Coal Region Barbecue

Known elsewhere as “sloppy Joe’s”, to the Penn Dutch and in a wide part of the Coal Region it is “barbecue“; not something smoked over wood or a smoking/cooking technique, it refers to a sandwich — chopped meat (usually ground beef, turkey, or ham) simmered in a sauce then served on a burger bun. Around here this “barbecue” is a noun, not a verb.

In the Coal region, “barbecue” is a noun, not a verb.

Why we chose to call it “barbecue” is a debatable, but this barbecue is browned ground beef, simmered in a sweet/sour (usually) ketchup based sauce …and delicious.  None of that canned “sloppy Joe” stuff for us! It is great for pot-lucks and holds well in a slow cooker for parties. Every cook may make theirs a little differently than another, but the recipes are still similar.

I certainly have had my share of barbecues, it was one of the first dishes I made solo in the kitchen growing up, Mom sitting at our chrome and yellow vinyl kitchen table, “observing” and giving helpful hints.  This recipe is on a card in my file on which my Mom’s handwriting is so worn it has nearly disappeared; the grease stains on it may be older than I am, but I keep that card because it IS in my Mom’s handwriting and I cannot bear to part with it.

Typically, it is served on burger buns, but having buns around in my house when I was growing up was a rarity except for when we “cooked out” on the grill for summer picnics, so more often than not, it found itself being served on a plate  sandwiched between two pieces of regular white bread and we ate it using a fork. To this day, I find I enjoy it that way more!

Coal Region Barbecue

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: EntreeCuisine: Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy




  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 tablespoons white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoons white sugar

  • 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • 1/4 cup water

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 6 hamburger buns


  • Crumble the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onion; cook (chopping the burger up with the edge of a spoon into fine crumbles) and brown the meat. (I like to actually brown the meat, not just “steam” it.)
  • Drain excess grease, and stir in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, ketchup, salt and pepper and water. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve on buns.


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