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Pete Stewart's World Class Texas Style BBQ Sauce


I've eaten Bar-B-Que from coast to coast, and I'll tell you that without a doubt, I've never had better Bar-B-Que than what my late father-in-law Phillip "Pete" Goode Stewart used to smoke up in his pit on the shores of Lake Tawakoni in East Texas.

Pete grew up out in the country around Campti, Louisana just north of Natchitoches. This was during the Great Depression before the advent of refrigeration. The only way to preserve meat for any length of time was to smoke it, and the Stewarts had a smoke house that they kept running year round. When it came to smoiking meat, Pete knew the ropes.

If there was one thing that Pete did better than anything else it was cook. I'd put his Bar-B-Que, Sugar Cookies, Bisquits with Tomato Gravy, Corn Bread Dressing, or Skillet Corn up against any comers.

One of the real standouts in the lineup was his Bar-B-Que Sauce. Fortunately, he sat down and wrote out the recipe for me one day back in the 1980s. He was an old fashioned cook and rarely used measuring cups or spoons so the recipe would vary slightly from batch to batch, though never straying too far from the basic taste. I've tweaked it just a bit over the years to satisfy Cheryl's and the kid's taste buds, but basically what you've got here is a damn good Texas style BBQ sauce - kinda sweet, kinda tangy, and as hot as you want to make it.

In honor of Pete, I'm posting it here for anyone who wants to enjoy the sweet, tangy, spicy taste of True Texas Style BBQ sauce. Enjoy, and read about Pete's incredible Smokin' Pit at the end of the article.

I have to admit that lately, I've fallen under the spell of the sauce they make at Luling City Market BBQ on Richmond Ave. in the Galleria Area in Houston. Accordingly, I've upped the amount of mustard from the original recipe. Adjust it to suit your taste.

Check back soon for more recipes including 'Dana's Mamma Mia Spicy Meatballs', 'Pete's Prize Winning Sugar Cookies', 'Best You Ever Had Buttermilk Yeast Biscuits with Louisana style Tomato Gravy', 'Seconds and Thirds Skillet Corn', and 'Mouth Watering Corn Bread Dressing'.

If you like it, send me a line or a suggestion. email to:

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
8 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup)
5 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Karo corn syrup (or plain sugar)
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon onion powder (see substitutions below)
1 Tablespoon garlic powder (see substitutions below)
1 Tablespoon mustard (yellow or prepared or 2 tsp dry powder dissolved in 1 TBSP warm water)
2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (see substitutions below)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
For a more Southeastern type sauce , eliminate cumin and increase mustard

for onion powder substitute 1/2 medium onion sweat in oil till translucent
for garlic powder substitute 3-4 pods fresh garlic minced
for liquid smoke substitute drippings, juice, and debris from smoked meat
NOTE: If you substitute any of these solid ingredients you may want to liquefy the final sauce after cooking with an immersion blender or in a food processor.

Optional - depending on your taste:
1-2 Tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice
1 Tablespoon raisins (softened in warm water first) - pureed in blender
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 small anchovy - pureed

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes or more to thoroughly blend the flavors.

If you choose to use any solid, ingredients such as onion, garlic, raisins, or anchovy, cook as directed above, then let cool and transfer to a food processor and blend well or liquefy with an immersion blender.

Bottle & serve. Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

The Bar B Que Pit

Just before the turn of the 20th century oil exploration was starting to take hold in Texas, and it grew steadily into the 1920's when the boom really took off. Drilling crews out in the field were often remote enough that they ran a kitchen to feed the crew. This was before the heyday of refrigeration, so naturally they had to salt or smoke their meat to preserve it for any length of time. One particular crew, alas, now lost to recorded history had their welding crew construct the mother of all 'portable' smoking pits. This was an iron box with a steepled roof made of quarter inch boiler plate that could handle about a half a steer. True to form it had separate wood box, smokestack, and airflow damper. It was about 3 feet wide, five feet tall and 6 feet long, and it was mounted on two massive skids made out of railrod rail. I'd estimate it's weight at about a thousand pounds. There was huge forged eyebolt welded to the top so it could be lifted with a crane.

Apparently, as the story goes, it was used till the forties or fifties when it was retired and parked in some remote corner of the pipe yard.

As the years passed it was eventually forgotten until one ole' timer asked if he could take it with him when he retired.

This fella used it for a couple more decades 'til he sold it to my father-in-law in the late 1970s. My brother-in-law helped him move it out to Lake Tawakoni and ended up breaking the suspension springs on the truck in the bargain. It was so infused with decades of built up smoke that you could have smoked a piece of meat in it without even having to put in a piece of wood.

This was the pit that Pete worked his magic on. He'd go up into the woods behind the house there at the lake and chop his hickory, oak, pecan or mesquite. Never had better smoked meat in my life. As my Dad, Sol Schnitzer used to say - "Good Eatin' for Ladies and Gents!" Pete sure is missed by the family and all who knew him.

Thanks Pete for all the good times we all shared, and a tradition of really great food. We're trying to keep it going.


*If you don't have drippings/debris from your smoked meat, then don't hesitate to use a quality brand of liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is made by channeling smoke from smoldering wood chips through a condenser, which quickly cools the vapors, causing them to liquefy (just like the drops that form when you breathe on a piece of cold glass). The water-soluble flavor compounds in the smoke are trapped within this liquid, while the nonsoluble, carcinogenic tars and resins are removed by a series of filters, resulting in a clean, smoke-flavored liquid. Avoid brands with additives such as salt, vinegar, and molasses. It should contain nothing but smoke and water.

Last Updated April 17, 2014
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