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Secret Barbecue Sauce & Tenderness

by John Raven, Ph.B.

Here we are, boys and girls, in the fall of the year. We Texas residents will be very appreciative of any cool weather we get. It has been a long, hot summer.

I have been busy with several assorted enterprises. I am still seeking the perfect Texas style barbecue dipping sauce or, if you prefer, "finishing" sauce. I found my long lost recipe for the sauce my cousin and I developed at Hutto, Texas when we were learning the basics of grilling. This recipe had been missing for some 30 years. Wow! That is a long time.

I still like the recipe very much. But my taste buds have worn down from overuse, and the sauce does not taste just the way I remember it. I am working on using it for a base for a new sauce. Here she is as recorded some 30 years ago.



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Hutto Secret Sauce (Barbecue)
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped fine
  • Cooking oil to sauté
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Kraft Hot Hickory smoke flavor sauce
  • 8 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sauté the onion in cooking oil until transparent. Add the liquids and bring to simmer. Add the brown sugar and black pepper. Continue to simmer 1 hour. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

I don't think Kraft makes Hot Hickory Smoke sauce any longer. I had to substitute a store brand hickory sauce. I added a bit of cayenne to get the "hot". This is, like I said, still a good Texas-style sauce. Don't be afraid to try it. It works best with beef, and it's excellent on grilled summer sausage. This makes perfect tailgate fare.

Something else I have been doing is learning how to get tough meat tender. Venison, for instance, is really tough unless you get just the backstrap and maybe some of the shoulder. The rest of Bambi is tough. Inexpensive cuts of beef (well, they were once inexpensive) like brisket or chuck are usually on the tough side, too.

I have started steaming the toughies in the oven and then glazing them when they are tender. The venison I have is mostly small pieces that were trimmings from the butchering. I go through these and remove any cartilage and the thicker connective tissue. The venison is then well seasoned. I use a commercial barbecue seasoning. Next, I wrap the package well in heavy-duty aluminum foil. The foil package goes in a roasting pan because it will leak. It all goes in a 300°F oven for about an hour or until you can smell it. Then cut the temperature back to 225 to 250°F for about three hours. A large roast will take longer; you want the internal temperature at least 180°F.

When you decide it's done, cut the oven off and let the meat cool in there until you can handle it without serious burns. Drain off the juice. Now put some glaze on the meat. I use the Hutto Secret Sauce. Stick the meat under the broiler until it is just ready to scorch. This works for me every time.

Another recipe I always enjoyed at home was leftover ham in sweet and sour sauce. My mama came up with this dish, and I still enjoy it frequently.

Sweet and Sour Ham

  • 1 tablespoon butter or shortening
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Sprinkle of black pepper
  • 2 cups cubed ham, leftover preferred
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the ketchup, mustard and sugar. Add enough water to make a thickish sauce. Add the ham and let it simmer until the ham is heated through. Give all a good sprinkle of black pepper. You may adjust the proportions of the ingredients to suit your taste. This goes really well with mashed potatoes.

This is the time of the year to purchase your grilling and barbecuing equipment. The stores want to get rid of the stuff they didn't sell in the summer so they will have room to stash other things. I noticed this morning when I was at the supermarket that there were about a dozen assorted grills and cookers on sale on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Let's do a little review of the equipment:

The grills start with the basic container for charcoal with a grate on top and a lid to keep the smoke and heat it. These are fine for doing things like steaks and burgers that favor fast, hot cooking. If you take care of one of these little darlings, it will last for many years. The most important thing would be to put a double layer of heavy-duty foil under your charcoal. I know you won't clean the ashes out every time, so if the ashes get wet they won't corrode the bottom of your grill.

The next step up is one of the "ball" grill/smokers. For some reason, they work really well at slow cooking. You just have to put your coals on one side so they are not directly under your food.

The 55- gallon drum smokers are still around. I really don't think I would want one of them unless I knew for sure what the drum contained before it became a cooking implement.

When you get into the area of getting a manufactured pit with the firebox on the end, the main thing to look for is good construction. You want heavy metal and neat welds. You can use real wood in these things and get a better end product. There is a bit of a learning curve involved. If you buy one, make sure an owner's manual comes with it. When you have studied that, then you can Ask Dr. John on the details.

Gas grills are just that, grills. They run too hot to do any slow cooking. They are excellent for the steak and burger crowd. In Texas, they keep a lot of heat out of the kitchen in the summer and a decent amount of beer in the operator. It is almost a law in Texas that if you operate a grill or smoker, you have to have some cold beer on hand.

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