The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook

Recipes from a Texas Kitchen


By Nolan Ryan

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Authentic, easy-to-prepare Texas beef and BBQ recipes from Baseball Hall of Famer and cattle rancher Nolan Ryan.

Legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan grew up in Texas and early on developed a passion for cattle ranching that rivaled his interest in baseball. His first cookbook offers 75 recipes for sizzling T-bone and rib-eye steaks, mouthwatering burgers, slow-cooked barbecue ribs, and more.

Working with chef Cristobal Vazquez, Nolan presents a fresh take on the Tex-Mex standards of his childhood. The book includes family recipes for Sunday roasts and brisket, savory side dishes, and a few favorite desserts as well, including Ruth Ryan’s Special Occasion Carrot Cake. In the accompanying texts Nolan shares his love of the food of the Southwest and the lessons he’s learned in a remarkable career in baseball and in cattle ranching.


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Copyright Page

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On a warm and windy day in April in my hometown of Alvin, Texas, a very special place for my family and me, I announced to my parents—at the age of ten—that I was ready to get into the cattle business.

I talked my parents into taking me to visit a dairy farmer who was a member of our church, and I bought a day-old calf from him and started bottle-feeding it. I went back the next week to buy another calf, and that was the first time I learned about price increases, because the first calf cost a dollar fifty and the second (only ten days later) cost two dollars.

I built up my small herd to about seven heifers, but once I got into junior high school and started playing football, basketball, and baseball, I decided to sell the heifers. That was the right thing to do at the time, but a serious commitment to ranching was in my future.

I had spent my summers helping out on my uncle's dairy farm, and then, as I got older, I'd go over and help him with milking. After a while I knew I didn't want to be in the dairy business, but I think that it is where my love of land and my love of cattle started.

Once I met Ruth, my high-school sweetheart, I was focused on playing sports, doing my best in school, and spending as much time with her as possible. She is a wonderful person and has been tremendously supportive of everything I've strived to achieve. She always enjoyed the cattle business, and has appreciated how much pleasure I get from being on ranches and spending time around livestock.

With all the factors that are out of your control in ranching and agriculture, I can honestly say that if you don't have passion and dedication, I don't see how you can stay with it. I have applied many of the same principles that guided me in baseball—focus, determination, and discipline—to my cattle operation.

In fact, I got back into the cattle business while I was pitching for the California Angels in 1973. I had been taking classes at Alvin Community College during the off-season, studying and reading up on cattle breeding and genetics. I was still living in Alvin, about an hour outside of Houston, and finally decided it was time to start a herd. George Pugh Sr., the father of a good friend, was retiring from working in the oil fields, and I knew that I could hire him to look after my cattle operation while I was pitching for the Angels.

Alvin used to be a big dairy farming community, but a lot of those dairy farmers switched over to raising beef cattle. One dairy had Jersey cows and bred them with a Brahman bull to create half-and-half Jersey-Brahman cows. Then they came back with a Hereford bull, and I felt that a three-way cross would be a good base cow, so I bought their heifers two years in a row.

The first piece of ranch property I bought in Gonzalez County dates all the way back to just after the Mets won the World Series in 1969. From that first ranch in 1970, we have been buying and building ranches for more than forty years. When a piece of land would come up that would work in our operation, we would try to acquire it, and then we would try to acquire anything that came up next to that, in order to amass as much contiguous land as we could.


WENDY: "I always thought of my dad as a cattle rancher. Our family would travel to cattle sales all over Texas and he would host auctions at our ranch. Spending time at our ranch was our most precious family time. We could get away from the routines of being in town and just enjoy being around the cows. I had a love for the ranch and the cattle business, and then I reached a point where I really didn't know what career path to follow after college. Dad asked me, "What do you love?" And I told him that I love the ranch more than anything. That's when I decided to make the ranch my job. I went to the Master's program in Ranch Management at Texas Christian University. It covered everything from learning about grasses for grazing to actually working the cattle and learning the cattle market. As soon as I got out of the program I went to work for my dad's ranch business and I worked to update the technology of the cattle business. My kids love spending time with their grandfather on the ranch and checking on the cows. It's a family passion that really spans all the generations."

RUTH: "Ever since I've known him he's had a passion for the cattle industry. He has always studied books about cattle and ranching. I knew he would stay in the business in some way."

Nowadays, our basic herd is Beefmaster cattle, an American breed that was started right here in Texas to survive and thrive in the arid heat. It is a three-way cross between the Brahman, the Hereford, and the Shorthorn. Then we cross them with either Red or Black Angus bulls. We also keep a purebred Beefmaster herd.

My success in baseball gave me the economic resources I needed to get started in the cattle business. I have taken the same measured, careful, and passionate approach to all my business operations, and buying and selling cattle and starting Nolan Ryan Beef have been no different.

When Charlie Bradbury first proposed lending my name to the Beefmaster brand of beef, I had to give the matter a lot of thought. At that point I knew nothing about the commercial end of the beef business. We brought in all the industry experts, from retail to meat science, for a two-day conference in San Antonio to debate the pros and cons. After much reflection and analysis we decided to move forward with the formation of Nolan Ryan Beef. Our goal has always been to produce the best beef products available from the best cattle.

My son Reese is a tremendous asset to the company. He has a good feel for the cattle business. He is also an astute adviser on all subjects about beef; he can see trends in the consumer market and understands the changes and shifts in the economy. In fact, all my kids have been a huge help to me in my various business endeavors. And my son Reid was promoted to the position of president of the Houston Astros, an achievement that makes me extremely proud.

Cooking over charcoal, mesquite, and hickory has always been one of my passions. I love the smoke-infused flavors that make a grilled T-bone, sirloin, or tenderloin something special. I am always working to take my flavors and techniques to another level. Growing up in Texas allowed me the chance to enjoy the regional flavors of the Southwest, and this style of cooking has become increasingly popular in the past twenty years.

In deciding to write this cookbook, I wanted to share my love for Texas barbecue and for grilling, roasting, pan-searing, and braising all cuts of beef. And I wanted to find a chef who could express and communicate the authentic southwestern and Mexican style of grilled-over-fire beef dishes of South Texas. I was fortunate to be able to enlist Cristobal Vazquez ("Chef Cris"), executive chef at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The recipes we came up with are in some ways just the starting point on a journey of southwestern flavor: our goal is to liberate any chef to make good choices based on personal preferences, what's in the pantry, what's within the budget, and who is on the guest list for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

We worked together to create some seventy-five recipes that express my love of beef and cooking over fire in the great outdoors, and my passion for sharing these special dishes with friends and family.

Y'all enjoy!



Executive Chef, Texas Rangers Baseball

Working with Nolan Ryan to develop the recipes for this cookbook has been without a doubt the highlight of my career as a chef. I've had the pleasure to cook for Nolan and Ruth Ryan for the past five years, and through experimentation and improvisation I have learned to make the fresh, hearty, flavorful, and delicious food that they love.

We organized the book as a tour of the various cuts and preparations of beef, starting with a chapter of inventive burgers and sandwiches that capture the ballpark experience—taken to a higher level with the freshest ingredients and the flavors of the Southwest. Next come the cuts that work perfectly for grilling (indoors or outdoors), like rib-eye, T-bone, sirloin, and tenderloin. We then address Sunday roasts (some of Nolan's favorite family recipes) and regional specialties like beef ribs, brisket, and flank steaks that feature my special Tex-Mex spices. The journey concludes with classic side dishes, salads, and desserts, including Ruth Ryan's Special Occasion Carrot Cake.

Nolan and Ruth really appreciate good food. I talked to both of them almost every day to find out what they wanted to eat in "The Bunker," the private lounge where the Ryan family dined before each game while Nolan worked as CEO of the Texas Rangers. Nolan loves grilled T-bones, rib-eye carne asada, green bean casserole, and Sunday pot roast. Ruth enjoys the prime rib and, for dessert, my homemade flan with Tia Maria.

These recipes are based on Nolan's love for the Mexican and southwestern food of South Texas and my roots as a chef growing up in Aguascalientes, Mexico. This region of north-central Mexico is known for bullfighting, a state fair that attracts people from all over Mexico for its food, and the many beautiful hot springs from which my hometown derives its name.

Aguascalientes is the culinary home for enchiladas verdes, carnitas (crispy pork), barbacoa (meat cooked BBQ style), and carne asada. The food is fresh and honest. In Mexico, the concept of farm-to-table is nothing new. We have always prepared foods based on the local produce and meats to maximize freshness and flavor.

In crafting these recipes, we have integrated my love of Mexican ingredients such as guajillo peppers and Mexican chorizo (not cured like Spanish chorizo, but a fresh sausage that has to be cooked) with Nolan's appreciation for the simplicity and clarity of a beautiful grilled tenderloin or beef ribs cooked lovingly over charcoal.

Nolan, Ruth, and I want you to enjoy putting these recipes to the test at a Father's Day cookout with your friends and family, or at a special dinner when you'll discover that cooking prime rib is well worth the effort. We have given you simple, easy-to-follow instructions. And be on the lookout for Nolan's Tips—techniques for grilling and drawing out flavor as well as serving suggestions that can help you elevate every meal to something truly special.

Working with Nolan on this book has been a true pleasure. We hope you enjoy many wonderful meals from these recipes with your friends and family for years to come!


These guidelines are my go-to for preparing all of my dishes to perfection.

The cooking times in the charts that follow are those recommended by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Note that these are total cooking times (not per side) and should be considered general guidelines. Variances in specific makes and models of gas grills and ovens and the variability of charcoal cooking, depending on environmental factors and differences among types of wood and charcoal, will impact results. Take note of the suggested cooking times given within each recipe, but for best results, get to know your own grill setup. Following the charts are a few of my recommendations for buying, storing, and cooking beef, to get you headed in the right direction.


Here are my top five tips for great grilling:

It's fine to take your beef right from the refrigerator to the grill—there's no need to bring the beef to room temperature.

Always trim all visible fat before grilling to prevent flare-ups.

Use a pair of metal tongs to turn roasts and steaks rather than a fork so you won't lose the delicious juices inside.

High heat can char the exterior of the beef but leave the interior undercooked. Always use a meat thermometer to test the doneness of the meat.

Have fun!

Gas Grilling

The guidelines in the chart on here were based on the temperatures of a Weber Genesis gas grill set to medium heat, unless otherwise specified. Gas grill makes and models vary widely, so grilling times may need to be modified. Always carefully read your owner's manual for specific grilling instructions.

The cooking times in the charts range from medium-rare (145°F internal temperature) to medium (160°F).

Grilling with Charcoal

When coals become ash-covered, spread in a single layer and check cooking temperature by carefully cupping the palm of your hand above the coals at cooking height. Now, count the seconds it takes before the heat compels you to pull your hand away from the grill (it will take 4 seconds at medium heat, less for high).

Boneless Eye Chuck Steak ¾ inch 9–11 minutes 9–12 minutes
Shoulder Top Blade Steak (Flat Iron) 8 ounces 10–14 minutes 12–16 minutes
Shoulder Center Steak (Ranch) ¾ inch 8–11 minutes 8–11 minutes
Under Blade Center Steak (Denver Cut, boneless) ½ inch 4–7 minutes 5–8 minutes
Rib Steak, small end ¾ inch
1 inch
7–10 minutes
10–15 minutes
7–10 minutes
10–15 minutes
Rib-Eye Steak ¾ inch
1 inch
7–10 minutes
10–14 minutes
7–9 minutes
9–14 minutes
Porterhouse/T-Bone Steak ¾ inch
1 inch
8–11 minutes
11–16 minutes


  • "This is some soul-satisfying beef."—The Dallas Morning News
  • "Simple, honest and full-flavored, the book's 75 recipes might just make for a new series of home runs for the home cook."—Greg Morago, The Houston Chronicle
  • "Baseball, barbecue and beef are among the loves of the famed former pitcher for the Texas Rangers. . . . His take on grilling beef ribs using Asian ingredients couldn't be easier or more delicious."—The Detroit News
  • "Legendary baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan just published The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook, which [includes] a terrific Sriracha-Soy Marinade, one of the best marinade recipes we've encountered."—The Star-Ledger

On Sale
May 6, 2014
Page Count
180 pages

Nolan Ryan

About the Author

Nolan Ryan had a legendary major league baseball career, where he distinguished himself as a strikeout leader, and he is the former CEO of the Texas Rangers. He has also had a passion for cattle ranching since he was a boy, and he is spokesperson for Nolan Ryan Natural Beef and one of the most influential figures in the beef industry in the United States. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.

Learn more about this author