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TexMex grill
TexMex grill

The Original Cowboy Wok

The “cowboy wok” is legendary in South Texas. I have known about them for a long time, but I never had one until recently. And now it is one of those pieces of backyard barbecue equipment I just can’t live without.

The first cowboy woks were made out of used cultivator discs. The discs start out with sharp edges, they get discarded when the edge wears off. I guess somebody got the bright idea that the worn out metal blades would be great for cooking. I wonder if the cowboy wok was inspired by those Mexican street food fryers with the well full of oil in the center?

A friend named Jim Jard loaned me the one I am using, it has a lower disc to hold the charcoal and an upper disc for cooking. The upper disc screws up and down on a shaft to control the heat by raising or lowering it over the heat of the coals. Fajitas, hamburgers, steaks and other items that do well on a flat top are easy to cook on a cowboy wok. And its great for onions, peppers, and all those condiments that you can’t cook on a grill grate.

Personally, I like to use the cowboy wok for cooking carnitas. I fill the well in the bottom with lard, heat it up, and then slow-cook big chunks of Boston butt until they are crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. Yes, this one is a little rusty and yes, there is some green paint on it. I didn’t say it was pretty.

A more sanitary version of the cowboy wok is now being manufactured using new steel discs with cute little horseshoe handles on the sides. You set them on top of a propane burner stand. They work fine, but somehow it just isn’t the same. Once you start making sanitary replicas, you lose the ingenuity of the original.

4 comments to The Original Cowboy Wok

  • You oughta be making paella in that thang.

    I want one.

  • Luna Nott

    My Grandpa used to have one, it was a cast iron wok looking thingy with rebar legs welded on. He called it a comal and used to cook for us when we went camping or fishing. Breakfast Taos over an open fire….yum. I inherited it when he died but my Mother threw it away. So I’m looking to replace it…..Yup, the sanitary stainless steel one just didn’t do it for me. Must be a South Texas thing, or nothing! I don’t want an Arkansas comal.

  • Fred Parker

    I got mine last week and seasoned it tonight. I got it at agri supply a small retail store for farm supplies. It is not as fancy as the horse shoe brand but I think it will work just fine. It is the 24 in dia and is in good shape and heats up very quickly and about 3/4 up the sides with a small gas burner. I hope you get one soon and carry on your grandfathers legacy.

  • My boyfriends father has a farm and I seen some old disc had him make one for me the very same day. Awesome gem….

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