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First smoke this weekend - Pork Steaks! Please review my plans

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

Hi everybody, outside of the welcome forums, this is my first post.  My MES 40 electric smoker and AMNPS 5x8 pellet smoker are scheduled to arrive today, and I'm planning on my first smoke this weekend!  I wanted to post my plans and see if anybody had any advice or if I'm on the right track.  I've basically looked at several different articles/posts and mixed and matched recipes to come up with this.

 

I'm planning on smoking pork steaks.  No, these are not pork chops, it's a Boston butt sliced into steaks.  I'm a St. Louisan and it's a staple around these parts.  First, the night before, I'm planning on putting them in a brine.  Here's my brine:

 

2 quarts apple juice

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup salt

1 tsp bbq rub per steak

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 can of coke

1/2 can of sprite

pepper, until I feel like stopping

 

I'll let them sit in the fridge overnight.  I'll give them a good rinse in the morning and apply a rub (still not sure if I'll be making my own or just going with something store bought for now).

 

I'll be using the A-MAZE-N Pitmaster's Choice hickory/cherry pellets.

 

I've read several different methods for the cooking processing... a lot say you want to get the temp up to 275-300 range and smoke for about 1.5 hours, finish it off with a 2-4 minute sear on the grill, then maybe 10-20 more minutes of smoke w/bbq sauce.  On these forums, however, I keep reading about the 2-2-1 method at around 225. 

 

I'm leaning towards the 2-2-1 method.  Is this literally all done on the smoker?  Straight smoking for 2 hours without touching them, then 2 more hours in foil, then apply bbq sauce and another full hour in the smoke?

 

Am I on the right track?  I know there's no one right way to do this and half the fun will be experimentation, but I just don't want to ruin my first meal.  Any advice or thoughts on my plans?


Edited by turick - 5/24/14 at 12:00pm
post #2 of 45

Turick,

Yes you are on the right track!!

There are a number of ways to do Pork Steaks, but I would try the 2-2-1 or similar.

I would do them about the same as the "Country Style Pork Ribs" I made below:

 

 

 

Hope that helps

 

Bear

post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 

Awesome, thanks a lot!  Everything just came and I'm working on getting it all set up and giving it it's initial pre-season run.

 

Did you ever try your country style ribs again with 2-2-1?

post #4 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by turick View Post
 

Awesome, thanks a lot!  Everything just came and I'm working on getting it all set up and giving it it's initial pre-season run.

 

Did you ever try your country style ribs again with 2-2-1?

 

Yes I did, and it was better than the one I did longer, but I don't have a Step by Step of it.

 

Just do what you wrote in the last 2 sentences in your first post above.

You can still use some of my other tips in that Step by Step, like the foiling mixture, etc.

 

Yell if you have an questions.

 

Bear

post #5 of 45
Thread Starter 

Pork steaks are in from the butcher!  I got 6 cut 1" thick:

 

 

I've decided to go all out and make my own rub and bbq sauce as well.... why not?

 

So for the rub, I'm going to use this:

 

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/4 cup paprika

    1 tablespoon black pepper

    1 tablespoon salt

    1 tablespoon chili powder

    1 tablespoon garlic powder

    1 tablespoon onion powder

    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 

And for the BBQ sauce, I'm going to try PGSmoker's Best Damn Sauce Ever.  The wife and I aren't big whiskey drinkers in general, but we really do like Wild Turkey American Honey, so the only modification I'm going to make is subbing American Honey for the Maker's Mark.  I figured a little extra honey taste in the sauce couldn't hurt!

 

More pictures to come... not sure if I'll be doing this Saturday or Sunday...

post #6 of 45

Oh Yeah!!!   Those are gonna be Great !!!

 

Be Back!!

 

:popcorn

 

Bear

post #7 of 45
Thread Starter 

WOW... the brine smells like straight vomit....

post #8 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by turick View Post
 

WOW... the brine smells like straight vomit....

 

If the solution smells that unappealing, are you going to toss meat into it?

 

Reading through the mix ingredients, it's more of a marinade than a brine, as all of the liquids are acidic, with little to no neutralizers, but that's not really what's important at this point. If the odor is offensive, I'd start over. KISS method here may be your ally. Salt and water (~1/4 cup per quart...preserves meat while soaking, plus draws solution into meat for flavor enhancement), with a few seasonings like rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic and onion. Just mix it up cold (with ice to chill everything quickly) and toss the meat in and into the fridge. If you have the time to heat the solution, then chill before adding meat, all the better, for infusing more flavor.

 

When using a salt brine, you can omit salt in the dry rub, for the most part.

 

Eric

post #9 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by turick View Post
 

WOW... the brine smells like straight vomit....

 

I can't help you with a brine, because all I ever use on CSRs, Ribs, Butts, or Pork Steaks would be Yellow Mustard & a Rub.

 

However if you want to use a Brine, Eric would be a good guy to follow.

 

 

Bear

post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by forluvofsmoke View Post
 

 

If the solution smells that unappealing, are you going to toss meat into it?

 

Reading through the mix ingredients, it's more of a marinade than a brine, as all of the liquids are acidic, with little to no neutralizers, but that's not really what's important at this point. If the odor is offensive, I'd start over. KISS method here may be your ally. Salt and water (~1/4 cup per quart...preserves meat while soaking, plus draws solution into meat for flavor enhancement), with a few seasonings like rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic and onion. Just mix it up cold (with ice to chill everything quickly) and toss the meat in and into the fridge. If you have the time to heat the solution, then chill before adding meat, all the better, for infusing more flavor.

 

When using a salt brine, you can omit salt in the dry rub, for the most part.

 

Eric


Well, reading your post made me laugh out loud.  It's funny when we choose to not use common sense.  I guess I should have started over, but yes, I put the meat in.  I think it was the combo of the coke and and vinegar that created the funky smell.  After I posted this, I did decide that I wanted to taste it, just for the sake of knowing what it is I made and what I was putting my meat in, and the flavor wasn't repulsive like the smell, so hopefully they will still be ok.  When I pulled them out this morning, there was no odor at all.  Well, I guess we'll find out tonight!

 

So what is the real difference between a marinade and a brine?  I always thought a marinade was more to just impart flavor, while a brine was meant to induce some sort of chemical reactions in the meat right before cooking.  If this doesn't turn out good, I'll definitely switch to a more relaxed brine like you recommended.

 

Either way, when I rinsed and dried the meat this morning, I was having trouble handling it because it was absolutely falling apart.  There are so many different sections of meat separated by fat and they all just wanted to separate from each other and fall off.  I had to use both hands while handling each one so it wouldn't pull apart.  I've eaten a million pork steaks in my life, but never ones cut this thick, so each steak is pretty heavy, so I'm sure that accounts for some of it too, but they definitely weren't doing this last night when I put them in the brine.  I'm hoping that's a good thing.

 

Not sure if anybody cares, but here's what they look like after the rinse and dry.  I figured more pictures are better than less :)

 

post #11 of 45

They look real good from here, Josh!!!

 

A bad smell doesn't always come with a bad taste. The smell of raw onions turns my stomach, but I love them fried.

 

So don't count those Pork Steaks out just yet.

 

 

Bear

post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks John!  Well, I just got done mixing the bbq sauce together and I can confirm it's 99% the apple cider vinegar that was repulsing me!  Here it is at the beginning of the cook:

 

 

And I was damn near tempted to eat these pork steaks raw just because they look so beautiful with the rub -- that paprika/chilli powder stain is awesome :)  This is also my first time doing a dry rub!  I've only ever marinated meat before grilling it...

 

 

After this two hours, I'm going to spray them with apple juice and whiskey before I foil them, and after that two hours, I'll slather them in the bbq sauce that should just be getting finished for the last hour! 

post #13 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by turick View Post
 

Thanks John!  Well, I just got done mixing the bbq sauce together and I can confirm it's 99% the apple cider vinegar that was repulsing me!  Here it is at the beginning of the cook:

 

 

Yup---That Vinegar can take your breath away, just by smelling it !!

 

I'll never forget when I was about 10 years old, I was outside playing baseball, and I was all out of breath & hot as Heck. I ran in the house, dying of thirst. I grabbed the Ice Tea pitcher, poured some in a glass, and started chugging. I think I took at least 2 good swallows before my throat became on fire, and I started gasping for air. 

Here, there was a crack in the Vinegar jar, so my Mom poured it into the only empty thing she had handy----The Ice Tea Pitcher!! Once she realized what happened she started shoving bread down my throat.

I learned 2 things that day:

#1   Vinegar is not for chugging!!!

#2   Smell before drinking!

 

 

Bear

post #14 of 45
Thread Starter 

Ha!  The wife and I got duped into a weight loss fad that said drinking a shot of apple cider vinegar a day could make you drop pounds like crazy.  It lasted like a week... most disgusting thing we've ever done!  LOL!

 

So the BBQ sauce so far is amazing... insanely zesty and full of flavor.  Not even close to anything you could ever hope to buy in a bottle from a store.  Can't wait to taste it all smoked up on the pork...

 

So at the 2 hour mark, I actually mixed the spray bottle with apple juice, american honey whiskey, sprite, and coke.  Again, I tasted it straight just to know what I'm getting myself into and I think it's going to be good... we took the pork steaks out, sprayed and wrapped them:

 

 

 

And no, I didn't add that nasty winged bug on the floor in the foil for extra flavor :)


Edited by turick - 5/24/14 at 2:50pm
post #15 of 45

Thanks for the kind words, John.

 

Hey turick, everything's looking good so far. What John mentioned about the vinegar seems par as well...it will take your breath away if you're not ready for it or don't know what's in there. I didn't consider that last night...in moderation, it is quite useful for cooking. That said, with everything else that went into the marinade, I think it will prove to be a rather flavorful dining experience to come your way.

 

To answer your question on differentiating between marinades and brines, a brine is mainly just a salt-water solution, with added herbs and spices. The salt causes osmosis, which draws the solution into the meat. Meats can be left in brines for days to enhance flavor and moisture of the meat. The longer the meat soaks, the more effect the brine can have, and, the deeper it can penetrate (this depends somewhat on salt concentration, brine/meat temperature...colder takes longer). Brines can be modified by adding curing agents (sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrite) and are used as a wet/brine-cure for meats. I have never used dry-cure methods, but have successfully used brine-cures...I find them to actually be quite easy.

 

Marinades are based on acidic ingredients, and may contain herbs, spices and salt. The acidity of a marinade is what sets it apart from a brine. The acid begins to slowly break down the meat from the surface, while imparting flavors from the liquid and herbs/spices. Marinades are typically not used for long periods of soaking time, as they can create excessively soft texture on the surface, and can actually discolor the meat's surface, turning it a shade of gray. Marinades, in a way, cook the meat without heat. The higher the acidity (lower the pH), faster it reacts with the meat. Lower pH marinades would be best suited for short exposure time, while weaker (slightly increased pH) marinades can be used for longer exposure. Marinades can be made from acidic fresh fruits, fruit juices and a variety of acidic liquids commonly derived from edible sources.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Let us know how the smoke goes, and your take on the flavor...I'm rather curious how this all comes through now.

 

 

Eric

post #16 of 45
Thread Starter 

Wow Eric, thank you so much for the detailed response... I'm going to have to read that again tomorrow!  I really hope this doesn't come in the way of my analysis of how everything turned out.  I broke out the bottle of American Honey for the bbq sauce and the spray.  One thing lead to another...

 

post #17 of 45
Thread Starter 

Ok, here it is after the foil....

 

 

With some bbq sauce:

 

 

Casualty of war... this one fell apart.. It happened to a couple of them... so hard to handle with the tongs...

 

 

A beautiful specimen:

 

 

Some pieces fell off in the tray while we were applying the bbq sauce.  The wife said the very first flavor is the vinegar, which isn't good, but she said they were so tender and still delicious... obviously, because I didn't get a piece!  LOL!  Hopefully this last hour of smoke helps to even that out.  We'll find out soon!

post #18 of 45

Ah, you're on the downhill side of the slope. The vinegar taste should diminish a little more, as well as the sauce balancing it out more, too...hopefully it reaches an acceptable level of tanginess.

 

At least you didn't drop your steak into ashes like I did with a nice big chop a couple years back...talk about embarrassing.

 

Lookin good!!!

 

 

Eric

post #19 of 45
Thread Starter 

Oh no... it's a bit disappointing....

 

First off, I noticed there wasn't a lot of smoke coming out of the vent when I went to take them off.  But when I did take them off, they looked amazing:

 

 

I'm not saying they are bad, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all.  1st, there's almost no smokey flavor.  What????  How can that be?  Second of all, they've been completely falling apart since I took them out of the brine, and they were after I took them out of the foil, but after the very last hour, the seemed to toughen up.  You can still easily pull a piece off, but they seemed to have dried out.  The meat isn't juicy and they no longer "fall apart".  You have to pull a piece off. 

 

All that being said, when you dip a chunk in the fresh bbq sauce, it's still delicious, but after the incredible smoked salmon, I'm completely missing that rich smokey flavor, I'm completely missing that fall apart juicy texture...  I'm thinking maybe the last hour killed it.

 

Maybe scale it back to a 1.5-1.5-.75?  Or reduce the time in general in foil?  I can't believe I can't taste the smoke... it was going good the entire time except for when I took them off at the very end.  I can't believe after they have been falling apart all day that they aren't any more, or that they aren't super juicy on the inside.

 

As an experiment, we sprayed 3 of them down again, put some more bbq sauce on them, re-wrapped them in foil, but punched holes in the foil, and put them back in the smoker.  That might be incredibly stupid... we have no idea what we're doing, but we want more smoke and more juice.  The smoke seems to be flowing fine now, oddly.

 

I guess I'm a bit spoiled after the insanely delicious salmon I made with John's instructions on my very first attempt.  I might have to challenge you pros to go get some boston butts sliced up and try the pork steak challenge!

post #20 of 45
Thread Starter 
I'm starting to wonder if I should do a 3-2-.5. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to invent that, but I need more smoke, and it seems I need less finish. The pork steaks that we just put back in the smoker with bbq sauce in the foil seem to be more flavorful than the original finished product, but still not smokey.
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