Site Information

 Loading... Please wait...

Latin Touch

Regional BBQ: Owensboro

Posted by Chef Perry Perkins on

Regional BBQ: Owensboro

~Chef Perry Perkins~

We've covered a lot of regions and a lot of BBQ in this series. From Texas brisket, to Carolina ribs, but perhaps the most unique regional BBQ style in the USA can be found in the great state of Kentucky.

Specifically, Owensboro Kentucky.

What makes this style so unique isn't about spices, or sauces, or techniques...it's about the meat. While pork and beef dominate the BBQ landscape in most of the country, Owensboro is all about...mutton.

Mutton is the term for meat that comes from a lamb that's over a year old.

An 1816 tariff on wool, made production (and so, the raising of sheep) profitable, and Western Kentucky took advantage of the boom. Sheep only produce quality wool for so long, and this quickly led to a profusion of older sheep that weren't making the rancher's money, but still had to be fed and cared for, cutting into profits.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em...and that's exactly what the locals did!

However, you can't just toss a mutton chop on the grill. Like most animals, the meat of sheep becomes tougher and gamier, and mutton more so than most.

The answer, of course...was BBQ.

The low and slow style of cooking, as with brisket and other tough cuts, breaks down the hard collagen fibers into soft gelatin, which both softens the meat and marinates the tougher, stringy muscle fibers in tender, juicy version of itself.

At the same time, the long bath in smoke mellows that strong flavor. With little more than salt for seasoning, typically mopped on as a baste in warm water, Owensboro BBQ is served with a dipping sauce, called a "Mutton Dip" of vinegar, and peppers (much like an Eastern North Carolina sauce) and slapped between a couple slices of white bread.

At the famous Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in Owensboro, quarters of mutton are smoked for up to 12 hours at 220F, while being basted hourly with their custom dip.

Today the best place to get this kind of barbecue is the Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in Owensboro. Here, large pieces of mutton are cooked, fat side up, for up to 12 hours at temperatures around 220F while being mopped hourly with a mixture of water, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until it reaches a perfect 170F internally.

It's amazing!

Owensboro Mutton Dip

2 cups water
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. coarse black pepper
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. sea salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. powdered garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

In a saucepan over low heat, combine all of the ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, whisking often.

Allow to cool before using as a baste, or dipping sauce.

The sad truth is, mutton BBQ is becoming a thing of the past, as less folks are willing to experiment with anything they don't find wrapped in plastic at the local super-market, this unique meat is becoming harder and harder to find. (Your best bet is to contact local farmers, or custom butcher stores).

Even in Kentucky, pork has overtaken mutton as the preferred meat at the local BBQ restaurants.

From one pit-master to another, trust me...give mutton a try.

It's not as baaaaad as you might think!

(I'm truly sorry for that terrible joke...) ;)

~Chef Perry


As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.

Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.

His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”

You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com


View Comments


Regional BBQ: Chicago

Regional BBQ: Chicago ~Chef Perry Perkins~ Chicago-style BBQ has it roots in three important historical events. The opening of the Union Stockyards in 1865, and the migrations of both Eastern Europeans, and African American (mainly from the Mississippi Delta) around the same time. The first brought their traditions of boiled and smoked meats and sausages, while the second brought generations of [...]

Read More »


Grilling the Perfect Steak

Grilling the Perfect Steak ~Chef Perry Perkins~ To grill the perfect steak, you get what you pay for. Go with T-bone, Porter-house or NY strips. If you can find a butcher that ages their beef 30 days, you'll taste the difference. The T-bone and porterhouse are steaks of beef cut from the short loin (called the sirloin in Commonwealth [...]

Read More »


Baltimore Pit Beef On the Grill

Baltimore Pit Beef On the Grill ~Chef Perry Perkins~ We've talked a lot, this year, about how different parts of the country have their special take on barbecued meats. From Texas brisket, to Memphis ribs, to Carolina whole hog. In East Baltimore, they've specialized in their own little piece of smoky meat history since the early 1970s. They call [...]

Read More »


Pig Roasting Around the World - Part Ten

Pig Roasting Around the World - Part Ten ~Chef Perry Perkins~ I'll be honest with you, it might be easier to find the Lock Ness Monster, than a whole hog recipe in Scotland. Alone among the peoples of northern Europe, the Scots historically harbored a deep aversion to eating pork. Even sausages seldom contained it. Unique to Scotland, [...]

Read More »


Pig Roasting Around the World - Part Nine

Pig Roasting Around the World - Part Nine ~Chef Perry Perkins~ In Ecuador, this roasted pig is prepared by marinating the pork in a sauce of beer, orange juice, garlic, achiote, and local spices. Slow roasted in giant outdoor clay ovens, with butter and spices, Hornado is often found at food stands in local mercados. The typical marinade uses [...]

Read More »


Reheating BBQ

Reheating BBQ ~Chef Perry Perkins~ When I BBQ, I always like to make more than I need (which is why I love roasting box cooking, so much space!) If I'm doing it for business, I pride myself on never having run out of meat, regardless of how many "unexpected" guests show up. When cooking for myself and my [...]

Read More »


Shuwa - (Omani whole roast goat)

Shuwa - (Omani whole roast goat) ~Chef Perry Perkins~ Goat may not be the first thing that comes to mind, when you think about La Caja China cooking, but remember...for much of the world, goat is THE red meat. Not just because it’s what available, but because it’s delicious! Shuwa is a traditional Omani delicacy prepared only on very special [...]

Read More »


Cheap Cuts

Cheap Cuts ~Chef Perry Perkins~ In my not-so- humble opinion, one of the great unsung cuts from the noble cow is the chuck roast. The chuck contains a lot of connective tissue, including collagen, which partially melts during cooking. Meat from the chuck is usually used for stewing, slow cooking, braising, or pot roasting. It is particularly popular [...]

Read More »


The Basics of Brining

The Basics of Brining ~Chef Perry Perkins~ In cooking, brining is a process similar to marinating, in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, [...]

Read More »