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The Burgoo Page

See pictures from the 1998 Int'l Bar-B-Q Festival

What is burgoo?

If you are like most people you have never heard of, much less eaten burgoo. This is one of those times it's definately best to be in the minority. Burgoo is a savory stew made from a varying array of ingredients. It is often cooked in enormous iron kettles outdoors over an open flame. Cooking can take as long as 30 hours and flavor improves as it ages. It has been said that burgoo is more of a concept than a recipe. This is because there are as many different ways to prepare burgoo as there are people who prepare it. The meats could include any or all of the following meats: mutton (sheep/lamb), beef, pork, chicken, veal or opossum. You will also find some combination of these vegetables: potatoes, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, or okra. Of course there are also many spices to choose from as well. As you might imagine there are many people who keep their recipes a closely guarded secret.

What does "BURGOO" mean?

It is believed that the word "burgoo" originated in the 17th century on the high seas. These sailors used to subsist on an oatmeal-like porridge made from the Middle-Eastern grain, bulgur (or bulghur) wheat. The term first appears in the 1650 book "Adventures by Sea" by Edward Coxere.

Where can I get some?

The center of the burgoo universe is Owensboro, Kentucky. Owensboro is about mid-way between Cincinnati, OH and St. Louis, MO on the Ohio River. The largest city in western Kentucky, Owensboro is known as "The Bar-B-Q Capital of the World" This is due, in part, to the world renowned International Bar-B-Q Festival held on the Riverfront each May on the Friday and Saturday before Mother's Day. As part of the festival teams from charitable organizations, churches or businesses compete to be named the best. During the festival over 1,500 GALLONS of burgoo will be served up, by the cup (with a slice of white bread) or by the gallon (wide-mouth glass or plastic jar). You will also find live entertainment, a midway with rides and games, arts and crafts as well as other foods.

Many area Catholic churches have annual picnics during the summer months. People travel for miles to their favorite picnics. My family's favorite is held in Rome, KY. Church volunteers will spend HOURS cooking and setting up. Most picnics sell burgoo by the cup, gallon or you can get full meals. Other events at these picnics include Cake Wheels, Ring Tosses, Bingo, Rummage / bake Sales and lots of socializing. There are plenty of Bar-B-Q restaurants to choose from in the Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois (TriState) area. Naturally most of them are located in Owensboro. Some of the best and best known are:

Moonlite Bar-b-q Inn

2840 W Parrish Ave
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 684-8143
Old Hickory Pit Bar-b-q
338 Washington Ave
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 926-9000
Shady Rest Barbecue Inn Inc
3955 E 4th St
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 926-8234
George's Bar-b-q
1346 E 4th St
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 926-9276
The Beaumont Inn
In the heart of KY's Bluegrass Region
638 Beaumont Inn Drive
Harrodsburg, KY 40330
(606) 734-3381
International Bar B Que Fest
326 Saint Elizabeth St
Owensboro, KY 42301
(502) 926-6938

What do you eat with burgoo?

Most often you would have mutton (barbecued sheep/lamb). Western Kentucky has a large number of sheep farms which keep the supply and price relatively reasonable. The mutton is often in the form of a sandwich, either sliced or finely chopped. Mutton sandwiches are best topped with dill pickle and onion slices. Usually they are served on hamburger buns or white bread. Cole slaw and potato salad are also in high demand. Not the bland, boring and beige potato served in the Northern sections of the US, but spicy potato salad with relish, boiled eggs and mustard.

Ways to transport burgoo

Many of us travel back to the Owensboro area as often as possible. Naturally while you are there you will have some bar-b-q. Here are a couple of ways to take some back with you if you are flying. Buy a gallon and chill it. Now ladle it into freezer bags. Be sure to keep stirring as you do this or you will get all solids in some bags and all liquid in others. Remove all the air from the bags and seal them. Now lay them flat on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 24 hours. Once frozen you can place the bags in a cooler or wrap them individually in several layers of newspaper and just stuff them in your suitcase. They'll stay solid for 6-8 hours depending on the weather. Another option is to freeze a PLASTIC gallon jar and place it in one of those disposable coolers. However, the initial freezing time takes longer and you are stuck with a frozen gallon of burgoo when you arrive at your destination. I prefer the freezer bag method. This way you only defrost as much or as little as you need.

More Burgoo Information

Arenzville, IL's OFFICIAL Burgoo Web Site
The Parish Picnic Schedule 2000 (Western Kentucky)
Family.Com: Louisville Parent Magazine - KY Food
Anderson County Burgoo Festival (late September)
Recipe from The Charlotte Observer for BRUNSWICK STEW
The "Burgoo King" Recipe
The Patrick O'Brian Newsletter
Berkeley's Searchable Online Archive of Recipes
Robin Garr's Creative Cookery's Food Dictionary
US Department of Education's Burgoo Recipe
Arenzville, Illinois Burgoo Festival
MOONLITE BAR-B-Q INN Home Page (Mail Order)

Current Weather Conditions in Owensboro, Kentucky

I hope to add more burgoo information to The Burgoo Page in the future. If you have any comments, suggestions or criticisms, please just send me an E-Mail. I'd really love to hear from you. If you would like to be automatically notified when changes are made to this page, simply enter your E-Mail address in the space below and click on the "Click Here to be Notified of Updates" button.

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