Kentucky Burgoo

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Burgoo! Just word itself sounds like there should be a song about it (and there is). If you are unfamiliar with the concept of burgoo, it’s Kentucky’s most famous stew, usually made for big gatherings (such as Derby Day) in huge kettles. Burgoo dates to before the Civil War and as legend has it, was invented by a French chef. Like a mulligan stew, it’s sort of a empty-the-fridge recipe. Burgoos typically have at least three different meats, and plenty of vegetables such as corn, okra, and lima beans. Burgoo lovers differ on whether the stew ought to be cooked into a brown, undifferentiated mass, or whether you can still see individual ingredients. Some say burgoo is just a stew if you can’t stand a spoon in it.

In this version of burgoo, we like to know what we’re eating (pork, beef, or chicken), so it’s not cooked as long as others. If you want more of a mélange, just cook the meat longer. As with most stews, burgoo is even better the second day. It’s excellent as a Sunday dinner when you want lunches for the coming week.

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves a small army. Or 12-16.

This recipe makes a lot! Feel free to halve. Otherwise, it makes great leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder or country ribs, cut into large pieces (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 2-3 pounds chuck roast, stew meat, or other inexpensive cut of beef, cut into large pieces (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 3-5 chicken legs or thighs (bone-in)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 1 quart beef stock or broth
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 large potatoes (we used russets)
  • 1 bag of frozen corn (about a pound)
  • 1 bag of frozen lima beans (about 14 ounces)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4-8 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce on the side

Method

1 Heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large soup pot (at least 8 quart size). Salt the meats well on all sides. When the oil is shimmering hot, working in batches brown all the meats. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown well. Do not move the meat while browning a side. Let the meat pieces get well seared. Remove the browned meats to a bowl.

2 Add the onions, carrots, celery and green pepper to the pot and brown them. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot. After a few minutes of cooking, sprinkle salt over the vegetables.

3 When the vegetables are well browned, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until fragrant. Add back the meats, and the chicken and beef broths and the tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

4 Uncover and remove the meat pieces. Strip the chicken off the bone and discard skin if you want. Break the larger pieces of meat into smaller, more manageable pieces. The reason you did not do this at first is because the meats stay juicier when they cook in larger pieces. Return all the meat pieces to the pot and bring it up to a strong simmer.

5 Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks about the same size as the meat pieces (if using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling, but russets you'll want to peel). Add them to the stew and cook them until they are done, about 45 minutes. When the potatoes are done, add the Worcestershire sauce, mix well and taste for salt. Add more Worcestershire sauce to taste if needed.

6 Add the corn and lima beans. Mix well and cook for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you’d like. Here is the point where you decide whether you want a burgoo that’s been hammered into a thick mass or a stew with bright colors in it. It’s your call.

To serve, taste one more time for salt, and add either Worcestershire or salt if you want. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

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Links:
Classic Kentucky Stew, Burgoo from Sean of Hedonia
Kentucky Burgoo from White Trash BBQ
Kentucky Derby Fare: Burgoo from Chef Mom
Regional road kill stew fights for life in Kentucky
Anderson County Burgoo Festival

Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • Andrea

    It seems odd to cook the chicken thighs with the skin on. Doesn’t it make the stew greasy? I am cooking it now and curious to taste it!

  • Libba

    Can you make this and then freeze to serve the following weekend? I’m having a Kentucky Derby Party but will be out of town until the day before.

  • Lisa Millhorn

    Wondering if anyone has made this and frozen part of it for another day, a month or so out? I’ve had great luck freezing my huge batches of bean soup, in freezer bags laid out flat so they defrost fast.

  • Wendy

    I am in the 2 hour simmer part of this recipe now! Not looking forward to removing the bones and not sure how I’ll do it, but will figure it out. Won’t they be hot? I plan to bring it to a Derby party tomorrow. I’ll finish the cooking tonight – will it be ok in the fridge overnight and then reheated? Or should I put it in a crock pot on low all night?

    Yes, it will be okay in the fridge overnight and then reheated. ~Elise

  • Jean

    About the okra question… I was raised in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby, and now reside in a little hamlet called Georgetown, KY. I have made and/or eaten burgoo from all over the state for decades, and though I have not tried your recipe, it looks very tasty. Burgoo is like BBQ, it’s different, but familiar, from region to region. For the meats, I’ve always used a combination of pork, beef, and chicken (despite our local moniker of “roadkill stew” for this delicious concoction!). Now, back to the okra. It will not be at all slimy if done right. I dump a 1 lb bag of frozen, sliced okra into the pot before the long cook (several hours). The okra will disintegrate and thus add an amazing thickness to the broth that is the essence of true burgoo. I also add the lima beans at this time so their tough skins can soften. The corn should be added towards the very end of the cooking time. Instead of, or in combination with, the worcestershire sauce, experiment with a half bottle or more of BBQ sauce… it really perks up the broth! Thanks for a great site! Jean

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