we love pork SO much that we wanted it all week long, not just when we can slow cook it on the weekends.  Someone had the ingenious idea to take a pork shoulder and have their butcher slice it into thick steaks for grilling.  That’s just smart is what that is.

So here’s a delicious in-between recipe for your pork steaks.  A little smoking, a little grilling, one delicious product.

St. Louis Style Pork Steaks

Pork steaks are a delicious and cheap treat and can be prepared quickly or very slowly and have amazingly different – but all very tasty – results.  I’m always trying new ways to cook pork steaks.  When cooked properly, they are one of the tastiest treats out there.  And whenever I can add smoke as an additional flavor profile, I take advantage.

For those outside St. Louis, this is what you need to do:  Go to your butcher and pick out a Pork shoulder/butt – commonly called Boston Butt.  Then ask him/her to slice it into ¾” steaks.  Your traditional boston butt will be transformed into St. Louis style Pork Steaks.

You’ll need: As many pork steaks as you want, All Purpose RubYour favorite BBQ Sauce, Can of Coke, Can of Sprite, Honey, Brine, a spray bottle.

You could use my Basic Brine Recipe if you want, but I usually change it up a bit for pork steaks.  Here is what I use: A mix of Water, Apple juice, ½ Coke and ½ Sprite – enough to cover the steaks; 1/4c Brown Sugar, 1/4c Salt & Pepper.

Brine for at least an hour, up to overnight if possible.  Remove from brine, rinse with cold water, and place on a tray.

Dust a good coating of rub on both sides of the steaks.  Light your coals and ready your grill for indirect cooking (or use your smoker).  Go back inside and drizzle honey on your steaks – just the side facing up.

After cleaning your grill, place your steaks as far away from the heat as possible.  Place whatever form of wood you’re using on your hot coals (2 logs, 5 chunks, or a good handful of chips).  I usually will do half hickory, half fruit wood.

Smoke the steaks for about an hour at 200-250.  You’ll need to rotate the steaks so they all spend equal time close to the fire.  Make sure smoke is billowing the entire time.  While they’re smoking, pour the other half of your Coke and Sprite into a squirt bottle and spray your steaks every 15-20 minutes.

(For gas grill users, check out your options for a smoke box you fill with wet chips and place on your burners.  They work great and have a similar effect.)

After smoking for an hour, remove the steaks and wrap each, individually, in aluminum foil.  This is where we will massively tenderize them, mimicking the tenderness you get with a smoked pork shoulder.

Add additional coals so your grill/smoker stays in the 225 range, and again place the steaks away from the heat.  You can stack them if you want.  Leave them wrapped and cooking for at least 45 minutes.

Once they are to the tenderness you want, remove from the foil and place back on grill for a quick sear. Get the coals blazing hot.  400+ degrees is the goal.  Pour whatever juices are in the foil back on the steaks, then dab some bbq sauce on them. Then, for a final touch, sprinkle some dark brown sugar.  Sear both sides for about 5 minutes, enough to caramelize.  What you’re looking for is a bit of the fat to blacken, and you’re ready to go.

Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes and these should be a tender, smoky & delicious treat!

St. Louis Style BBQ Beans

This is a fun and delicious side dish that will taste great with any bbq meal.  It incorporates some smoke and some sugar, and will have you and your guests wanting for more.

Start by getting a pound of mild or medium pork sausage, covering it with your favorite pork rub, and smoking it for about 1.5 hours.

While you’re smoking the sausage, chop half an onion and simmer in some olive oil until translucent.  Then get a large can of pork n’ beans, drain it, and add it to the pan along with 1 cup of your favorite sweet bbq sauce (I use Blues Hog original for a sugary delight), a tbs of your favorite pork rub, and some salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer those for about 30 minutes.

Once your pork sausage is sufficiently smoked, add that in the pan, mix it all together for a few minutes and you’re ready to eat a delicious BBQ treat.

This recipe would be EASY to kick up a notch, simply by using hot pork sausage, and a spicier rub and bbq sauce.  No matter what your taste buds, you can make this recipe work for you.

1 Comment on Regional BBQ Styles: Saint Louis

  1. Cindy Diebold // August 30, 2012 at 6:57 am //

    awesome article Kevin!!! I’m proud to be a St. Louisian!!!

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