Texas barbecue ranges from ribs to goat to sausage, but beef brisket is king.
A dark clod of beef breast, brisket, when it is cooked, is usually sliced about 1/4″ thick across the grain, and served on brown butcher paper or in white bread sandwich.
Old timey Texans take their brisket naked. They don’t don’t cotton to sloppy, sticky, ketchup-based sauces like they make up north in Kansas City. That’s because cattle don’t need sweetened ketchup any more than they need wolves. Some pitstops have relented to public demand and now serve sauces. Some serve gloppy red sauces, but the best serve a thin brown sauce, almost a gravy that works both as a mop during the cook, and as a simple finishing sauce.
These mop-sauces feature local flavors: American chili powder, ancho powder, hot sauce, cumin, beer, onion, beef drippings, and maybe even coffee grounds. Thin as it is, it adds a richness and depth to the meat because it doesn’t just sit on the surface, it penetrates. The cooks make up a batch and use it on everything: Brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, pulled pork, sausage (a.k.a. hot links), mutton, goat, and even chicken.
They are used as mops during the cook because in Texas commercial pits often cook the meat two to three feet directly above coals. They can run hot, and they are opened often to add and remove meat. So a mop splashed on the meat during cooking replenishes moisture and cools the meat.
Still, many folks like a sauce, especially if the meat is dry, and that can happen with brisket. So here’s a very tasty formula inspired by the sauce at legendary Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, TX, pictured here. They have a dozen pits to cook in, and one pit that is a holding pit. It has hunks of each of their meats and a big bucket of sauce. Customers come up and point at the meat they want and if they want sauce, the meat is dunked in the bucket, flavoring both. Trimmings and leftovers are also tossed in the bucket. So if you go to Cooper’s, and if you want sauce, don’t tell the pitmaster you’ll use the bottled sauce on the picnic tables inside. Tell him to dip it.
Serve with: beef BBQ and a Lone Star beer.
Published On: 2/29/2012 Last Modified: 4/16/2021
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