Texas BBQ Mop Sauce 101
September 23, 2011
When it comes to traditional tomato based BBQ sauce in Texas, most purists will take a pass. That’s not to say, however, that the meat coming off those Texan pits isn’t getting a little extra love via a wet baste. In fact, as VIP blogger Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com explains, you are likely to find a pepper, beer and cumin based Texas mopping sauce being used in many of the Lone Star State’s best barbecue joints.
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 a white bread sandwich. Old timey Texans take their brisket nekked. They 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 pit stops 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: 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 2-3′ 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.
But if you are cooking at home you are better served by keeping the lid closed, keeping the temp and humidity constant in your cooker, and skipping the mop. 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. 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.
Yield. About 5 cups. Click here to calculate how much you need and for tips on saucing strategies.
Preparation time. 30 minutes
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon of butter *
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup Lone Star beer (or any other lager). Drink any that is left over.
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons steak sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Hot sauce to taste (start with 2 teaspoons of Tabasco sauce for mild heat)
2 cups beef, veal, or chicken stock
Note about the oil. Butter or margarine work fine, but to make it authentic, use rendered beef fat from the fatback of a brisket or use bacon fat.
1) Mix the paprika, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin in a small bowl.
2) In a one quart saucepan, melt the butter or bacon fat and gently cook the onion over medium heat until translucent.
3) Add the garlic, bell pepper, and the spice mix you made in step (1). Stir, and cook for two minutes to extract the flavors.
4) Add the stock and the rest of the ingredients. Stir until well blended. Simmer on medium for 15 minutes. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a month or so.