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.
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
1. Fried Okra
3. Potato Salad
5. Pinto Beans
6. Cole Slaw
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
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………..it will often
tell you on the package) I go about doing
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
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
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
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.