For the past quarter-century, a proper inauguration celebration in Texas has featured Eddie Deen’s barbecue. The Terrell-based pitmaster has been the choice of governors George W. Bush, Rick Perry, and Greg Abbott to serve lunch to the huge crowds; this will be the seventh consecutive inauguration for Deen’s smoked meats and sides to feed the hungry celebrants.

Deen was on site Monday near the grounds of the Texas Capitol. He was monitoring a trailer-mounted smoker, where the brisket, pork shoulders, chicken breasts, and sausages—provided by Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, in San Antonio—were smoking away. Once the cooking is done, 350 briskets will be ready for slicing, and Deen brought a doozy of a cutting board to handle the task. “Hopefully this is the world’s longest cutting board,” he said of the 28-foot-length of hardwood, which looks more like a runway. “We’re always trying to make sure the quality of the experience is optimal,” Deen said, “but how do you make it more interesting?” He’s hoping the spectacle of eight slicers sharing one board will help make the event unique.

eddie deen
Eddie Deen, with his massive 28-foot-long cutting board

The massive cutting station isn’t just for show. Rather than being pre-sliced before the crowds arrive, all the smoked meat will be cut fresh. Servers will constantly refresh the serving trays with the meat from the big board. The trick is the timing. Deen explains that to serve the freshest-tasting barbecue, “you can’t cut your meat too early.” Then again, if his team waits too long, the massive line will be held up, and he’s promised the governor’s team that he’ll serve all of the 10,000 expected attendees in 45 minutes or less. (Governor Abbott’s swearing in begins at 11 a.m. today, and the barbecue, which is open to the public, will be served at 12:30 on the south lawn of the Capitol. Tickets to the barbecue are available online.)

There will be plenty of classic Texas barbecue sides too. Potato salad, beans, and coleslaw are measured by the gallon for this event. They were made at Deen’s catering kitchen in Terrell, as were the yeast rolls. The freshly baked rolls will be driven down to the event this morning. All that and some pickles and onions can be had for just $10 a plate.

This year’s inauguration won’t be quite as large as W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel’s in 1941, where 40,000 pounds of barbecue were served. It won’t even be as large as Abbott’s last swearing-in, where the crowd was estimated at 17,000. The smaller crowds are to be expected for a second-term governor. Deen isn’t concerned as much with the number of attendees as he is with the weather, but the forecast has just a slight chance of rain, with highs expected in the low fifties.

2019 Inauguration Barbecue by the Numbers:

10,000

expected attendees

5,000

pounds of brisket (raw)

1/4 mile

of Kiolbassa sausage

300

gallons of each side dish

120

staff to cook and serve

45

minutes to feed the entire crowd

 

Eddie Deen

Eddie Deen’s smoker, loaded down with barbecue for the inauguration.

Photograph by Bolora Munkhbold