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The Apex of Culinary Skills: The Salt Lick Barbecue

The Apex of Culinary Skills: The Salt Lick Barbecue


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You may have heard the saying that the road to great barbecue is a journey, and this has never been more true than with The Salt Lick. Located in Driftwood, Texas, the restaurant serves more than 600,000 people a year its award-winning barbecue and as you will soon learn, the restaurant is the result of many years of family traditions and recipes passed down from generation to generation.

Later this month, on Nov. 21, The Salt Lick will finally tell its story in its first-ever cookbook The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love. Co-authored by owner Scott Roberts and award-winning journalist Jessica Dupuy, the cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes, as the name hints, and also tells the story behind the restaurant. In detailed and entertaining accounts, the cookbook starts at the beginning, with Roberts’ great-grandparent’s journey to Texas in the 1800s, and narrates how the restaurant's birth in 1967 led to the success story it is today, including ventures into catering and winemaking. As Adam Richman describes in the forward of the book, The Salt Lick is the climax of three distinct things: the talented cooking skills that have been passed down in the family, the great ingredients from the land of Texas, and the family history behind it, and the book covers all three.

As with any cookbook, The Salt Lick’s story is told through a narrative of recipes, which was no small task, as Roberts explains, as some of the recipes date back 100 years. In the book you’ll find recipes of the well-loved dishes found on The Salt Lick menu accompanied by step-by-step guides and vibrant photographs. Along with the restaurant’s dishes, there’s also a collection of closely guarded family recipes that have never been seen before — ranging from Roberts’ Hawaiian mother’s beloved shrimp tempura recipe and specially developed recipes for friends to the sea bass dish served at his daughter’s wedding. With each recipe, there’s a story. Roberts’ account of meeting a young woman when he was a teenager translates into his Lover’s Chicken Breast recipe, the history of the Japanese-Texas rice connection is told alongside his mother’s chicken-fried steak with rice, and the chicken and dumplings recipes of his mother and grandmother are compared side by side to demonstrate the variety of cooking Roberts grew up with.

At the end of the day, though, Roberts believes the true beauty behind The Salt Lick and all of its success is the people. The entire book is dedicated to sharing historic accounts that explain how his great-grandmother’s tried-and-true method of searing and slow cooking barbecue turned into his father’s limestone pit that still cranks out food at the restaurant today. This heartwarming account of The Salt Lick is packaged together with delicious recipes, vibrantly beautiful photographs, and family stories that make it a must-add to your cookbook collection this year.

Roxie's Chicken and Dumplings

"Both Roxie and my mother made amazing chicken and dumplings. But my first experience with the dish was from my mom’s recipe, which had really fluffy dumplings. Roxie’s dumplings were more flat and dense. They were..."

— Scott Roberts

Salt Lick Beef Ribs

"Though pork ribs are more often associated with barbecue, beef ribs are a quintessential part of the Texas barbecue family. Quite a bit larger than pork spare ribs, beef ribs are sold as one per order..."

— Scott Roberts

Smoked Pulled Pork Mushroom Stew

"In the spring of 2002, Jay Knepp and I planted our first vineyard. We planted sangiovese and tempranillo in soil that according to analysis was better that 99 percent of the soil in California for growing grapes. Neither of us had any..."

— Scott Roberts

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter at @anniecdolce


Barbecue Chicken Recipe

Can’t wait to try this, although scaling back on the quantities. Do have a question on the temp to start applying the BBQ sauce. From step 4:

Pour the BBQ Sauces into a small aluminum pan and place on the smoker to warm. Once the internal temperature in the breast hit 165 start brushing the sauce on both sides and continue flipping the chicken every 15-30 minutes until the sauce caramelizes on the outside and the internal temperature reach a minimum of 165 in the white meat and 175 in the dark.

This has the temp to start applying the sauce and the final temp both at 165.

I wasn’t going by internal temps so much – just when it looks like it’s getting close start applying the sauce. I pull the chicken off when it’s 165 in the breast.

Malcom, you are the best at what you do sir. We love your channel!

Man that looks delicious….I know what Im making tomorrow!

Malcom, I have a more general question if you dont mind…a lot of your recipes call for “indirect heat”. Im currently set up on a UDS that I made (thanks to your video!). Idont own an offset…is its still considered indirect heat if I dont have a difuser plate between the coals and the meat? I love the flavor created when those drippings get down on the coals, but sometimes worry im creating too much heat not having anything between coals and meat.

Thanks for everything man, you are the reason I got into BBQ, and can’t wait to continue to make more delicious grub!

Let just say you are adrift in a life raft in the middle of the ocean with a 90 year old nun. The two of you only had a handful of seaweed in 30 days. A piece of this chicken was to magically appear in the middle of the life raft. You’d throw her ass overboard. I’m just saying it’s that good.

I made this today, it went down well. I did some chicken breast and some drumsticks. The breast turned out really good, definitely everyone’s favourite piece. The drumsticks however ended up having quite a spicy flavour which wasn’t that great.
I was wondering what could have caused the big difference in flavour between the breast and drumsticks seeing as they were all cooked at the same time, same amount of time and all mopped and sauced at the same time.


The Story of Stubb&rsquos Barbecue Sauce&ndashAnd Why We Love It

When most people plan a trip to Austin, Texas, they end up dreaming about barbecue. After all the city is home to some famous rib joints, including Franklin, Iron Works, and just outside the city, Salt Lick. The most famous Austin barbecue outpost, though, may be Stubb&aposs. While their two restaurant/venue locations in Austin serve up some mean pulled pork, it&aposs their sauce that has made them a household name across the South𠅎ven in cities that think sauce has nothing to do with real barbecue.

The barbecue sauce company, which like Stubb&aposs the venue and restaurant, is named after the late C.B. Stubblefield, makes barbecue sauces, rubs, and marinades that are sold across the country in every major grocery chain.

It all started when Stubblefield, known as "Stubb" to his friends, returned home to Lubbock, Texas, after a stint serving as a mess sergeant in an all-black infantry unit during the Korean War. After honing his culinary skills in the army, Stubb returned to the States and opened Stubb&aposs Bar-B-Que in Lubbock in 1968. The tiny restaurant could only fit 75 patrons, but each night Stubb packed 𠆎m in for barbecue and blues (or rock or country), feeding patrons and hosting rising music stars like Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, and Johnny Cash.

WATCH: Well Folks, Here&aposs Willie Nelson&aposs Longevity Secret

By 1984, Stubb&aposs was forced to close, because as Texas Monthly puts it, "Stubblefield was a great cook and amiable host… but he wasn&apost a great businessman." Stubb&aposs packed up his life and headed to Austin. Encouraged by friends and looking for a new chapter, Stubb started bottling the barbecue sauce that he used to serve at the Lubbock restaurant. Stubblefield bottled the sauce in old jam jars and Jack Daniel&aposs bottles with the labels scraped off, corking them with a jalapeño. The early orders came with a cassette tape featuring an audio cookbook called "Stubb&aposs Blues Cookbook Cassette." (Find out more about that here on the Kitchen Sisters podcast.)

As word of his sauce spread, Stubb became a bit of a celebrity thanks to his friend country singer Joe Ely bringing David Letterman a bottle of Stubb&aposs Bar-B-Q sauce when he performed on Late Night. Letterman was smitten and in 1991, he invited Stubb himself to come on the show and cook for him. (You can watch it here)

The celebrity gave his brand a boost and in 1992, Stubb started selling the Original and Spicy versions of his sauces in grocery stores. As the Stubb&aposs website notes, delivering the goods to grocery stores was a tall order, because at the time, "Stubb was still making everything by hand using a 60 gallon cooker and a paddleboat oar to stir the sauce!" By 1993, Stubb had no choice but to start out-sourcing production, handing over his secret recipe to a small-batch manufacturer. With a little more time on his hands, Stubb started to come up with new products including marinades and rubs, which soon wound up on grocery store shelves, too.

In May 1995, Stubb passed away, headed to "the smoker in the sky" to spread love, happiness, and barbecue. He left a little too soon to see Stubb&aposs re-open in Austin, and while it&aposs a separate entity from the sauce company, it is once again packing 𠆎m in for barbecue and blues (or rock or country). He also left too soon to see his sauce sold overseas, his company become a multi-million dollar operation and one of the largest barbecue sauce brands in the world, or reap the benefits of Stubb&aposs Bar-B-Q selling for a cool $100 million to the spice-and-seasoning giant McCormick&aposs. While it may been strange for Stubb to see his face become an icon and his name become synonymous with sauce, there&aposs little doubt that the man who frequently told friends that he wanted to feed the world would be pleased by the outcome.


Khói Is Expanding the Boundaries of What Barbecue Can Be

Brothers Don and Theo Nguyen use their Vietnamese roots to create innovative dishes as well as master the basics at their pop-ups in Houston.

Keeping up with the rapid innovation happening in Texas barbecue is a challenge. A recent conversation with Don Nguyen of Khói Barbecue, in Houston, made me realize it might be impossible. He runs the once- or twice-a-month barbecue pop-up with his brother, Theo, and draws inspiration from their Vietnamese roots. I asked him why they don’t offer the seemingly obvious barbecue banh mi, which would couple the official sandwich of Vietnam with smoked meat. Without a hint of sarcasm, Nguyen pointed to a few examples and said it’s already been overdone in Texas. “We try to introduce different recipes and different foods that people haven’t tried before,” he says. That’s what makes eating Khói’s unique take on Texas barbecue such an adventure.

The barbecue journey of Don and Theo Nguyen started when they were kids in Houston eating at the Luther’s barbecue chain. “We’d go there and get the all-you-can-eat spareribs,” Don says. They also had family in Dripping Springs, so they would go to Salt Lick or County Line when they visited. At home, they’d grill plenty of meat but never smoke it, so the brothers didn’t know where to start after Don made an impulse buy at a Houston grocery store in April 2017. “I went to get a rotisserie chicken, and somebody was selling a Kamado Joe,” Don recalls, referring to the ceramic grill and smoker. “I left with a Kamado Joe and no rotisserie chicken.”

When they were without power during Hurricane Harvey later that year, the grill came in handy. They had a freezer full of meat that was thawing, so the Nguyen brothers threw a party and invited friends. “The power of barbecue and food to bring people together was really cool,” remembers Don, who says he was hooked on cooking and serving barbecue from that point on. Their first pop-up was a week after Harvey. They used the name Blue Smoke, which is also the name of a famous barbecue restaurant in New York. Don took it in stride when they were forced to change the name, saying, “We got like a twenty-page cease-and-desist, and we were like, ‘Mom! We made it.’”

Nowadays, Don and Theo are a team sharing nearly all the responsibilities of smoking, cooking, and serving for the Khói Barbecue pop-ups. “He gets the night shift because he’s younger,” Don said of Theo, who plays Fortnite while he watches the fire until 3 a.m., when he goes to bed. Don gets up an hour later to stoke the fire and finish the cook. To develop their barbecue skills, they studied Aaron Franklin’s book, and they also credit Amazingribs.com as an influential resource. For the rest of their recipes, they built on their mom’s cooking repertoire with techniques gleaned from chefs like David Chang and Roy Choi.

They chose the name Khói because the word means “smoke” in Vietnamese. That’s the main ingredient for the Nguyen brothers. Their menu is ever-changing, with dishes like brisket pho and beef rib dry ramen—items that can mesmerize the average barbecue consumer—but it’s built from a core of well-smoked meats. Back in November, when Khói Barbecue popped up at Eight Row Flint in Houston, I tried the basics and all the specialties they offered that day. I could see the new location of Truth BBQ (which made our Top 10 BBQ list in 2017) from the patio table where I was sitting. Truth’s owner and pitmaster, Leonard Botello IV, was eating brisket at the table next to me. Khói’s brisket was superb but not yet at Truth’s level (not many in the state are), and I asked Don later why he bothered selling brisket, ribs, and sausage by the pound when the specials were enough to draw the crowds. I was thinking practically, but for the Nguyens, the basics are a point of pride. “If you want to riff and play jazz and play blues, you gotta learn the basics,” Don explained. Then he told me a story.

During Khói’s early days, a group of young guys were passing by and saw the smokers, the menu, and a couple of Asian guys preparing to serve food from a fold-out table. They asked, “Where did you get the barbecue?” Don assured them they smoked it themselves, but the skeptical smirks from the group remained as they walked onward. The Nguyens don’t want to be dismissed as “the Asian barbecue guys.” They’ve served their beef rib in nori hand rolls and submerged smoked brisket into pho, but Don said when it comes to smoked meat on butcher paper, “We can compete apples to apples as well.” Nothing I tried would cause me to disagree.

Brisket bún bò Huế and the Texas trinity with house-made lemongrass beef links. TJ Tran

The pork ribs are seasoned with salt and pepper, but the pepper is a mix of 12 mesh and 30 mesh Phu Quoc pepper, a pungent black pepper variety from Vietnam. The glaze is a barbecue sauce made with tomato, vinegar, fish sauce, and honey. Despite a few less-than-common ingredients, the ribs just taste like excellent Texas barbecue, smoked to the right tenderness and thoughtfully seasoned. The brisket is no different, and the pickles on the side are a step above the norm. They make their own kimchi, pickled daikon, and pickled cucumbers and onions. The Nguyens also stuff and smoke their own sausages, which vary depending on the pop-up. If they stopped there, it’d be a praiseworthy version of a classic Texas barbecue menu, but as Don says, “There’s always a nice balance to both honoring that tradition and pushing forward and trying new stuff.”


Holy Smoke BBQ

Sweden is ripe for a Texas barbecue revolution, and the Johans of Holy Smoke BBQ are prepared to lead it. Johan Fritzell and Johan Åkerberg met a few years ago and bonded over a shared love of smoked meats. They soon decided to join forces and open a barbecue joint that serves Texas-style barbecue. So outside of the small coastal town of Nyhamnsläge (Fritzell’s hometown), near the southern tip of Sweden, they stuck a couple of shipping containers together and opened Holy Smoke BBQ in 2014.

Holy Smoke BBQ. Photo by Stuart McSpadden

It was a type of restaurant that was unheard of in Sweden, and Holy Smoke quickly gained a following for their weekend barbecues. Two years later, the restaurant is a rousing success for the six months a year that it’s open. Now they’re setting their sights on spreading the good word of Texas barbecue by doing more than offering the regional rarity of smoked meats. The Johans have shifted their purpose to that of full-on barbecue ambassadors.

Johan Fritzell (left) and Johan Åkerberg (right). Photo by Stuart McSpadden

I travelled to Sweden two weeks ago with Aaron Franklin and Braun Hughes of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Fritzell invited us to teach a class on Texas barbecue cooking methods with a little bit of history sprinkled in. Myron Mixon, a veteran of ‘cue competition, had been there two weeks earlier to teach competition barbecue (there are now over thirty KCBS-sanctioned barbecue competitions in Europe, one of which is held in Gunnilse, Sweden), and Matt Pittman of Texas’s Meat Church BBQ will be there in two weeks. After our two days of intensive barbecue demonstrations, which stretched to fourteen hours a piece, 140 students from a dozen different countries took considerable knowledge of Texas barbecue back to their home countries.

Students gathered around the smoker. Photo by Stuart McSpadden

János Gonda was one of those students. He’s working to open a permanent restaurant in Budapest, Hungary. Gonda has taken his own Texas barbecue tour, and trained with Evan LeRoy at Freedmen’s in Austin last year. This was his second time taking a class at Holy Smoke to hone his skills, the first being last year with Junior Urias of Midland, Texas. Joe Walters, also known as Texas Joe, travelled from London, where he has a Texas-style barbecue joint that is just two months old. From just up the road in Falkenberg, Sweden, owners of the recently opened Aska Worldwide Barbecue (aska is Swedish for ash) Lisa Lemke—referred to by some as the Swedish Nigella—and her husband Marcus Norgren got their hands dirty trimming and seasoning briskets. The duo was looking to expand upon the all wood-cooked barbecue already on Aska’s menu. The point is, this wasn’t a class full of folks just here to eat a couple great barbecue meals. They were here to learn.

Sweden may not have a long history in Texas barbecue, but it’s coming on fast, especially in the south of Sweden where the summers are warm. A trip to the local City Gross grocery store showed the deep love for American food and for barbecue in particular. An offset smoker, made by Georgia-based Landmann—whose motto is “Join the BBQ Revolution”—was available for purchase in the garden section. (I’ll forgive them for carrying only the smallish “Tennessee” model.) Heat-and-serve bags of pulled meats make up an entire section. It’s a popular genre of faux barbecue, flavored with sauce and liquid smoke, that Fritzell would like to break into with real smoked barbecue. There’s even an Amerikansk BBQ flavor baby food (it tastes like mashed beef and vegetable soup, and is frowned upon by Danish airport security). Still, the baby food’s label shows that the Johans’ influence only goes so far. Åkerberg’s other gig is as the food stylist for the labels. He fought them on using skewered chicken and bell peppers to represent American barbecue, but lost the battle.

There were other signs of love for Texas in unexpected places. We had burgers at the Garage Bar in Höganäs, along with their version of North Texas red chili inspired by Frank X. Tolbert’s recipe. At a boutique food store (and later at City Gross) we found Stubb’s barbecue sauce. It’s not surprising to Fritzell, who told me earlier this year that Sweden is “the most Americanized country outside of America.” That is reinforced at Holy Smoke’s gift shop, which offers Meat Church rubs, American barbecue cookbooks, and at least one Swedish one (Johan Åkerberg is the author of the cookbook Rök which is Swedish for “smoke”). There’s also an array of tortilla presses and Mexican hot sauces, making it essentially a mini-gift shop for displaced Texans. Holy Smoke is also one of the country’s few dealers for the Big Green Egg grills, and the only dealer for Myron Mixon’s (or any other) commercial barbecue smoker in Sweden. If you want to get into commercial barbecue in this area of the world, Holy Smoke is the place to start.

Myron Mixon’s rotisserie smoker and a stack of white oak at Holy Smoke BBQ

The one American signature they lack in Sweden is big, fatty cuts of barbecue meat. Racks of raw spare ribs for sale at the market were cut to the bone. Holy Smoke orders fatty Iberico spare ribs from Spain, which are adorably Frenched. As for the beef, Fritzell explained why they order it from Creekstone in Kansas: “We have lots of dairy cows. We’re good at milk, but not so good at beef.”

Diners at Holy Smoke BBQ. Photo by Stuart McSpadden

They have the general ambiance down, though. A visit to the restaurant is like a road trip out to the Salt Lick. It’s outside a town of a couple thousand, past the windmill, and down a few back roads. Some customers park their campers overnight in the nearby field until the smell of oak smoke draws them in. Ordering is done at a window cut into one of the black shipping containers, and the meat comes on paper-lined tray. The housemade pickled onions and quick-pickled cucumbers make for a colorful garnish.

Sunday lunch at Holy Smoke BBQ. Photo by Stuart McSpadden Beef rib bark

The brisket was from Aaron Franklin the day I ate from Holy Smoke’s menu. I can’t comment on how their brisket would have tasted on any other day, but their new Franklin smoker means they have the right tools. A smoky beef short rib was the standout, with the pulled pork not far behind. The pork ribs and chicken needed more time on the smoker, and the rub was really aggressive on the ribs. The jalapeño sausage was a nice touch, as was the very Texas-like jalapeño creamed corn. I especially enjoyed the slight crunch and sweetness provided by the shredded carrots they added into the mix. There are sweet and meaty beans à la Kansas City, and a slaw chopped and dressed like you’d find in eastern North Carolina. It was a solid homage to American barbecue, with a big focus on Texas.

Holy Smoke BBQ is quickly building a barbecue reputation for Sweden, and more specially for their province of Skåne. In the same way that Texans love the outline of our state, one of Holy Smoke’s t-shirts features the outline of Skåne with a star marking the barbecue joint’s location. I joked with the Johans that it looks a bit like France, but who knows? Maybe some day soon that shape will be a lot more familiar when Sweden is known for its Skåne-style barbecue. When that happens, a big thanks will be owed to the Johans of Holy Smoke BBQ.


The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love

I'd read about this restaurant and will be back in Austin on business next month, so I decided to buy this cookbook to learn more about Salt Lick. This book is lovely -- the pictures of the food makes your mouth water (as do the recipes) and the author shares the story behind this restaurant. You meet his wife, a woman of courage and strength, who has lived a full life despite her heath challenges. And, you meet his daughter, who had her wedding at the vineyard. Scott's love for his family and extended restaurant family is heartening. Since I recently purchased the book, I've only had time to make one recipe -- his peach pound cake. (Peaches are in, so why not?) Umm, good! I look forward to trying more of his recipes.

Have I decided to wait up to four hours to eat at Salt Lick? You betcha! I've reserved an early morning flight and car rental and will head to Driftwood, TX for lunch. Since my husband won't be with me, I've promised to bring him back some of their BBQ sauce, which I'm hoping will lure him into a return trip to TX for to try Salt Lick's brisket. I just asked my husband if that sounds OK to him and he responded, "Sounds GOOD to me." Yes, we're southerners and LOVE barbecue.

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Pros:
- great pictures and nice quality print
- the recipes and stories are awesome, great read! Try their sole slaw, it's to die for!
- all you need to make good BBQ, almost as good as their

Cons:
- you would want to make every single recipe in this book and would want BBQ for all your meals

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No, this may not be a cookbook in the traditional sense, as an earlier reviewer complained. It does not contain elaborate, challenging recipes and cooking techniques. What it does contain is recipes of simple, delicious recipes of a differenr era. And I cannot wait to try them out myself. I wish I had my mother and grandmother's recipes to share with others. And there are many more recipes in this book that I had initially thought, and not all barbeque recipes and techniques. Just good, simple, delicious recipes of country folk.

Overall, I loved the totality of this book. I have been eating at Salt Lick since the winter of 1973. Once discovered, my college friends and I made the 30 minute trip at least twice a weekend (they were open only Thursday to Sunday then). I can't say I ever remember seeing Scott there, but I definitely knew his mother and father. Thurman was always by the door, guarding his pit, and Hisako was in the dining room, making sure the customers had what they needed. I remember being there once with three of my buddies and two six packs of Lone Star. Hisako was amazed that 4 college students were going to drink all that beer!! She is such a sweet lady. We were there religiously several times every weekend, sometimes being the only ones there. We were amazed that the place wasn't full with people devouring the delicious BBQ. But by the end of my four years at college place was starting to get noticed and had large crowds on Saturdays and Sundays.

I have so many fond memories of the place - the drives on 1826 back when it was undeveloped ranch lands, much like Scott describes growing up there, the staff there, the awesome BBQ, the building and the grounds, and, of course, Mr. Thurman and Mrs. Hisako. I love just thumbing through the book and looking at the pictures of the place and the countryside. What is the best BBQ joint in the country or Texas is arguable because everybody has their own ideas. But The Salt Lick is definitely my favorite.

I thank Scott for writing this book and sharing his stories and recipes. Like I said, I wish I had my mother's and grandmother's recipes. And I am glad that there are people that will continue carrying on the Salt Lick tradition. That is so important in times like these when everything is about speed and convenience.

Again, thank you, Scott. This book only deepens my love and respect for your family and restaurant.


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American barbecue &mdash the particular customs we have developed for smoking brisket and ribs, pork and the rest &mdash may be the only American food that can hang with the world&rsquos greatest. We&rsquore talking a culinary tradition evolved into our own that can match Japanese sushi, Italian pasta, Thai curry, and Mexican tacos.

But any carnivore worth his or her pork butt knows that &ldquobarbecue&rdquo means different things in different places. Sauces and styles vary from the Carolinas to Alabama, from Memphis to Kansas City, and even within subregions within states, such as from central to west Texas.

Today, there is even a Phoenix barbecue. Or is there?

Given the somewhat recent explosion of barbecue joints here, there may be. In an effort to pin down whether a &ldquoPhoenix-style&rdquo barbecue exists, I&rsquove started to eat my way through the Valley&rsquos &rsquocue scene.

The outline I&rsquove traced so far in ash and sauce and gnawed ribs seems to suggest that, hell yes, there is a Phoenix-style barbecue.

EXPAND

We return to a strip mall in north Scottsdale, to Naked&rsquos spotless 1,000-pound capacity steel smoker. Oren Hartman, owner of Naked Q, opened his first location in Phoenix three years ago, Naked BBQ. His Scottsdale branch opened in April.

Over the years, Hartman made &rsquocue for cookouts and tailgating, not as a professional but as a hungry guy who likes smoking meats and eating them with family and friends. Eventually, he left his long career in sales with a Fortune 500 tech company to live the gospel of smoke and meat.

Hartman&rsquos former corporate travels have shaped his approach. He was often on the road for work, and he sought out local barbecue when possible.

Hartman calls his restaurants Naked because the meat comes without sauce. His rubs tend to be simple, leaving the meat unmasked. He avoids pungent woods, such as mesquite, that camouflage flavor behind assertive musk.

At the center of Hartman&rsquos ethos is this understated approach. With sauce, smoke, and rub dialed low, meat&rsquos flavor has room to shine through.

&ldquoOther guys put a lot more smoke on the meat,&rdquo Hartman explains. &ldquoWe&rsquore putting a mild, moderate smoke on. We&rsquore buying the highest-quality meats we can, so we don&rsquot want to cover them up too much.&rdquo

Even Naked&rsquos spicy sauce, one of four house-made barbecue sauces, has a dim note of heat. But don&rsquot confuse simple style for simple flavor.

Between the two locations, Hartman smokes 15 to 20 briskets a day. Each weighs about 18 pounds and reduces by half its weight while cooking. Smoking them takes at least a whole night and lasts 14 to 16 hours. Near the end, Hartman wraps brisket in butcher paper to keep it moist.

His travels have led him to aim for a central Texas-style brisket.

Texas is known for brisket. Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, has christened central Texas &ldquothe promised land of barbecue.&rdquo He outlines central Texas barbecue in his book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, as a style in which &ldquospice-rubbed meat is cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood.&rdquo

That&rsquos precisely what Hartman does.

The Ferris-wheel rotisserie provides indirect heat from the right kinds of wood. And his brisket is light on the smoke, huge on primal flavor.

EXPAND

For pork, Hartman uses a more voluble, 12-spice rub. &ldquoWe&rsquore not trying to get too complex,&rdquo he says. &ldquoJust letting the meat come through with a little bit of seasoning.&rdquo

Hartman&rsquos reserved style reaches its apex with beef short ribs, another Texas tradition, one that lives up to what they say about the size of everything in the Lone Star State.

A handle of bone shaped like the head of a cricket bat extends from Neolithic beef slabs that, each more than a pound, look cartoonish. The ribs have dark crust on the top and bottom, and pure give within. Each beef short rib costs $20 and comes with two sides. Short ribs are available on Saturday nights until they run out.

Hartman&rsquos &rsquocue game is strong. The Valley is lucky to have a talented newcomer so far outside the country&rsquos barbecue belt. Though Hartman came late to the smoke game, his brisket and destiny may have been entwined from the beginning. He shared a college dorm at Wisconsin with the famous barbecue writer and pitmaster Adam Perry Lang.

Hartman pulls from greatest American hits. He also takes his own approach. His style cherry-picks from other styles, and when you consider him next to other Phoenician pitmasters, the dots start to connect.

Long before he started smoking brisket, pork butt, ribs, and half-chickens in Cave Creek, Bryan Dooley studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Dooley also cooked for 13 years at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. He knows classical technique and fine dining. And with his culinary chops, Dooley has chosen to make a living smoking meat &mdash to barbecue.

&ldquoI&rsquom not a pit boss,&rdquo Dooley insists. &ldquoI&rsquom a chef who specializes in barbecue.&rdquo

His mastery of technique comes in on the edges. It shapes the outer flavors of Bryan&rsquos Black Mountain Barbecue: the sauces, the sides, the non-barbecue dishes that depend on the likes of preserved lemon tartar sauce (for frog legs) or smoked tomato remoulade (for a fried artichoke po&rsquo boy).

More remotely, Dooley&rsquos experience informs the core of what he does: smoke meat. It shapes his &rsquocue on a faint and intangible level. It gives him a feeling-based general competency that can&rsquot really be reduced to specific culinary maneuvers or decisions.

&ldquoBarbecue is about smoking meat with fire,&rdquo Dooley says. &ldquoWe don&rsquot want to mess with that so much.&rdquo

Like his grandfather, an Alabaman who barbecued in a pit of &ldquocement blocks and metal grates,&rdquo Dooley keeps things simple. He has to. Though he has sauced and sautéed, when the smoker gets hot, all Dooley has are three elements: &ldquomeat, fire, and wood.&rdquo

He makes skillful use of the smoky trinity.

Dooley&rsquos brisket has, sinking a half-inch below its bark, a florid crimson tinge. You can ask for brisket lean or fatty. The fatty brisket has the usual butterlike dissolve of expertly slow-smoked meat. It tastes like beef but also has a nutty perfume and fleeting caramel and toasted notes.

Like Oren Hartman, Dooley aims for mild smoke that will let the meat&rsquos flavors sing. He achieves this smoke by plugging pecan wood into the basic &ldquomeat, fire, and wood&rdquo equation.

Aaron Franklin, renowned pitmaster of the recently fire-damaged Franklin Barbecue in Austin, shares wood wisdom in his book Franklin Barbecue. &ldquoWood is important for two functions: providing heat and supplying smoke,&rdquo he writes.

The kind and age of wood will have great influence on brisket&rsquos final character. Smoke is a strange heat source. It isn&rsquot the steady blue flame of a gas stove or an oven set to 350. Smoke cooks and flavors food. Franklin advises barbecue acolytes to &ldquoapproach your wood pile like a chef approaches his spice rack.&rdquo

That isn&rsquot much of a leap for Dooley, fine dining vet, to make.

Dooley prefers pecan wood&rsquos &ldquonice, soft smoke.&rdquo He finds hickory and mesquite too powerful. Mesquite produces the most pungent smoke of all the commonly used woods nut-tree woods and oak the least. Peach, apple, and other fruit woods impart &ldquoa gentle, rounded sweetness,&rdquo Franklin writes.

It&rsquos 100 percent pecan wood for Dooley. He gets cords from a supplier who sources from Native American land near the Salt River and down near Tucson. Arizona is known for pecan wood. Pima County is one of the three largest pecan-producing counties in America.

The benefits of pecan wood can be tasted in Dooley&rsquos burnt ends &mdash the tougher bites from places where the brisket tapers to awkward shapes and doesn&rsquot allow for long, neat slices. Dooley&rsquos are as black as the space between two stars. Gnawing in, you expect the bitter explosion that comes with such a char. There is none.

Same with the pulled pork, smoked to heavy darkness. Bark yields to the tooth with a sticky, taffylike chew with some crisp. Rocking even harder are the single morsels with both bark and pink shreds of melting inner pork, which has a sweet, nutty flavor. The near-translucence of pecan smoke allows for these nuances.

Dooley smokes brisket and pork butts for 12 to 14 hours. As the smoker hums in the kitchen, John Wayne and Western actors bluster on a projector screen in the dining room. Bryan&rsquos seats 150 people. The joint is on Cave Creek Road, the Western town&rsquos main drag.

Two of the edges where Dooley&rsquos training most shapes his barbcue are his rub and sauce. He uses one rub for his meat. It mixes more than 15 spices, including salt, pepper, garlic, chile powder, thyme, and ginger.

Lamb shank and the occasional run of alligator spareribs are as fancy as his &rsquocue gets. His style is less chef sieving sauces the way chefs have for centuries &mdash more simplified and in tune with a fire-based cooking method that goes back millennia.

Cooking with smoke defies recipe. Pecan wood chopped a few days ago burns differently from wood laid away last year, and smokers have hot and cold spots just like grills. As Dooley&rsquos approach hints, barbecue is more of an instinctive, go-by-feel, Jedi style of cooking.

&ldquoTo me, barbecue is a feeling,&rdquo he says when asked to define the term barbecue. &ldquoThe feeling you get when you&rsquore eating it. Barbecue comes in may different styles, but they all give you that same comfort feeling. That&rsquos what we&rsquore trying to pursue. It&rsquos bigger than just throwing some meat over some coals, or over some wood.&rdquo

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One of the drivers of this quest for Phoenix barbecue is the ashy zeitgeist. This decade, Valley pitmasters have fired up their smokers and opened their doors in droves. Faced with such a robust and developed barbecue landscape, what goes through the mind of a relative novice who wants to start smoking professionally in fall 2017?

Mark Nichols says he thinks about flavor.

The chef and newly turned pitmaster opened Arizona BBQ Company with his wife, Colette, in Gilbert in September. Mark was classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu. Unlike Dooley, Nichols applies his training to smoking meat. The result is that European technique and American cuisine merge.

&ldquoI don&rsquot think there&rsquos one right way to do anything,&rdquo Nichols says. &ldquoAnd that includes cooking.&rdquo

Two facets of Arizona BBQ Company untie it from convention.

First, Nichols operates beyond the hallowed smoke-and-fire barbecue tradition, utilizing a pair of cooking methods instead of sticking to the time-tested one (smoking). Nichols finishes smoked meat &mdash brisket, ribs, pork butts, and chickens &mdash with a braise. Take his brisket.

He loads fat-laced briskets into his smoker for six hours a pop, puts them in pans over mirepoix (chopped carrots, celery, and onion), covers them, and gives them a bake. The brisket&rsquos rendered fat cooks the vegetables, which flavor the meat in the timeless French style. The result is brisket that develops a corned-beef-like texture, parts of the fat hued an ivory yellow.

Pork gets a similar braising treatment, minus mirepoix but plus beer. Chicken and ribs, too, are plucked from the smoker and gradually finished in the oven.

This method of smoking and braising, Nichols says, &ldquocaptures fats rendered out in long smoking.&rdquo

The second way Nichols&rsquo barbecue departs from tradition is in how it&rsquos served. His eatery has the Arizona influence its name suggests. Tortillas and jalapenos come with smoked meat platters. One of his sauces uses habaneros, another chipotles. Smoked meats come alongside &mdash and often mingled with &mdash essential Southwestern flavors.

This isn&rsquot wholly alien. Other barbecue spots in the Valley give barbecue a similar treatment. But Nichols may push the Arizona angle a little harder he even uses Arizona mesquite in his 50-50 blend of mesquite and oak. His Myron Mixon MMS72XC H20 Smoker can handle, at once, 72 racks of ribs, 162 half-chickens, 90 pork butts, or two whole hogs.

His use of mesquite is key. Oren Hartman and Brian Dooley find mesquite too pungent. Nichols, however, only smokes brisket for six hours. He must use mesquite to reach a base level of smokiness that would be impossible to attain with milder woods over his abridged smoking period. Mesquite gives rapid birth to ashy vibes. If Nichols used just oak, his meat would probably lack the smoky depths that make barbecue barbecue.

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Looking at the menu of mixed-meat platters but also tacos and chicharrones, Arizona &mdash more so than Texas or elsewhere &mdash is the place that comes to mind.

&ldquoThe concept is really about giving a nod to Arizona,&rdquo Colette Nichols says. &ldquoYou know, as opposed to your Memphis style or your Carolina style or anything like that. We really like to take our style and say, &lsquoThis is what Arizona is.&rsquo&rdquo

Nichols is undaunted by the market. He has long experience as a corporate chef, has spent time as a caterer, and has an approach that makes him something of a barbecue outlier. One month into operations, the smoking has been mostly smooth.

He and Colette did have an issue with a brisket supplier, whose slabs ranged from 12 to 19 pounds. They are switching to a source that always slaughters at 1,500 pounds, resulting in a more consistent product.

Consistency is key to minimizing one of the thousand barbecue variables: meat size. The road to heavenly smoked meat is paved with pitfalls, ranging from wood moisture to room temperature.

Nichols&rsquo cooking method yields meat juicier than your typical &rsquocue. The drawback to pairing mac and cheese, chili, and avocado crema with barbecue is that the microgrooves of the meat&rsquos ultra-nuanced flavors often get lost. Smoke can engender the lush flavor landscapes that make barbecue spectacular. That said, the goal of barbecue is delicious smoked meat &mdash not sticking with methods calcified before the Hoover administration.

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The path of Scott Holmes&rsquo life changed when he traveled to meet the parents of his now-wife, Bekke. Bekke&rsquos parents live in Austin. After meeting Scott, Bekke&rsquos parents took the two to Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas. Salt Lick is a Texas legend.

&ldquoIt&rsquos an old building made of stone,&rdquo Scott recalls. &ldquoYou walk in and there&rsquos a giant pit. You&rsquove got briskets, pork ribs, sausages hanging down. It&rsquos just the coolest thing ever.&rdquo

When he returned to Phoenix, Scott bought a smoker.

He and Bekke opened Little Miss BBQ nearly a decade later. Little Miss BBQ smokes and serves in the central Texas style. The style emphasizes minimal rubs, use of oak and mild woods, sauceless meat, brisket obsession, and such quirks as doling out meat on butcher paper and with slices of white bread.

But by no means is Scott afraid to experiment. He has a fine-tuned sense of when to stick with custom and when to split.

If I had infinite hunger and time, I could sit at Little Miss eating fatty brisket forever. In your mouth, the brisket melts almost like custard or cheese. The sinews holding the meat together offer zero resistance. What you get is a molten dissolve coupled with a blast of intense flavor. The rub has chew and stick, making the meat&rsquos vanishing act even more magnificent.

What sets Little Miss BBQ apart?

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To make great barbecue, you must start with great meat. Scott has a fluid rapport with his supplier, Midwestern Meats in Mesa.

&ldquoJohn&rsquos a good guy over there,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIf I didn&rsquot like a meat and I could tell him why, he would look for something else. And then we would try a whole bunch of things until we found something that was perfect.&rdquo

To have great barbecue, you must have a great place to chow. Little Miss&rsquos porch is just that. Tunes bathe picnic tables where a mushrooming crowd of brisket-seekers awaits an 11 a.m. opening like kids await a midnight showing of Harry Potter. String lights hang, smoker hinges wail, the thwack of wood being chopped resounds, and fireboxes puff. An aura of community flows you get a thrill that you&rsquore alive and there.

But &mdash let&rsquos be honest &mdash Little Miss&rsquos three smokers seal the spell.

Most Phoenix barbecue spots use gas-assisted smokers. These use propane to keep heat at a certain temperature. Gas-assisted smokers are commercially available, and the best ones will set you back a few grand.

Scott, pitmaster at Little Miss, built two of his three smokers from 1,000-gallon propane tanks. The third he bought in Texas. Each of his smokers runs on the heat of a wood fire &mdash and nothing else.

&ldquoWe get a ton of air flowing with these,&rdquo Scott says of his offset smokers. &ldquoWe believe it helps render the fat better than something where there&rsquos a really high-moisture environment.&rdquo

Gas-assisted smokers don&rsquot have a continuous inflow of fresh air. Rather, the same air lingers in the insulated chamber throughout the smoking process. Because the chamber is closed to the outside world, everything inside stays wetter. The process is more fixed and hands off. You don&rsquot have to worry about the size of the fire, the convection inside the main chamber, or how hard the smoker&rsquos smokestack pulls.

Not only is Scott masterful in his use of smokers, he has tailored his smokers to his liking. The first smoker he got was the one from Texas. Based on his experience with it, he made changes when rigging his second and third. Superior smoking equals superior barbecue.

A few other factors set Little Miss apart. One is use of rub.

The 24 to 27 briskets that Little Miss can load into a 1,000-gallon smoker at a time are rubbed with a blend that strays from central Texas tradition. There are some in central Texas who hold that brisket should be rubbed just with salt and pepper. Nothing else. The point of this minimalism, like Oren Hartman&rsquos and Brian Dooley&rsquos, is to cast a stronger light on the meat.

&ldquoTo season brisket, you can play with different seasoning recipes,&rdquo writes Scott Roberts, pitmaster at Salt Lick, in his Salt Lick Cookbook. &ldquoSome people just use salt and pepper. Others use a lot of spices. For the Salt Lick, we keep it to a simple three ingredients: salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.&rdquo

Scott Holmes uses a brisket rub that combines a handful of spices and coarse salt and pepper. The rub doesn&rsquot add much pizzazz in the way of flavor &mdash keeping with that minimalistic central Texas approach &mdash but departs from tradition some in its ingredients. The key feature of the rub is its three-dimensionality of it once cooked: the heft, the height, the chew.

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Another flavor elevator is Little Miss&rsquos use of wood.

Most barbecue joints use the same wood every time. Little Miss uses mostly two kinds of oak (one from Roosevelt Lake), Arizona pecan, or pistachio wood (though not as much as formerly when it was more available). But that&rsquos not all.

&ldquoWe&rsquove had days where we&rsquove cooked all mesquite, all orangewood,&rdquo Scott says. &ldquoWe&rsquove used all cedar. We&rsquove used all eucalyptus. We&rsquove used olive wood. Nobody knows the difference.&rdquo

Scott is a wood wizard. He loves using olive wood to put a delicate smoke on links, stuffed in-house from odd bits left over from his other meats. He can expound at length on how vertically split cords will burn compared with rounds, and on why this matters. But when Scott says nobody knows the difference, he&rsquos dead wrong.

When I visited Little Miss, Scott and I shared a barbecue platter: brisket, sausage, ribs, and surprisingly juicy turkey. I asked him what wood type he used to smoke the meat before us. He wasn&rsquot on smoking duty the night before, and he didn&rsquot know.

That is, until his next bite of brisket. He chewed quickly, looked to be in deep thought for a heartbeat or two, and nodded. He said, still chewing: &ldquoPredominantly pecan.&rdquo

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The first leg of our tour of metro Phoenix&rsquos barbecue scene has ended.

Given what I&rsquove seen at these spots and others, there are commonalities, aspects that could be tenants of a Phoenix-style barbecue. These tenants are followed more loosely than those of the country&rsquos traditional barbecue meccas.

Here, at last, is the rough draft of Phoenix barbecue.

First, Phoenix-style barbecue makes use of Arizona pecan wood. Arizona is known for pecan growth and production. Barbecue cognoscenti know pecan wood as mild &mdash ideal for spotlighting the glorious nuances of smoked meat.

Second, experimentation is a hallmark of Phoenix barbecue. Untethered to generational traditions, Phoenix pitmasters have the freedom to get creative &mdash to mess with woods, to smoke gator and lamb, and to alter the sacred smoking process by utilizing other cooking techniques.

Third, the Valley of the Sun&rsquos pitmasters look to central Texas for wisdom. Central Texas is the star around which the rest of American barbecue spins. Texas, too, is the nearest great barbecue state, and the easiest to visit. Customs with roots in central Texas crop up again and again here in Phoenix: serving on butcher paper and with white bread, beef short ribs, emphasis on brisket, papering brisket, use of milder woods, and so forth.

Fourth, Phoenix barbecue tends to use chiles on the edges. Powdered chile pepper is in virtually every rub I&rsquove encountered. The majority of places offer a habanero or chipotle barbecue sauce. Pickled chiles often come with meat platters. Chiles also appear in nontraditional smoked meat dishes like tacos, chili, and mac and cheese.

My search for Phoenix barbecue is only beginning.

Next, I&rsquom going to be exploring an issue that could be central to a Phoenix style: how the Mexican traditions of carne asada, barbacoa, and other smoked meat figure into things. Arizona abuts Sonora and is lucky to have other Mexican states with strong meat traditions as neighbors. It&rsquos the nature of cuisine to evolve, combine, split, and evolve some more. In Phoenix, the hard line between American and Mexican barbecue has blurred.

This series will be getting more into sides, woods, pitmasters on the fringe, and conversations with all kinds of far-flung folks, such as professional meat scientists. I hope you follow along through all the nerdery, carnivorousness, and smoky glory.

Know a place I should visit or someone I should talk to? Reach me at [email protected] Looking forward to hearing from you and getting your take. Follow the Phoenix barbecue journey at phxfood.com.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free. Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.


John Lewis’s Best Brisket Secret

When he was about eighteen years old, John Lewis fell in love with brisket. Not necessarily his own—that would come later—but those of the famed barbecue joints around Austin, Texas, where he had relocated from his hometown of El Paso. “It was places like Salt Lick, City Market, Louie Mueller,” says the pit master, who used those restaurants as inspiration to start honing his own smoking skills. After stints at Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue in Austin, and years of fine-tuning the design of his hand-built smokers, he moved to Charleston in 2015 to open Lewis Barbecue and spread his now-legendary brisket to the Southeast.

Countless factors go into making world-class brisket, but one of the most important is the cut of meat you begin with. Here’s how Lewis chooses his.

“It sounds simple, but start with the best possible meat you can find. I use USDA prime brisket, which has the most abundant, finest intramuscular marbling. As it’s cooking, that fine fat will melt and self-baste from the inside. This leaves a little more room for error on the cook’s part.

My favorite brand is Certified Angus Beef—that’s what we use at the restaurant. It’s top-two percent of all prime in the country. Each piece of meat is all about the same size, so you won’t get one that’s so small it’ll dry up, or one so big you’ll burn the outside trying to cook it all the way through. It can be hard to find them at grocery stores in some parts of the South, but the warehouse stores, like Sam’s or Costco, usually carry it.

Brisket on one of Lewis’s hand-built smokers.

When you’re digging through the meats, flip them over so you’re not looking at the fat cap on top and look for that abundant marbling—the finest [marbling] you can find spread throughout the slab. A lot of people will say you want a limp, tender piece of meat so it’ll be limp and tender after you cook it. That’s the complete opposite of what you should do. Get it stiff as a board, because when fat is cold, it gets hard. When you heat it up, it’ll get really tender, just how you want it.”

For those without the time (or patience) to smoke a brisket for eighteen hours, Lewis Barbecue ships frozen, vacuum-sealed whole smoked brisket all over the country. After about two hours of simmering in hot water, it’s ready to slice and serve.


Top 7 BBQ Brisket Rub Recipes

A great barbecue brisket is built by having layers of flavor, and those layers begin with a barbecue rub. Brisket rubs can be simple or complex in a wide range of barbecue styles, from wet to dry rubs that span from sweet to spicy.

But before you choose a barbecue rub for your brisket, there are a few things to consider, like how much rub you need and when to apply it. When it comes to the amount, there really is no special formula—you can put on as much rub as the meat will hold. Pat dry your brisket with paper towels and then sprinkle with the rub (you don't actually have to rub it on). Whatever adheres to the brisket is the amount needed.

The timing, however, does need some consideration. If the rub you are using contains a lot of salt, you will want to apply it right before you put the brisket in the smoker. If the rub is low in salt or doesn't have any, then you can apply it several hours in advance to let the flavors sink in. Leaving a large amount of salt on meat will cause it to cure and the flavor will be more like jerky and less like barbecue brisket.


How to cook steak on the grill

In many parts of the country, summer is the best time to grill steaks — but it shouldn't be the only time. Kroener has been known to grill when there's snow on the ground. "Cooking (a steak) inside will only yield a caramelized flavor, not char," noted Kroener, who uses an 1800-degree broiler in his restaurant. Unfortunately, most home kitchens aren't equipped with that kind of heat.

Steaks that are over 1-inch thick are great for the grill. Here's how to cook steak on a grill:

Heat the grill as hot as you can. If using charcoal, aim for 600 to 700 F. If using gas, aim for 500 F.

Season both sides of your steaks with kosher salt (the type of salt really does matter!) and freshly cracked pepper.

Next, put your steak on the hottest section of the grill. Cook for two minutes. Rotate steaks 45 degrees and cook for another two minutes. This technique will give you those beloved hatch marks.

Flip your steaks and let cook for another two minutes. Then, rotate 45 degrees and cook for another two minutes. Remove steak from the grill and place it onto a racked plate to catch any juices that drip. These hot juices can continue to cook the steak and lead to overcooking. Wait 5 minutes and then put the steaks back on the grill for 30 seconds on each side.

Remove and place directly on serving plates.


BBQ "Pro" Commits Ultimate Sin at Big Apple BBQ, Sparks #Brisketgate Outrage

“That really made me cringe,” said Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn in reference to the man in the video, hacking away at a big hunk of brisket. I had reached out to the self-professed BBQ Snob to help me understand what had gone terribly wrong in a BBQ clip First We Feast posted earlier this week𠅊nd why a handful of commenters were losing their sh*t over a botched carving job.

During last weekend’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party at Madison Square Park, I took footage of several 𠆌ue participants, asking them to explain the process behind their specialty: “painting” ribs, chopping pork, etc. For tips on brisket slicing, I made my way to the Salt Lick, a reputable establishment in਍riftwood Texas that had the longest lines out of any station that weekend.

An employee who was ostensibly in charge of slicing brisket (another man delivered it to his station, after all) began the demo by removing the fat cap. After trimming off more and more fat, he instructed viewers to take what was left and cut against the grain. As someone not well-versed in barbecue carving methods𠅊nd considering his attendance at a festival that draws serious barbecue punch—I put my faith in his hands.

I should have known better.

Apparently, what I captured on video was nothing short of 𠆌ue heresy, and the pros who caught wind of it weren’t about to let such a਋latant faux pax slide. That’s when #Brisketgate broke loose in the comment section:

It seemed he had violated some sacred code I wasn’t aware of, and the barbecue community quickly fired back. But why?

“If that video is meant to be educational, there’s not much you can come away with that will help you serve great brisket,” says Vaughn. 𠇏irst, he removes the brisket point, which is the fatty end that carries all of the flavor. It seems like he almost discards it. Then he makes deep cuts off the back and edge of the brisket and slices off the bark. It’s a common way to cut brisket in east Texas, where everyone wants a grey slice of beef with no bark or fat. But those are the two most delicious parts, and if you get rid of them, you take away from its greatness.

I just hope the guy who shot the video asked �n you show me how to desecrate a brisket?” https://t.co/I2PAVz23wQ h/t @foxbrosbarbq

— Daniel Vaughn (@BBQsnob) June 16, 2015

Another pit master I spoke to (who prefers to remain anonymous) referred to the carving technique as the ultimate sin against BBQ, explaining the irony of allowing the fat cap to render for 16 hours and build flavor, only to cast it aside in favor of lean, sometimes drier, meat.

If you compare the first video to brisket guru Aaron Franklin’s tutorial above, you can immediately spot the differences—haphazard cutting and little uniformity versus care and precision. It was a hack job.

OldBill in the BBQ Brethren forum leaves us with these thoughts:

Of course, the other explanation is that he knows that his brisket cooking skills suck and he has to trim like that to get to the edible parts!

Thank the smoke-ring heavens I had been shown the light�use a world without bark and fat on my brisket is simply no place for a 𠆌ue believer.


Watch the video: Man v. Food The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que Driftwood, TX (July 2022).


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