How Long To Grill Pork Steaks
Pork is a delicious meat that works great for all different of cooking methods. Stewed, braised, fried, or grilled, it all turns out delicious in the end. Today, we'll be talking about the latter option, specifically how long you should be grilling a pork steak for optimum tastiness.
There's a lot of myths and misconceptions relating to the proper cooking time for pork in all its forms, with some people going so far as to burn the meat to a crisp for fear of any sort of contamination with undercooked meat. Let's clear up some of this confusion and give you a definitive answer on how long pork should be cooked before it's safe (and tastiest) to eat, as well as provide a great recipe for pork steaks you can use to try out.
The idea that anything but well done pork comes from a fear of several foodborne illnesses pig meat is known to carry. Trichinosis and pigbell (clostridial necrotizing enteritis) are the two most common, with panic surrounding the former in the recent past that caused the widespread distrust of pork for some time.
The fact is, though, both of these are incredibly uncommon in places like America. The trichinosis parasite has largely been killed off in livestock within developed countries, with only about 20 cases of infection per year since the turn of the century and an incredibly low death rate on top of that.
Additionally, both trichinosis and pigbell are killed off or neutralized if pork is cooked to any temperature above rare. Normal cooking will neutralize the pigbell toxin, while trichinosis cannot survive at temperatures above 137 degrees Fahrenheit (the cut off for medium rare being 145 degrees Fahrenheit).
Carrying essentially the same risks as beef, pork can be safely eaten at any degree of doneness from medium rare up with little chance for infection.
How Should Pork Be Cooked?
With the knowledge that pork is safe to eat cooked to medium rare and above, there is still some debate as to what the optimal level of doneness is with pork, especially pork steaks.
The USDA, for one, recommends cooking pork to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which would be medium. Many chefs and gourmets prefer their pork cooked like this, with a pink center. Cooking pork to medium provides a juicier, more tender bite than medium well or well done, which is typically dry and tough enough to run the risk of turning someone off pork entirely.
Others, however, have taken to experimenting with medium rare pork. Still safe to eat, this form of pork looks and tastes more like a perfectly cooked steak, with a pink to red center and more juices. However, medium rare pork runs the risk of being chewy.
It should also be noted that ground pork, no matter what you intend to do with it, should always be cooked completely. Unlike with a pork steak, ground meat carries more risk in eating it undercooked, as any forms of bacteria that would normally be seared from the surface of a pork steak would not be affected within a ground pork patty or the like. For this reason, ensure that any ground pork (or ground meat in general) you cook with is cooked to a final temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
With that being said, though, many would agree that the optimal temperature for cooking a pork steak would be medium. Medium cooked pork steak combines the best aspects of both medium rare and well done, with a firm but tender texture and a level of moistness and flavor you'd otherwise miss out on if cooked for longer. Completely safe to eat, this is one way to cook pork many are missing out on.
Excited to try out cooking pork steaks at medium for the first time? Here's a simple list of ingredients you'll need to make some unforgettable grilled steaks.
- Citrus soda
- Apple juice
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Gallon plastic zip top bags
- Barbecue sauce of choice
- Plastic spray bottle
- Aluminum foil
- Instant read thermometer
- Sauce brush
- Chunk charcoal
- Wood chunks (details below)
- Charcoal grill
- Pork steaks (4-8)
For best grilling practices, it's essential to choose a wood that compliments the meat you'll be cooking. Hickory, apple, apple, pecan, or cherry are good woods for cooking pork, though you should always be sparing with hickory as it can overpower the taste of your meat. Experiment to see what flavors you like best, always remembering to offset a thicker, heavier wood like hickory with a lighter fruit wood.
Pork Steak Recipe
Once you've assembled your supplies, you can begin the recipe.
Step 1: Brine the Pork
The easiest way to add flavor to your pork - or any meat for that matter - is with a brine. This recipe uses an extremely simple brine composed of 6 ounces of a cola and citrus soda (about half a can each) mixed with 1 to 2 cups apple juice (more juice for more steaks), half a cup of kosher salt, and as much water as you need to fill. Combine all these ingredients into a plastic bag, shake well to dissolve the salt, then place your pork steaks inside to brine for half an hour up to overnight.
Step 2: Season the Pork
Once you've finished brining, empty the bag, rinse the pork, then pat dry with paper towels. Lay the pork out on a tray or plate to continue drying before seasoning thoroughly with salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides (a spice rub of your choice also works great here). Afterward, let the pork sit out for half an hour to come up to room temperature, as this ensures a more even and flavorful cook.
Step 3: Light the Grill
While the pork warms up, this is the perfect opportunity to prep the grill. Fill the bottom of the grill halfway with charcoal and light, allowing to smolder before placing wood chunks into the center of the coals and topping with more charcoal, followed by the grill grate. Don’t forget to check out our tutorial on how to charcoal grill the best way! Close the lid and let the smoke and heat build up inside the grill. The target temperature is in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, as we want to have a good sear on the outside of the steaks while they cook.
Step 4: Grill the Pork
Once the grill and the pork have come up to temperature, drop them onto the grates into direct heat. Monitor the pork during cooking, be attentive to avoid flareups and burned meat. Spritz the meat down with a mixture of the two sodas and apple juice every few minutes of cooking.
Continue cooking for ten minutes before flipping, cooking an additional ten minutes on the other side. After both sides have cooked, dab both sides with your favorite barbecue sauce using a brush, close the lid on the grill and any vents, and allow smoke to build inside the grill for five minutes. As times may vary depending on the grill and amount of heat introduced, be sure to check your pork's temperature. By the end of cooking, your pork should register at about 155 degrees Fahrenheit, so be careful during the initial cooking to not surpass this.
Step 5: Resting the Pork
Once the pork has reached the proper temperature, remove your steaks to a tray and tent it loosely with foil to rest for ten minutes. During this time, the pork's internal temperature will rise another five degrees or so, making for a perfect 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Resting also allows the meat fibers to relax and reabsorb juices, making for a more flavorful bite.
Step 6: Serving
Once the pork has rested, it's time to eat. These perfectly cooked pork steaks are a great main course for any meal, especially when augmented with sides like coleslaw, fresh steamed or grilled vegetables, or buttered rolls. Extra barbecue sauce could be used for dipping, too, if that's how you prefer your meat.
Despite what some fear, medium is the perfect temperature to cook your pork steaks. No other means of cooking delivers that combination of flavor and tenderness, and it's completely safe to eat if cooked in a sanitary environment. Try it out the next time you've got pork steaks on hand, and use this recipe to help augment your meals further.
Did you enjoy this recipe and look into the different ways of cooking pork? Have any tips on getting that perfect sear while retaining the right temperature range to not overcook? Leave a comment down below, and don't forget to share this with a friend who might not yet know of the new flavors they've been missing out on all this time by overcooking their pork.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Temperature Does Pork Need to Be Cooked To?
Previously, the USDA recommended you cook pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. In 2011, the USDA lowered their standards. They now recommended pork is cooked to 145 degrees F, with an additional 3 minute rest time.
Is It Safe to Eat Medium Pork?
It has been a long time since there was an outbreak of Trichinosis. This pathogen was previously related to eating undercooked pork. Because of this and improved pork raising facilities, the USDA now believes it is safe to eat medium pork.
Can You Eat Pink Ground Pork?
The USDA recommends ground pork to be cooked to 160 degrees F for health and safety reasons. It should take about 8 to 10 minutes to cook 1/2 inch thick pork patties to this temperature.
What Is the Most Tender Cut of Pork?
The loin and the tenderloin are the leanest cuts of pork meat. They can become very dry if they are overcooked, but when cooked to medium temperature they are very moist and juicy. The shoulder and ribs can become very tender when cooked low and slow, but these are tough cuts that need to be cooked for a long time.
How Long Do You Brine Pork?
Brining pork adds salt and makes the meat more tender. It makes it a little bit easier to grill lean pork like pork chops because it adds more moisture to the meat. Brine pork for a little as 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.