Burgoo: A Kentucky Specialty

The city of Owensboro in our homestate of Kentucky proclaims itself to be “The Burgoo Capital of the World”. There’s not a lot of competition for that title since the area of the country that serves burgoo is pretty limited (primarily Western KY and the surrounding IN and IL areas), but it seems that Kentucky Burgoo is the standard. (Owensboro also bills itself as “The Barbecue Capital of the World”…though so does Lexington, NC; Kansas City; and Lockhart, TX and probably at least 5 other cities.)

Burgoo…It’s Just A Stew

So what exactly is burgoo? Well, to answer that question, we’ll turn to the restaurant that served us up our first steaming bowl of burgoo, Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, KY.

Ken Bosley of Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn (who’s restaurant cooks some 35 to 70 gallons of soup a day, seven days a week), said, “it is more of a concept than a recipe…because there are as many different ways to make burgoo as there are people who prepare it…at first people just put in the pot what they had, then those family recipes became tradition…meats could include anything from wild game to mutton (sheep/lamb), beef, pork, chicken, veal…You always find some combination of vegetables like potatoes, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, or even okra…as for spices, if it could be found in the kitchen, it probably has been found in someone’s burgoo, but generally salt and pepper head up the list.”

Basically, it’s a thick (yet still soupy) stew made with at least three meats and plenty of vegetables, cooked low and slow for hours and hours, typically 8-12 for a traditional style burgoo, until everything breaks down to a uniform, almost gravy-like, consistency. SlashFood states:

The standard sentiment is that if you can still make out an okra pod or slice of carrot, keep cooking ’cause it ain’t burgoo yet

You could say it’s much like the Brunswick Stew found in Virginia and Georgia. This is authentic pioneer cooking, traditionally made with “what’s in the kitchen”. In Owensboro, mutton and pork are the typical meats, providing the same wild game flavor that squirrel would’ve provided.

Get Your Own!

Like good boiled peanuts, Cuban sandwiches, Pinon coffee, and stuffed sopaipillas, you’re going to have to travel to get the authentic, Real Deal Holyfield version of this stew.

Specifically, you’re going to have to go to Western Kentucky and visit Owensboro. While you’re there, try some award-winning barbeque from Old Hickory and Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. Both serve up burgoo and some of the most delicious mutton, beef, and pork you’ve wrapped your lips around.

And while we obviously love food, we also love nature, something Kentucky has plenty of to offer. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out some of Kentucky’s amazing scenery at Mammoth Cave and Land Between The Lakes.

Have you had burgoo? Who serves up the best burgoo?