A pit barbecue is a method and constructed item for
barbecue cooking meat and root vegetables buried below the
surface of the earth. Indigenous peoples around the world used
earth ovens for tens of thousands of years.
modern times the term and activity is often associated with
colonial California and Mexico, and traditional Hawaiian Luau.
The meats usually barbecued in a pit are beef, pork, and goat.
Throughout the New World the
indigenous peoples of the Americas cooked in the earth for
eons. The original use of buried cooking in pits in North
America was done by the Native Americans for thousands of
years, including by the tribes of California.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries eras, when the
territory became Spanish Las Californias and then Mexican Alta
California, the Missions and ranchos of California had large
cattle herds for hides and tallow use and export.
At the at the end of the culling and leather tanning season
large pit barbecues cooked the remaining meat. In the early
days of California statehood after 1850 the Californios
continued the outdoor cooking tradition for fiestas.
Traditional Californian pit barbecuing is not done often in
contemporary times, due to needing space and labor to dig a
pit, significant firewood requirements, and air quality
concerns. However in 2007 the 'Culinary Historians of Southern
California' recreated an Early California pit barbecue on the
grounds of the Mexican Rancho San Jose, at the Ygnacio
Palomares Adobe in Pomona.
It required burning hundreds of pounds of wood in the pit
over the preceding night, then lowering cloth-wrapped,
marinated meat into the resulting pit of coals and covering
everything with earth. After cooking all night, participants
pronounced the results "incredibly tender, deeply smoky meat."
A traditional Horno was used for baking.
The Santa Maria Style BBQ, originally from the Central
Coast of California, uses a portable 'towed' trailer version
frequently seen at Farmers markets.
barbecuing is also popular along the Eastern Seaboard of the
U.S. The buried version of the New England clam bake is one
example. In Maryland it is done at large 'bull roasts' in the
summer season. Maryland-style pit-beef is not barbecue cookery
in the strictest sense, as there is no smoking of the
meatórather, it involves grilling the meat over a high heat.
The meat is typically served rare with a strong horseradish
sauce as the condiment.
Southern-style pit barbecue
"barbecue belt" of the United States, pit barbecue can also
refer to an enclosed, above-ground "pit" such as a horno or
outdoor pizza oven. The method of cooking the meat is slowly,
using various hardwoods to flavor the meat. This breaks down
the connective tissue in the meats, producing a tender
product. The types of meat cooked in this fashion include both
beef and pork.