Online Since 1997

Quick Search Recipes:

Search Recipes Alphabetically
A - B   C   D - F   G - J
K - N   O - P   Q - S   T - Z

Texas Wines & Wineries

Texas Restaurants

Ask Doctor John
Previous Q&A:

March, 2011
      Jan, 2011
      Dec, 2010
      Nov, 2010
      Oct, 2010
      Sept, 2010
      Aug, 2010
      July, 2010
      June, 2010
      May, 2010
      April, 2010
      March, 2010
      February, 2010
      January, 2010
      December, 2009
      November, 2009
      October, 2009
      September, 2009
      August, 2009
      July, 2009
      June, 2009
      May, 2009
      April, 2009
      March, 2009
      February, 2009
      January, 2009
      December, 2008
      November, 2008
      October, 2008
      September, 2008
      August, 2008
      July, 2008
      More Ask Dr. John Q&A

Cooks Need to Know
Handy substitutions, equivalent measurements and metric conversions
Looking for
great food gifts?

Find something
special in our
Food Gifts Store

Restaurant Loans
for your food business

Website: Texana
Visit our sister site devoted to Texas books, travel, people and culture

Shop on

More Ask Dr. John Q&A's   Message Boards   Free Newsletter   Grocery Coupons  

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

June 1, 2009

Hello again boys and girls. The good doctor is smiling broadly as his part of the world finally got some much-needed rain and everything has turned from brown to green. There is a lot to do this session so let's start.

As you know, Texas Cooking has a worldwide fan base. The good doctor gets letters from all over the world. A few days ago the good doctor got an email from Jim in Karonga, Malawi, Africa. Jim is the Community Development Officer for a mining company there, and says his company has planned a big party for the neighboring village. Jim wants to know how to go about doing an old-fashioned pit barbecue featuring at least a beef hindquarter.

Here's what the doctor sent Jim. The doctor gets more than a few requests to deal with this subject.

Jim: It's difficult to describe the pit cooking without pictures, but here we go. Cooking in a deep pit with things completely covered with sand like the luau pig is impractical. That scheme takes a lot of on-the-job experience. Here is how I would do it:

Start by determining the size you need. For a beef hindquarter, a pit three feet wide by three feet deep and ten feet long should be large enough. One end tapers from bottom up to ground level making a ramp to the bottom of the pit.

Next, you need something to hold the meat like concrete reinforcing wire or some sort of metal fencing. You would need some metal pipe or the like spaced under the wire to support the weight. In a pinch, you could probably get by with green tree branches about three inches in diameter.

You will need something to cover the meat. I don't know if you have banana leaves or the like. You can use clean cloth such as bed sheets. You will need some heavier cloth like burlap or untreated canvas to cover the leaves or light cloth. Or you could use another layer of leafy branches.

You will need a large supply of dry hardwood. Your locals should know what makes the best cooking fire.

Okay, now the meat. I would not try cooking a roast over ten pounds. It is really exciting to have a whole hindquarter on, but again, this is where a lot of experience is required. You are going to cut it up later anyway. Seasoning is what you have. Just salt and pepper will work fine. If you want to add onion or garlic that is fine, too. You can make small slits in the meat and insert cloves of garlic or wedges of onion. Just don't overdo it.

The cooking process should be done in 12 hours or less. So, 14 hours before feeding time, ignite the hardwood you have placed in the pit. You want to end up with about a two-in bed of coals over the entire bottom. You don't want any flames; let it all burn down to embers and rake it out even. Nearby you want to start another fire to furnish embers for the pit as needed. You will need a shovel to move the embers – don't forget that.

When you have the bed of coals, put your holding device in place. Let it heat a few minutes before arranging the meat on it. Don't jam the pieces together. Leave a couple of inches of space between them. When it is all in place, cover it. You are going to have to uncover it several times to check progress, so the cloths would be a lot easier than moving all the leaves and branches. Or maybe that might give whoever is helping you a feeling of participation in the cooking. You want a space uncovered at the end of the pit away from the ramp to serve as a chimney to keep the heat in the pit circulating.

Jim in Malawi
Jim Nottingham and local citizens

Earlier you have made a baste. Not a concrete recipe. Use about two gallons of water and a quart of lemon juice or vinegar. If you have fresh lemons, put about a dozen of the skins in the pot along with a couple of chopped onions and a handful of garlic cloves. Simmer this all together for about 20 minutes or so. Keep it warm while you are cooking.

About an hour after your covering, you will remove some of the cover from the chimney end of the pit. The meat should be beginning to brown nicely on the bottom side. If not, cover it back up and give it another hour. When it gets the brown, uncover it all and turn the meat over. Give the topside a mopping with the baste and cover it all up again. Repeat the operation in another hour or so. Turn the meat each time you uncover it.

When the coals begin to die down, you shovel a small amount of your sideline coals into a pile at the ramp end of the pit.

Now, you just keep checking the meat. Check at different spots along the pit. You want to keep enough heat in the pit to keep the meat cooking. If you have a meat thermometer, you want the center of the thickest part of the meat at least 160°F. Lacking a thermometer, you can pierce a chunk of the meat with a thin knife and check the color of the juices. You don't want any pink from the center.

The fate of your feast is now up to you and Burndenz the barbecue God. If everything is done too early, just put it all together on the chimney end of the pit after raking the coals back there, cover it, and let the heat from the pit keep it warm.

Jim has promised to keep in touch and report progress and results of this adventure.

In the meantime, keep those cards and letters coming in.

Dr. John

Jim in Malawi
Rush hour in downtown Karonga

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.

Follow Us on Twitter

Save on Your
Favorite Coffee

Coffee For Less
5% off Coupon Code: CFLESS

Free Stuff

Catalogs | Gifts
Cosmetics | DVDs

Special Offers for
Texas Cooking Readers

Justin Boots - Tony Lama Boots - Levi's / Wranglers / Jeans - Search Recipe Cookbook - Fiestaware - People & Chat - Contact Us

© Mesquite Management, Inc. -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED