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Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses Paperback – April 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not every cookbook would include a recipe that begins, Dig a pit 3-feet-deep, 4-feet-wide, and 40-feet-long. But this is Texas and, given 300 pounds of brisket, there is no more invigorating an experience than this kind of open pit barbecuing as championed by Walsh in his collection of barbecue memoirs, trivia and history. A newspaperman at heart, Walsh interviews the top pit bosses across the state and shares their secrets: Harley Goerlitz instructs beginners on a simple Pork Shoulder while Bubba Hodges offers Egypt Brisket with a mop sauce of vinegar, ranch dressing and Lone Star beer. For the politically astute, there are Barbecue Sauce offerings from both Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush, not to mention Senator Lloyd Bentsen Highway Rice Salad, a democratic blend of Texmati rice, chopped vegetables, yogurt, pecans and cilantro. Most interesting is the exploration of cultural influences across the prairie, including a surprising look at the German and Czech political radicals who landed in Texas in the mid-1800s, and the smoked meats they brought with them. For those who prefer motoring to grilling, Walsh includes a fine list of barbecue joints all along the Barbecue Belt, as well as different meat markets and a calendar of some of the major cook-offs held throughout the state.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


It's summer, and that means a new crop of barbecue books. One that stands out is "Legends of Texas Barbecue Cook Book: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses" by Robb Walsh.

It includes plenty of recipes, but the best part is the fascinating lore about the history and folkways of Texas barbecue. The cliche about Texas barbecue is that it's about beef - open pit mesquite barbecue. Actually, Texas barbecue is a mixture of Southern, Midwestern and Southwestern elements.

So in east Texas, people make classic Southern pork barbecue, in the west, there's a lot of Mexican goat or cow head barbacoa, and this tradition has spread beyond the Latino population. As Walsh says, no matter how much cowboys like beef, it wasn't worth slaughtering a cow for a meal, but a single goat was about enough to feed four or five cowboys.

In the center of the state, there's a sizable colony of Germans and Czechs, who follow their own European tradition of smoking pork, though sometimes in Texanized form. The famous Elgin sausage (the "gin" pronounced as in "begin," not as in the liquor) is basically a smoked German garlic sausage with extra red pepper.

This has given a unique spin to Texas barbecue. The German and Czech places were originally markets that only sold their barbecue out their back doors. The reason was that their barbecue customers were migrant cotton pickers who went to the shops for something to eat because regular restaurants wouldn't serve them (or, to put it another way, because the cotton pickers wouldn't have to take off their dirty coveralls and dress up if they were just eating a handful of barbecue behind a butcher shop).

To go with their hot smoked meat, they'd buy a few things like crackers, pickles or canned peaches. In a few old barbecues, that's still all you get. Kreuz Market in Lockhart, one of the most revered barbecues in Texas, serves your order on a piece of butcher paper with nothing but bread and crackers - and not a drop of barbecue sauce, which barbecues in this tradition have only recently, and grudgingly, started serving.

This means that the recipe for Lockhart-style pork loin calls only for pork, salt and pepper. Most of the book's sauce, spice rub and side dish recipes are more elaborate, but there's still a classicism about the whole appraoch here. Two ongoing themes of the book are the growing interaction of those various barbecue traditions and the power of the state's love of 'cue. In San Antonio, for instance, Miller's Barbecue operated in violation of the city's zoning and health department regulations for decades, but it was such a beloved institution that inspectors never dared cite it. The clear moral is: Don't mess with Texas barbecue. -Los Angeles Time

This book is for the committed, the grown-up boys (and girls) who ogle barbecue rigs at cookoffs as though they were antique cars and swap lies about recipes and appetites. Like Griffith, Walsh is a Texas journalist, but instead of looking at the national scene, he stays home and picks at ribs and things with accomplished barbecuers as disparate as the late Dallas pit master Sonny Bryan and Lady Bird Johnson.

His legends comment on various aspects of cooking and consuming brisket, ribs, sausage and chicken. They talk about preparing pits and smokers, regional barbecue specialties within the state and give recipes for side dishes.

Nor is anyone pulling punches. "It's not hard to tell when meat has been oversmoked," Walsh writes, "it tastes like tar."

It's fun to read their commentary and a joy to look through the vintage photographs Walsh has collected. You'll need two copies of his bok, one pristine to read in bed and another - soon to become grease-stained - to cook with. -Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • Series: Legends of Texas
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811829618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811829618
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robb Walsh is a three-time James Beard Journalism Award winner, the author of a dozen books about food and a partner in El Real Tex-Mex Café in Houston's Montrose neighborhood. Walsh is also a co-founder of Foodways Texas, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Texas food history headquartered at UT Austin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mike1 on December 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
I own and use a Weber charcoal grill, a high-end gas grill and an offset firebox, horizontal barrel smoker. I have a significant collection of books for each cooker. For authentic, slow-smoked BBQ, this is the best book out there.

It is an excellent basic "how-to" book for the beginner and a great resource book for the experienced slow-smoker. It discusses types of wood, gives great recipes for various cuts of meat, has an excellent discussion on cooking times, gives recipes for rubs, sauces and side-dishes and is, simultaneously, a highly entertaining read.

I am continually combing Amazon for additional BBQ cookbooks, however, to date, I have found none that are better than this one for slow-smoked BBQ.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Tim Janson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Legends of Texas Barbecue is not so much a cook book as it is a reverent tribute to Texas-style barbecue and the legends who made it famous. As author Robb Walsh notes in his introduction, "Southern barbecue is a proud thoroughbred whose bloodlines are easily traced while Texas barbecue is a feisty mutt with a whole lot of crazy relatives." There are few things that Texans argue over more often than barbecue. The book traces the diverse lineage of Texas barbecue and introduces us to the pit bosses and restaurant owners who have grown to mythical status in Texas. Throughout, archival photographs highlight these men from as early as the start of the 1900's.

Walter Jetton is perhaps the most influential pit boss in Texas barbecue history, once holding the record for feeding 12,000 people at a single event. He was also a favorite of President Lyndon Johnson. The early part of this book focuses on men such as Jetton and others, and gives a fascinating history of cooking methods and equipment these pioneering men used.

The book then provides indispensable advice on achieving a Texas-style Barbecue at home including suggestions on the best equipment to use, fuels, and cook methods. Forget the gas grill, even the use of smoke boxes will never achieve that true, smoky taste. Utensils are also covered in detail including the one thing every good barbecuer needs...a basting mop.

Moving to chapter two, the Legends of Texas Barbecue covers the "sport" of competitive cook-offs and masters such as Harley Goerlitz, holder of over 300 trophies including numerous championships. These men provide some of their award winning recipes and sure-fire tips to making the best barbecue.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Doug Mosley on November 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
There are not many books which I enjoyed reading as much as I did "Legends of Texas Barbecue." That may be a strong statement to make, but I can't think of any other book I've read on any subject that I read and then re-read and then re-re-read like I did this book. At times I could not put it down.
I've had the great privilege of reviewing for you some fine books on barbecue. Two of the most recent reviews particularly stood out: "The Grand Barbecue" by Doug Worgul (reviewed last month) and "Celebrating Barbecue" by Dotty Griffith (reviewed two months ago). The former was a well-done history of barbecue that had a heavy Kansas City influence (Worgul writes for the "The Kansas City Star"). If ever there were to be a coffee table book on barbecue, this is it; the pictures and graphics within Worgul's book are wonderful and key to telling its story. The latter was a very well-written history of barbecue as a whole where Griffith's years of experience and research on the subject (she is the restaurant critic and former food editor of "The Dallas Morning News") are poured out on its pages. Bring the strong points of these two books together and you have "Legends of Texas Barbecue."
Your first impression of this book will most likely be the pictures. It's evident that author Robb Walsh, restaurant critic for the "Houston Press" and former editor-in-chief of "Chile Pepper" magazine, wanted to use these to help convey the historical slant of his book and the pictures alone nearly tell the story the Texas barbecue. You'll be amazed at the large number of pictures showing people cooking, eating and enjoying barbecue in various settings from long ago days, some dating back nearly 100 years.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Last Saturday, I took off for Austin, but, instead of taking I-10 to 71, I made my way up 59 to 90A to 183, knowing that this would take me through some great barbecue country as described in the book.
I missed Novosad's in Halletsville, but did stop on the outskirt's at Janak's to pick up sausage. The stop in Shiner was at Patek's where I picked up an ice chest full of all beef frankfurters. Patek hot dogs may be the best on the planet.
My first real barbecue stop was in Gonzales at the Lopez's, recommended by Robb for their ribs. Without the book, I wouldn't have discovered this place. I was in luck. I had a sample of both pork and beef ribs, which were tremendous, but the real winner was the smoked link sausage. Juicy? I bit into it and it squirted all over my t-shirt. First war wound of the day. Soon to be followed by more stains.
Next was Central Market in Luling. A slice of brisket was incredibly tender. The sausage,too, was great.
On to Lockhart for stops at Black's and Kreuse's. Feeling full by this time, even with just eating a little bit at each place. Brisket was the winner here.
And on to Austin.
Great book. Great information.
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