Get Your Goat, It’s the Spring BBQ
The central Texas town of Brady has staged the World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off for more than twenty years on Labor Day weekend. And they know how to cook it correctly, using ten to eighteen pound goats that have been slaughtered at thirty to forty days of age. The older goats eat grass and develop a distinct muttony flavor. They can also be tough. The best time to find young goat is around May. Cabrito is the Spanish word for young goat, or “kid.”
Purists insist that the only traditional way to cook cabrito is to dig a hole in your back yard and burn mesquite wood down to coals. Then you take the skinned cabrito, season it, wrap it in wet burlap bound with wire, and set the meat over the coals. You cover it with dirt to seal in the heat and smoke, and let it cook all day.
Known in the Southwest as cabrito al pastor, barbecued young goat is a spring tradition that can be duplicated in a grill with a spit or in a smoker. The biggest problem is going to be finding a young, tender 12 to 15 pound young goat and you may have to search out butchers, farmers, or Hispanic markets.
Kids are part of the tradition in New Mexico called matanza. The butchering of an animal, which frequently accompanied a rodeo, was called a “matanza.” The first recorded references to a rodeo in the official republic of the United States are made in old New Mexico family journals.
As matanza researcher Cynthia Martin explains “A traditional Matanza is a family and community-gathering event, with friends and neighbors helping in the labor-intensive job of processing a large pig, goat or sheep.”
You can also substitute a large leg of lamb if you can’t find the young goat, and adjust the smoking time downward.
- Your favorite barbecue rub containing chile powder
- 1 12-pound young goat, cleaned
- Barbecue sauce of choice, chipotle recommended
- Flour or corn tortillas
- Salsa of choice, chipotle recommended
Sprinkle the rub all over the goat and rub it in thoroughly. If grilling the goat, build a mesquite wood fire in a large barbecue with a spit, or use natural charcoal and mesquite chips. Arrange the goat on a spit about 1 foot above the coals. You can use a motor to turn the spit, or turn it manually every 10 or 15 minutes. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F., for well done.
If smoking the goat, place the goat on a rack in the smoker with the smoke from pecan, oak, or fruitwood at 200 to 220 degrees F. Smoke for about 1 hour per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F.
To serve, slice the cabrito thinly and top with barbecue sauce. Serve with the tortillas, guacamole, and salsa on the side, or make tacos topped with the salsa.
Yield: 20 or more servings
Heat Scale: Varies
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