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Barbecue Secrets

Recipe of the Week: A Taste of Kentucky Barbecue

Aug 31, 2013

One of my favourite cuts of meat is the pork blade steak – cut from the same part of the hog as the classic shoulder butt roast that we cook in competition. In certain parts of Kentucky, thinly sliced blade steaks are seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked over a low hardwood fire and “sopped” with a thin sauce made of vinegar, black and red (cayenne) pepper and lard and/or butter. Wes Berry, author of The Kentucky BBQ Book, says he loves the sauce so much he orders extra to put on his side dishes and mop it up with soft white bread. Give this adaptation of the Monroe County classic a try, with Cornbread Salad on the side.

Monroe County Style Pork Shoulder Steaks

2013-08-30 18.32.04

Serves 4

For the steaks: 

Four pork blade steaks, the thinner the better (if they're really thin, like half an inch or less, budget for eight because your guests will easily eat two each)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Hickory wood as a flavouring agent

2013-08-30 18.32.11For the sop/dip:

4 cups white vinegar

½ cup lard

½ cup butter

2 Tbsp finely ground black pepper

2 Tbsp cayenne

1 Tbsp Kosher salt


Melt the ingredients in a saucepan. Keep warm so the fat stays melted.

Pre-heat your grill for low-medium direct cooking. Season the blade steaks with salt and pepper and place them on the grill. Turn them regularly, brushing some of the sauce on them with every turn, until they’re well done – about 15 minutes to half an hour, depending on how low your heat is.  Use hickory chips or chunks to produce some flavourful smoke. If you’re cooking with charcoal, just place a chunk of hickory on the coals before you start cooking the steaks. For gas grills, place some wood chips in foil, poke holes in the foil and place the packet underneath the cooking grates.

Take the steaks off the grill and serve them immediately, with one last coating of the sop, and some on the side for those who want extra.

Cornbread Salad

This "salad," which is more of a savory trifle, is adapted from a recipe from The Kentucky Barbecue Book by Wes Berry. Wes got it from Trinca Barnette of Tony’s Bar-B-Que Barn in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and then came up with some suggestions for dressing it up. Enjoy!

For the salad:

1 batch leftover cornbread, roughly crumbled. (See recipe below.)

½ cup chopped green onion

1 whole large red tomato, chopped

1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese 

For the dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, onion flakes, dried dill, Kosher salt and black pepper

Optional additional ingredients:

1 can cooked black-eyed peas or pinto beans, drained

1 can sliced black olives, drained

Grilled corn cut off the cob

Crumbled cooked bacon

Chopped green bell pepper

Additional cheeses (like pepper jack)

Sliced pickled jalapeños

To make the salad, simply layer the ingredients in a large glass bowl. Start with half the cornbread, then layer the other ingredients and top with half the dressing. Repeat this layering one more time, with the other half of the dressing on top, and garnish with some chopped green onion. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to marry. Serve as a side dish with just about anything!


Makes 6–8 servings

This recipe is adapted it from a recipe that my Texan friend Amy Walker shared with me.

2 or 3 tsp | 10 – 15 mL bacon drippings or vegetable oil

11/2 cups | 375 mL cornmeal

1 tsp | 5 mL baking powder

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 can (14 oz | 398 mL) cream-style corn

1 chopped jalapeño chile

1 tsp | 5 mL kosher salt

1 cup | 250 mL buttermilk

¼ cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with bacon drippings or oil and heat it in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, eggs, creamed corn, jalapeños, salt, buttermilk, and melted butter together. Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet. Bake the cornbread for about half an hour or until golden brown. Cool it for at least 5 minutes before serving it.

Bonus Recipe: Owensboro-style Mutton Dip

Here’s another Kentucky classic, adapted from The Kentucky BBQ Book. Mop it on grilled or barbecued lamb (it goes great on pork, too, or anything else for that matter!) and be sure to have some available on the side.

1 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 cup water

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp finely ground black pepper

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup tomato paste

Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook until the paste dissolves. Use it to baste meat while grilling and as a dipping sauce on the side.