Texas Traditions: Barbacoa

Barbacoa Sundays – It’s a way of life in South Texas.  Rooted in family traditions of backyard cooking, barbacoa is a cultural taste that grew out of farms and ranches and is enjoyed by many families across Texas. Slow-cooked or steamed to beef cheek perfection, barbacoa is prepared traditionally in a pozo, also known as an in-ground pit or outdoor oven.

Today, we invite you to meet Rufel Serna – rancher, oil man and barbacoa pitmaster. Rufel, with his wife, Tommie Ann and his three grown children, lead the ranch life in Seven Sisters, Texas.  More than four generations of the Serna family have shared their love of food and South Texas traditions with each other at their home.

If there is one thing that brings the Sernas together it’s Rufel and his expertise in making barbacoa. In Texas, where smoked beef reigns king, you can’t have well prepared beef cheek without a pitmaster. Rufel grew up learning to cook from his mother, later becoming an oil man out of necessity. He continued doing what a lot of South Texas people do, ranch work and cooking barbecue.

For Rufel, cooking barbacoa is a tradition that has been passed down from his Mexican roots to new generations. That’s what he’s doing now with his grandson, Kevin, who is taking his turn at learning how to cook barbacoa.

While barbacoa owns the spotlight in the Serna household, it’s mainly an opportunity for family to come together. While the tortillas are made, onions chopped and the pit prepped, the Sernas are having fun while telling stories, agreeing, disagreeing and being a big Texas family.  They are part of the Texas and Mexican cultures that have been making barbacoa the same way for more than 100 years.

Cooking barbacoa is a new experience for me, and I get to do it with my best friend, my grandfather. I want to keep this tradition in my family and be able to carry on everything my grandfather has taught me.

– Kevin Serna

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