Outsider Cowboy Cooking: Steak in a Sack

by Jim Casey
outsider-cowboy-cooking-steak-in-a-sack

There are no hard and fast rules in the world of cowboy cooking. But typically, it’s done outdoors over a cooking fire (more embers, less flame than a traditional campfire) with a handful of tasty, readily available ingredients. Of course, there’s usually plenty of cast iron present.

While the style was initially a pragmatic way for cowboys to survive while out on the range, nowadays, it’s about slowing down. Enjoying the process. And eating good food with family and friends.

Today, I’m going to share how to make one of my favorite cowboy-cooking meals: steak in a sack.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. rib-eye steak
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 3 jalapeños
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 10 slices Provolone cheese
  • 5 pitas
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. steak seasoning

Feel free to make a number of substitutions, depending on your personal taste or availability of ingredients. Cowboy cooking doesn’t need to follow an exact recipe.

For instance, the meal works great with New York strips, hanger steak, skirt steak, or flank steak instead of rib-eyes. If you don’t like heat, skip the jalapenos. Want more, use serrano peppers. Red beans or (insert your go-to bean) can be used instead of pintos. And, yeah, the Provolone cheese is my favorite, but the cheese choices are abundant, including Swiss, cheddar, and pepper jack.

Cowboy Cooking Vessels

Today, I’m using my discada, which is a cowboy-cooking wok. This discada was made from a steel plowing disc with welded rebar handles. It’s been seasoned numerous times.

No discada? No problem. A large cast-iron skillet works perfectly for this dish.

In fact, you can make this entire meal indoors on the stove-top if you want. Of course, it’s more fun being outdoors.

Prep Work

First, start your fire and wait until you have a nice bed of embers. Cowboy cooking over an ember bed is easier—and more consistent—than trying to cook over a fluctuating flame.

Next, make sure your beans are fork tender. If you’re using canned beans, fine, but taking the time to cook dried beans (or getting fresh beans from your farmers’ market) elevates this meal to the next level. I’m big on my beans.

Cut off the fat on the outside of the rib-eyes (keep it, we’ll use it in a minute). Slice the steak into two-inch strips.

Rough cut the onions and peppers. I like to keep my garlic cloves whole, but feel free to dice them.

Place your discada (or cast-iron skillet) eight inches or so above your ember bed.

Directions

Add the steak fat to the discada, so it can render. Remove the fat after a few minutes, and add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Sauté until fork tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the cooked beans to the discada. Add half of the soy and seasoning. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Move the onions, peppers, garlic, and beans to the low-heat zone of the discada (or skillet). Add the steak to the high-heat zone. Add the rest of the soy and seasoning. Cook 3-4 minutes (medium rare). Mix all of the ingredients together and let them cook for another minute.

Remove the discada from the fire. Place two pieces of cheese into each hollowed-out pita, and stuff with the steak mixture. Enjoy your steak in a sack.

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