HOUBBQ News & Info

Foldovers are a tasty throwback to barbecue history

Truth BBQ brisket fold-over
Truth BBQ brisket fold-over

Depending on your point of view, the ample menu choices at a typical craft barbecue joint are either liberating or overwhelming.

Beyond the trinity of brisket, pork ribs and sausage, options have spiraled into specialties such as beef ribs, brisket burnt ends, smoked chicken wings and tacos, just to name a few. 

More is better, right? Sure, most of the time. 

But sometimes, you just need a Texas barbecue fix. You may be short on time or money, and a $30 three-meat plate doesn’t fit the bill. In this case, a classic Texas barbecue foldover is the answer. It’s a do-it-yourself item that isn’t normally listed on the menu. 

The process is simple: order a quarter-pound of moist brisket (about $7-8 nowadays) and request a slice of white bread (usually complimentary).

Place the slab of brisket onto the bread and head to the condiment station. Drop on a few slices of pickles and onion and a drizzle of barbecue sauce. Now, carefully fold the bread around the brisket and accoutrements. Voilà! You have a brisket foldover. It’s particularly well-suited for eating on the go, as it easily fits in one hand.

Why moist brisket? The extra fat adds flavor and moisture to the otherwise dry slice of white bread.

Foldovers — also known as wraps, roll-ups or just a handmade sandwich — have a long tradition in Texas barbecue, going back to the earliest days of Central Texas meat markets.

Starting in the early 1900s, German, Czech and Polish butchers in places like Lockhart would smoke meat once a week, usually on a Sunday. Farm laborers and other townspeople would purchase meat by the pound, which was then wrapped in butcher paper for easy carrying.

They’d subsequently visit the grocery store, typically located next door, to buy sliced bread, pickles, onions and a chunk of cheese. Regular barbecue customers might even carry a bottle of thin, homemade, vinegar-based sauce in their pocket to spice things up.

They’d then head for the town square, settle down on a park bench, unwrap the smoked meat, place a slice of beef (probably beef shoulder at the time) on the bread, add the pickles and onions and a few shots of sauce and that, along with the cheese, was a complete meal of the era. The foldover was born.

Indeed, today’s typical barbecue joint condiment station, which usually includes pickles, onions, bread and sauce, is a direct descendent of these old meat market traditions.

Some of the old-school joints in Lockhart, like Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market, still offer a slab of American cheddar cheese as an optional side item.

Foldovers work with other proteins, too. Not in the mood for brisket? Just order a whole link of sausage, and follow the same assembly procedure, but instead of barbecue sauce, you may want to slather on some mustard. A “sausage wrap” is a classic option at old-school sausage joints like Dozier’s BBQ in Fulshear and Vincek’s Smokehouse in East Bernard.

A more obscure version comes with a pork rib — bone and all. Also known as a “rib sandwich,” these can occasionally be found on barbecue menus, most notably at Burns Original BBQ in Acres Homes. 

Foldovers are also a favorite snack of pitmasters. If you spend any amount of time in a pit room, you’ll see the workers occasionally slice off a slab of brisket, grab some bread and pickles from a nearby stash, and taste-test their latest brisket creation.