Pork steaks make a satisfying main course that you can serve with a range of side dishes. Cut from the loin or rib roast, center-cut steaks are tender and lean. The challenge is preventing the pork from losing too much moisture while it cooks, which could yield steaks that are tough like shoe leather. You can meet the challenge head-on by infusing the steaks with a seasoned brine so the pork has moisture to spare.
Prepare a brine that is one part table or kosher salt to eight parts water. Pork -- especially a thick cut such as pork steak -- often dries out and toughens during cooking. A brine denatures, or breaks down, some of the proteins, which softens the meat and allows it to absorb extra moisture. Season the brine with brown sugar, herbs or spices to taste.
Brine the steaks for four to 24 hours in a covered container or resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate the meat while it marinates to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
Remove the steaks from the brine. Rinse them with water to eliminate residual salt, and pat them dry with paper towels. Apply a light coat of olive oil to both sides of the steaks with a basting or pastry brush.
Place the pork on a cooking surface preheated to medium-high heat. The steaks cook equally well on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet on the stove. Sear the steaks on each side until dark golden marks develop, approximately two to four minutes per side.
Adjust the cooking temperature to slow-cook the steaks with indirect or low heat. On a grill, move the steaks to the edge of the rack or turn off one of the burners, so that the meat is not directly over a flame. On a stove, set the burner to low heat. It takes longer to cook the meat with low or indirect heat, but slow-cooking preserves moisture more effectively. Flip the steaks periodically to ensure they brown evenly on both sides.
Flip the steaks periodically to ensure they brown evenly on both sides. Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Cook the steaks until their internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer the steaks to a plate and cover them with aluminum foil. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving. The brief resting period allows the juices to thicken, which reduces the amount of juice that runs out of the pork when you cut into it.
- Replace some or all of the water in the brine with a flavored liquid such as apple cider or beer, if desired.
- Sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, cloves, garlic and pepper-based spices complement pork well, making them appropriate seasonings for a pork brine.
- Do not brine pork that is labeled “extra-tender,” because it has already been treated with a tenderizing solution.
- Discard brine after removing the pork from it. Due to food safety concerns, you cannot reuse it.
- Pork must have an internal temperature of at least 145 F to ensure food safety, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA notes THAT it's safe to eat pink pork as long as the pink flesh is opaque.
- If you’re cooking a bone-in steak, keep the meat thermometer away from the bone -- which gets hotter than the meat -- to prevent a false reading.
Lamar Grey has been writing about cooking and food culture since 2010. He has ghostwritten eight cookbooks. Grey entered the culinary industry in 2003 as a prep cook in a full-service restaurant. He subsequently served as a baker and head cook on three award-winning kitchen staffs.