Baltimore pit beef barbecue

by on March 1, 2006 at 1:43 pm in Food and Drink | Permalink

Baltimore, of all places, has its own barbecue tradition, called "pit beef."  Imagine slow cooking directed toward the end of a perfect thinly-sliced roast beef sandwich.  It is an artisanal version of Roy Rogers, with excellent french fries to boot.  It is best served rare with [sic] horseradish. ("Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.")  Chaps is one place to try; Big Al’s is another.  Both are first-rate for people-watching.  Did I mention that the entire tradition appears to have started on a dilapidated industrial highway, set among whorehouses and sex shops?  The style can be traced by to 1987, and it has spread to Camden Yards as well. 

1 Mr. T March 1, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Pit beef at the spring fair was the only good thing about attending Johns Hopkins.

2 Tyler Cowen March 1, 2006 at 5:34 pm

It is now cooked with gas, the wood places have switched. Given what you get, however, this matters less than you might think. You would not want it to have a stronger smoke taste. It is served fresh, but it tastes little like Kreuzmarket, or Lexington, NC, for that matter, tasty though it might be. One can debate whether it counts as “barbecue,” but it is slow cooking at low temperatures. Like I said, imagine a really good Roy Rogers roast beef sandwich.

3 Kevin March 1, 2006 at 7:15 pm

Well I am happy to say I’ve never had a Roy Roger Roast beef sandwich T,
so I guess me quedare con la duda 8^)

4 Sandy Smith March 1, 2006 at 9:03 pm

What’s so odd about roast beef with horseradish? That’s the only way civilized people eat it.

5 Jay March 1, 2006 at 9:57 pm

Can you possibly discuss BBQ in Baltimore without mentioning Andy Nelson’s?

6 Derek Lowe March 2, 2006 at 10:47 am

Beef with horseradish has a long pedigree – tafelspitz (Viennese boiled beef) is traditionally served with a mixture of horseradish and applesauce.

As for barbecue, as a product of NE Arkansas (near Memphis), I regard the whole idea of barbecuing beef as somewhat barbaric. Texans disagree, but as an Arkansan, you can guess how much I care. Pork is what you want. Pork shoulder and pork ribs, with lots of wood smoke and dry spices. Hold the gooey sauce, please. And (since I had some barbecue in Williamsburg last summer), hold the gosh-darn honey, too.

There. I feel better.

7 Mad Anthony March 4, 2006 at 12:04 pm

I’m not a native Baltimore-on, but moved there from NJ. I was introduced to pit beef via a coworker from a place called Shorty’s, which was at the time located on Falls Road in Windy Vally (right where 83 and 695 intersect). Huge sandwiches, very tasty. I was a big fan of the combo – a beef and smoked turkey sandwich the size of your head for like $7.

I think they’ve since moved, but I’m not sure where. I passed their truck on 83 a couple weeks ago – their slogan is “you’ll love the way our meat tastes in your mouth”

8 Chuck July 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Arkansa Pork is great. I love the mean pig in Cabot. texas Brisket I long for. I’ve had real Texans make this for me. Illl tell you though, tt doesn’t get any better than Baltimore Pit Beef! It’s definitely been around since I was a kid,(1966) and my father who was born in 1940. I’m in the military so I’ve had the unique experience of actually traveling to these places and sampling the local cuisine. Below is a recipe I found on-line, but I am going to attempt this today and tweak the rub to my liking.

Recipe (Courtesy of http://www.thatsmyhome.com/lunchbox/balpit.htm)
For the rub:
2 T. seasoned salt

1 T. sweet paprika

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. black pepper

For the sandwich:

1 3 pound piece top round

8 kaiser rolls or 16 slices of rye bread

Horseradish sauce

1 sweet white onion, sliced thin

2 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

Iceburg lettuce, thinly sliced (optional)

Combine all ingredients for rub in a bowl and mix. Sprinkle 3 to 4 tablespoons of rub all over beef, patting it into meat. Place in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. You can marinate beef for a few hours, but for maximum flavor, marinate for 3 days in refrigerator, turning once a day.

Heat grill to very hot. Grill beef 30 to 40 minutes, or until outside is crusty and dark golden brown (even black) and internal temperature is about 120 degrees (for rare; somewhat higher for medium-rare or medium). Turn beef often with tongs. Transfer to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Slice beef as thinly as possible across the grain, then finely chop with a cleaver. To serve, pile beef high on a roll or bread thickly slathered with horseradish sauce. Garnish with onions, tomatoes and lettuce. Serve immediately.

9 Ron June 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I grew up in Baltimore and I remember Bull (and Oyster in the non-summer months) Roasts back in the 60’s. Rare roast beef with a crust of seasoning served with raw onions and horseradish sauce. Pork or beef BarBQ is fine, slathered with sauce, but this is a meal about the meat.

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