Jess Pryles

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que – Llano, Texas

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So Texas barbecue is all about low’n’slow indirect heat cooking? WRONG! Well, mostly right. But there’s a delicious exception to the rule…

Technically, there are four types of Texas barbecue; East, West, South (barbacoa) and Central. While Central/Hill Country style is unarguably the most famous in terms of food porn pics and worldwide renown, West Texas ‘cowboy-style’ cooking holds its own, and that’s exactly what Cooper’s specialize in. To confuse you a little more, while Cooper’s cook West Texas style, they are actually located in Central Texas. Awww heck, this isn’t supposed to about geography, it’s about damn good tasting meat, right?

pork ribs
pork ribs

West Texas barbecue was born of necessity – presumably from cowboys and ranchers cooking camp-style while out on cattle drives and such, using wood from Mesquite trees that grow so wild and untamed all over the west of the state. They key difference is the cooking is done over direct coals, not indirect heat as we expect from “Texas barbecue”. Cooper’s make their own coals throughout the day using a contraption that looks like an extra out of Transformers, burning Mesquite logs down to glowing coals which are then transferred to the pits as needed. The legendary WTX steakhouse Perini Ranch still fires all their steaks over direct Mesquite coals, too.

coopers pit bbq llano
Step up to the pit and place your order

Cooper’s works very differently to your traditional barbecue joint – before you even make it in the door you line up to select your meat from a holding pit. It’s a point and choose kind of situation, and cool to be able to sight what it is you’re ordering before you commit to it. Though, I’m sure a staring at that meaty smorgasbord with hungry eyes and a grumbling belly has resulted in many a person over-ordering… Once you have your tray, you take your meat inside to be weighed and priced, and pick yourself up a couple of sides and some sweet tea.

Jalapeno - Cheddar Sausage
Jalapeno – Cheddar Sausage

Also setting this place apart is the sheer range available – they say “it’s all about the meat”, and they ain’t lyin’. In addition to the usual secondary cuts that require long slow cooks to break down, there’s a huge amount of steak on the menu here, cooked to a beautiful medium-rare. Ribeyes, Sirloin, T-bones are all available, alongside pork loin, pork chop and even cabrito (goat). For my money, I would lean towards ordering the items you can’t get everywhere else.  I say treat yo’self, and go for the prime rib, it’s totally worth it. Oh, and maybe a little jalapeno cheddar sausage on the side, just for some balance.

Prime Rib is a must-order item
Prime Rib is a must-order item
Slice of Moist Brisket
Slice of Moist Brisket
bacon & jalapeno mac'n'cheese
bacon & jalapeno mac’n’cheese
Barbecue sauce is kept gently warming on the pits
Barbecue sauce is kept gently warming on the pits

For more info visit: Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que



Jess Pryles is a full fledged Hardcore Carnivore. She's a live fire cook, author, meat specialist and Meat Science grad student. She's also a respected authority on Texas style barbecue. Australian born and raised, she now lives in Texas.

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