John's Barbecued - The Geriatric Gourmet

John's Barbecued - The Geriatric Gourmet

John’s Texas Barbequed


Warning: If you are going to do it my way,

you need to do it a couple days before you

are going to serve it.

There are as many ideas about Bar-B-Que,

and how to do, it in Texas as there are BBQ

cooks but they pretty much all agree that it’s

not about Sauce but (indirect or “Cold”)

Smoke. In other parts of the world, BBQ

often means basting some kind of meat and

cooking it outside. Sometimes in Texas, you

will find BBQ cooks who will not even

allow Sauce to be served with their BBQ.

Trivia: There are also just about as many

ideas about the origin of the word as there

are how to do it. One version is that it came

from Caribbean cannibals and the Spanish

phrase “De Barba a Cola” meaning the

whole animal (or person), from beard to tail,

was roasted in a pit. I have never tried this

and probably won’t.

I collect all kinds of Wood, sticks and Herbs

suitable for smoking meat (also Fish and

Vegetables) but the most common type in

Texas is Mesquite. It is regarded by

ranchers and farmers as an unwanted weed.

They clear and burn it so it’s easy for us

BBQ cooks to get as much as we

want……………..for free. There are many

other kinds of wood that are good for

smoking food and they all produce slightly

different flavors. A few others are: Fruit

trees like Apple and Cherry, Hickory (more

commonly used in East Texas and the Deep

South states) Oak, Walnut & Pecan (these

have a “darker” stronger flavor), Maple, and

sticks like dried Rosemary and Grapevine.

In the far north (e.g. Canada & Alaska) and

Europe, Alder is used for Seafood and has a

slightly sweet flavor. If you use a fruit tree

like Peach, don’t use it still green. Let it dry

for about 6 months to a year.

There are some that you never want to use:

Pine, Cedar, Fir, Cypress etc. because they

have sap that will make the meat taste like


I always start with Mesquite and sometimes

add a little of something else for accent (e.g.

Rosemary sticks)

BBQ in the Deep South states is Pork

(sometimes used in Brunswick Stew). If

you go to a BBQ Joint in Texas, you might

find Beef Ribs, Sausage, Chicken, Ham and

occasionally Pork Ribs but when a Texan

thinks of BBQ, it is most commonly Beef

Brisket. It is a tough cut and takes a long

time (12 to 24 hours) to cook………..Smoke


1. Wood for smoking (not in your pipe)

2. Beer…….for drinking while you’re

cooking and for occasional dumping on

the meat to keep it moist

3. Fruit Juice………….Orange is most

handy but I like others too e.g. Del

Valle or Jumex in whatever flavor

4. Worcestershire Sauce

5. Other optional Vegetables or Meat like

Ham, Sausage, Chicken………….when

I’m going to go to all the trouble of

smoking something for a long time, I

often stick in some other stuff

6. Plenty of time…………..from 12 to 24

hours, depending on your altitude and

the weight of the Meat. Pepper Sauce

for various sides

Suggested Sides:

1. Fried Okra

2. Greens

3. Potato Salad

4. Spinach

5. Pinto Beans

6. Cole Slaw

7. Cornbread

8. Macaroni & Cheese

I tried doing this at high altitude (9000 ft.) a

couple times and it’s almost impossible.

After three days, it was still not as tender as

I want it to be. I’ve done it at 5000 ft.

(Albuquerque) and its doable but takes a lot

longer than in most of Texas……(average,

sea level to 500 ft.) and I don’t care how hot

the fire, water will not boil at 10,000 ft.

Everybody has their own way of doing it.

Commercial BBQ is done in quantity and

usually just laid out on big grill racks in big

smoke chambers. Some folks rap theirs in

tinfoil and cook it in backyard smokers. I

find it convenient to start with big

Graniteware roasting pan like those used for

Turkey. Lay the Brisket in fat side down.

Most folks just do the whole thing in the

smoke house or smoker and that’s how I

used to do it. Keep the lid on the pan for this

part. I experimented and a long time ago I

started doing it in the oven initially (no

Smoke yet).


I put the oven on low heat (about 275°) and

since it needs to cook for a long time (3 to 4

hours depending on size……… will often

tell you on the package) I go about doing

other things.

As long as I am going to the trouble, I

usually stick some other things in. today I

have a Ham. It’s precooked and sliced so it

won’t take long but I want to give it the

smoky flavor. Sometimes I stick in a Turkey

or Chicken or some Sausage or whatever I

see in the freezer. None of these other things

will need to cook anywhere near as long as

the Brisket. Read the labels if they have

instructions or just use your own judgment

about cooking times.

While cooking, I’m usually having a beer

(or many if I don’t have to drive anywhere)

so the first thing I do is pour some on

whatever is in the pan.

I will have been making Potato Salad,

Cornbread, Greens, Fried Okra, Cole Slaw,

Beans and other monkey business, so by this

time the Brisket (after maybe 3 or 4

hours………poke it with a fork to see if its

tender) will be about ready for the smoker.

So now it will be time to start messing with

the fire. It’s ok to use a little paper and

charcoal lighter to get the fire going since

the meat won’t go in for a little while yet

and the paper and lighter odor will be

burned off by then.

While the fire is getting started, I pour off

most of the liquid that has accumulated in

the pan and set it aside for

later…………there will be a lot from the fat.

When the fire is going good,

let it die down a little and add some more

wood. You can use a little of the Fat to

encourage the fire. Don’t ever put in a lot


wood because you don’t want a real hot fire

(it will dry the meat too much). You mostly

just want Smoke. You can presoak the wood

in water for a couple days and it will make

more Smoke.

As I said before, this kind of smoking is

done with indirect or “Cold” smoke. The fire

chamber is set off to one side of the cooking

chamber so what’s cooking is not exposed to

direct heat.

Sometimes I need to Smoke well into the

night and if you do this beware of smiling

opossums……………..they are not sincere.

As soon as you go in the house they will try

to steal whatever they can.

Then I flip the Brisket over in the pan so the

fat side is up. The fat on top will protect it

from the heat and keep it from drying out.

Then, as with the Ham or whatever, I dump

in some Beer.

Leave everything you might be cooking

today in the pans, slosh on some more beer,

drink a swig or two and this time leave the

lids off. This way, the smoke drifts over the

top and will give only a light flavor. When

the whole thing is left exposed in the smoker,

the smoke flavor can be to strong for my


I cook my Brisket longer than most

people…………3 to 5 hours in the oven and

then up to another 10 to 20 hours in the

smoker…………….very small fire. You

have to keep checking on it and sloshing in a

little more Beer as you go to keep it from

drying out. Cooking it this long means that it

will be too tender to slice and it will fall

apart. This is how I like it.

My solution to this problem is it to wrap it in


And then freeze it.

Then I let it thaw until it’s still slightly

frozen but still firm enough to be cut without

falling apart. Most of the time I am only

serving 4 to 6 guests so I cut it into large


Then I rewrap and refreeze them for later.

I’m not going to go into making Sauce here

and I haven’t put any on my website yet.

However, pour off all the liquid (drippings)

from everything……………not necessarily

all together. Use it as the base for a BBQ


Strain it however you can. After it’s strained,

you can also occasionally dump a little in

the pans (along with the Beer) to keep

everything from drying out…………which I

do often.

The resulting fat makes a good fire starter.

You can use it in your fireplace or you can

use it to start your cooking fire and it won’t

make any starter fluid smell.

When I make sauce, I learned a long time

ago from Sonny Bryan himself (before he

died) that a key secrete is Worcestershire


I always use Fruit Juice in mine……any

kind. I especially like Del Valle and Jumex.

In summer we live at our house in the Santa

Fe National Forest. It’s at 9000 ft. and I

gave up trying to do Brisket there many

years ago so I do some in Texas before we

leave and freeze it. The folks in New

Mexico don’t see much Texas BBQ (some

have never seen it) so they really enjoy it.

Cheri is holding up a jar of my Pepper

Sauce which is essential for Greens and a lot

of Texas stuff.

I cook a lot of other things with Smoke and

will eventually do a piece on it.

Slice a nice pile and don’t worry if some of

it falls apart.

I like a few Mezzetta “Tamed” Jalapeños.

Pecan and Pumpkin pie are especially good

for desert so serve a slice of each to

everyone. Or if you don’t have any you

could serve Pumpkin Pie Ice Crème instead.

The main thing is to constantly keep in mind

during the whole process that a bird in the

hand makes blowing the nose difficult.

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