Searching for deep-pit BBQ
I’m trying to find an old Central CA tradition that seems to be almost gone. I’m talking about deep-pit BBQ, where large pieces of beef are lightly spiced, wrapped in paper and then in wet burlap sacks, and then buried underground along with hot rocks and smoldering coals, and left to cook for something like 18 hours.
When the meat comes out, it’s smoky-tasting and so tender you could spread it with a knife. Usually served with pinto beans and mild salsa, this preparation used to be common for small-town civic events like say, a city-wide 4th of July BBQ. Now most of the towns that used to do this have switched to grilled tri-tip and the like. 25+ years ago, there were takeout places in Bakersfield that used to serve this. No longer. Since my youth, I’ve only had it once at a private party in Fresno, and more recently at a town celebration in Idyllwild. It’s still as good as I remember it.
Does anyone know of public events (or commercial enterprises) where you can still get this? I did a search, and this is all I came up with:
For some strange reason my prior reply to a post and said initial post on an annual deep pit barbecue held in Bangor has been removed. Perhaps they thought it was a reference to Bangor, ME?
The 70th annual Bangor Barbecue will be held May 19. From the Oroville Mercury-Register:
"Activities for kids, an extensive raffle, vendors, live KKCY radio broadcast and food are planned from noon to 5 p.m. at Bangor Park. The menu includes deep pit barbecued beef, potato salad, beans, green salad and roll and cost is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 4-11 and free to those 3 and younger."
Bakersfield seems to have several places that include deep pit beef on their menus.
Anyone tried these?
Fred's BBQ Factory
Martin's Meats & Deli
Pappy's Down South BBQ
Champs BBQ & Catering
Milt's Coffee Shop
Poor Boys BBQ & Catering
Hot and Smokin' BBQ
Caesar's Italian Deli
Too Fat Sandwiches
Quig's BBQ & Catering
And CSU Bakersfield has an annual event, last one was October 2012,
Then in Buttonwillow:
Willow Ranch Restaurant
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks for the updates, Melanie. I tried Champs a couple of times, a few years back. The first time it was great -- pretty close to the deep-pit of my youth, the second time, just so-so.
But I guess my tastes have changed. If I had to choose between Champs best, and Salinas City BBQ's brisket (I know, not deep-pit), the S.C. BBQ would win. However, that won't keep me from seeking out deep-pit.
re: Steve Green
I've never had deep-pit that I know of, so thank you for bringing this up even if was years ago. If I were closer to Bakersfield, I'd take a couple days and try them all!
One of those spots, I think it was Hot & Smokin' had a photo of some very good looking brisket for Brisket Wednesday.
re: Melanie Wong
Our parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe - Rosehill in Los Angeles hosts a California Deep Pit bbq fundraiser the first Sunday in October every year. It's been a tradition for over 50 years at our parish. It is served as a dinner plate which includes meat, beans (also cooked in the pit), rice, cole slaw and a roll or served in a burrito.
There is a big brick lined pit, preparation is done by our local boy scout troop master and parish groups.Entertainment, games and other goodies.
We started our own family tradition several years ago of having a "pit party" the night before Thanksgiving. We live on a couple of acres just north of Clovis. I dug a hole about 4' x 6', lined it with brick, and made a steel lid with handles on it. After the out-of-town family arrives on Wednesday afternoon, we start the fire around 4 p.m. Everyone hangs out as we build the bed of hot coals for 4 or 5 hours. Then, around 9 o'clock, we put the meet in the hole, cover the hole with the lid, then covering the lid with about 4 inches of dirt blanket.
Because several local friends also come over and bring their meat, we've had as many as 18 turkeys, roasts, etc. (whatever anyone wants to cook). Each piece of meat is seasoned and individually wrapped in 3 layers of foil, then wrapped with wet burlap bags, and tied with coat hanger wire.
We then open the hole at around 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. Everyone comes by to pick up their meat. It's sooo much fun! Spending Wednesday with friends and family sitting around the fire, then everyone getting some of the best meat of the year - you can't beat it.
El Borrego de Oro in East LA serves freshly slaughtered farm-raised lamb barbacoa in the Hidalgo style. It is slow-cooked for 8-10 hours in a stone-lined earth pit, buried below ground, with hardwoods and mesquite covered with Maguey cactus leaves. The result is seriously delicious, despite not having the intense smoke flavor that some equate with good barbeque. Incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful. This is “barbacoa estilo Hidalgo” and its subtle savoriness is as it should be – authentic and traditional.
Great mix of lean, fat and gristle with a typical order, however you can request any particular cut that you prefer. You can even get whole cabezas (heads). They also make a very good consommé (soup) to accompany the barbacoa, made from the juices that fall off the lamb as it cooks.
The owners raise sheep on a farm in Chino, CA, where the actual preparation takes place. Freshly prepared barbacoa is delivered to the two restaurants daily. I prefer the ambience and service at the original #1 location on Whittier Blvd, although parking can be a challenge.
El Borrego de Oro #1
2403 Whittier Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
El Borrego de Oro #2
2808 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
I recall seing this as a 7 year old at the Madera County Fair in Chowchilla, decades ago. Horrified I was, watching a tractor dig meat out of the ground, then handed to me on a plate. Looks like they're still doing it once a year in May. Mark your calendar -- See you there in 2011!
a bot off topic but this may be helpful as to methodolgy. A friend posted about deep pit bbq in the Carolinas, using a whole young pig. Perhaps the method described will be helpful to some reading this.
(O'Neal cooked whole hogs and other bbq for the Obama campaign workers in S Carolina during the primaries. Click on the link 'Homeboys for Change' for a video about his Obamaque adventures.)
Whole American Hog blog post:
My mouth is watering just reading all of this! I am originally from Bakersfield and grew up on deep pit tri tip. My grandfather and father had deep pits in their backyards and it brings back memories just talking about it! I live in North Carolina now and have never been able to find this cut of meat around here. The butcher always looks at me like I have four eyes when I ask him if he knows what it is :) A Trader Joe's just recently opened near me and I found a tri tip roast there! Only problem...no deep pit. I know its not as good in the oven but it will satisfy my tri tip craving. Does anyone have any good recipes for in the oven? My method is seasoning it, wrapping it in foil, and putting it in a brown paper bag in the oven at about 250 degrees for at least 8 hours. I'm open for other suggestions!
My BIL does it low-and-slow on a covered kettle bbq. Just simple s&p rub, then at about 300 for 2-3 hours for a large roast. No foil, no brown paper (curious, what is the purpose of the paper?) Just brown both sides and monitor heat. You can cut it with the side of your fork.
Here's a good explanation of the meat cut for your butcher :
This posting contains the offical meat cutting designation of 185D. Maybe print out the article and highlight the designation so the store meat cutter can look it up. Maybe he/she/you can start a new trend in your area. Many of our Central Coast supermarkets have portable BBQ's going out front on the tourist weekends to sell cooked Tri-Tip. It's a good way of introducing/selling cuts of meat to bbq'ing vacationers.
Also great as a fundraiser. Something beside the same-ol same-ol BBQ. Meals of 3 slices of meat (or a sandwich) simple green salad, and garlic bread and salsa go for anywhere from $7 to 10, depending on the benefit recipient.
There is a BBQ joint in Arroyo Grande on the Central Coast, o/o by three young brothers.
Gibson Bros BBQ is located at 1436 E, Grande Ave (east of Oak Park) near Spencer's Mkt. 805-474-5674.
(They do conventional open grilling over oak . They serve chicken, trip tip, pork ribs, linguica and hot dogs along with sides of mashed potatoes, potato salad, slaw, beans, etc. Sort of a sports-bar scene without the bar--a man-cave sort of place, small but family friendly. Most business is takeout.)
I asked them if they did or know anyone who does deep pit BBQ on the Central Coast, and they replied that the family has local Hawaiian friends who deep pit-cook pigs on a regular basis. They postulated that they should be able to special order deep pit bbq through these friends.
There is a place in Armona, CA. Very small town but close to Fresno & Hanford. They deep pit turkeys for thanksgiving. Normally you can bring your own turkey or they can supply it. I assume they can do this with other meats as well. It is also a restaurant and the food is quite good. It is called Raven's Deli. They also have their own brand of seasoning which is top notch. I use it on everything!
Polarbear, I always enjoy your recommendations. Thanks for tracking this down. Reminds me of the old buried pig dinners they used to do in the formerly bohemian Mountain Drive enclave of Montecito, where they also "invented" the hot tub. And like Hawaiian, this is also a Fijian method of cooking too - perhaps contacting someone in the Fijian community could give some leads too. It used to be a private party catering event when I saw these done in Santa Barbara - old cowboys here too I guess.
If your close to Bakersfield... Taft has a big "oildarado" celabration every 5 years in October (years ending in 0 & 5). Big deep-pit feed at the oil museum (possibly at the Petrolum Club also)
If you can't wait... you can do it in the oven (not quite as good but...) I use Chuck or Brisket (or both) You need some seasoning called "Pappy's" (get the low salt one). Rub meat with Whorchester sauce & liquid smoke (I know one gal who uses the whole bottle of liquid smoke) Rub in the Pappys....wax paper the roast then tin-foil (you want to seal it up as tight as possible). A whole Chuck takes 20-24 hours @ 210 degrees F Internal temp around 165 degrees.... let it rest awhile before opening it up (it's suck up some of the juices)
Sounds similar to a Hawaii pig roast except they everything in large banana leaves with coals above and below then buried in dirt. You come back 12 hours later to find your pig and everything you buried in banana leaves fully cooked, juicy, and ready to eat (once you dig it out).
Dang. I just checked their site as we were planning to attend the San Dieguito event, and just this year they're switching to Santa Maria-style tri-tip. I'm sure that would be good, but it's not what I'm looking for. Will be checking with Strasner's in Bakersfield, and with Clovis, and plan to update this thread as I get more info.
The method description by the old cowboy (as related by Toodie Jane upthread) is pretty much how I remember it being done.
I'd say follow PB's lead. Contact the Clovis Vet's Hall and see who rents the pit. Approach them.
I knew an old cowboy who worked a large ranch near Woodlake in the 50's and did deep-pit bbq's for them. He's gone now, but he described the process exactly as oerdin below. Build a big fire in a bigger pit, using live oak. Let it burn to coals, place rocks over coals to heat, cover with chicken wire (with shovel handles threaded through the ends) and wet burlap sacks, place the meat, more burlap sacks, then finally a foot or so of soil. They let it go about 8-10 hours for a side of beef, about 8 hours for a whole piglet. The wire length was long enough to extend out of the pit, and was used by three or four guys to heft the meat out of the pit once the soil and top burlap bags had been removed.