TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Smitty’s Market
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Editor’s Note: Just one more day until the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival! As you surely know by now, we’ve been interviewing all the featured pitmasters, with questions from TM staffers, esteemed BBQ experts, Twitter followers and you, the readers of this blog. Today we’re featuring John A. Fullilove, 38 , of Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photos courtesy Daniel Vaughn What is the heat source you use? Indirect post oak fires, no gas and no electricity whatsoever. It’s been that before my father’s time and my grandfather’s time. Guess we’re 25 years behind the times and it seems to work well for us. So do you start a new fire everyday then? We actually use the coal from the day before and we’ll shovel it in and put some wood in there and kind of fan it until it goes again. We don’t use any lighter fluid or anything like that. Do you cook slow and low or fast and high? Real fast and high. We cook our briskets in 46 hours. Buy quality meat and put a high heat to it, that’s what I was always told. We don’t use any thermometers whatsoever but the temperature ranges anywhere from 300 to 400 degrees. Where did you learn your barbecue craft from? It’s a family thing, third generation. Learned a lot from what I didn’t like through the years but kept it as traditional as I could. Times change but we try to stay a little bit behind the times if we can. What are some of your non-secret dry rub ingredients? We don’t use any fillers or preserves so we’re just looking at black pepper, red pepper, and salt. Simple is best, we try to keep it consistent. There are many things we like and ways we do it ourselves but we try to do it the way it’s always been done. Do you believe in using sauce? BBQ sauce is something we added a year or two years ago after we changed the name and location of Smitty’s. We actually cook it ourselves for probably the past eight or nine years. We added sides at the same time. We base the ribs ourselves with something new I added. What is your signature meat? That’s something that’s changed over the past ten years. The staple meat I grew up on was shoulder clod and pork chops but now everyone likes brisket and ribs. They seem to travel well. We’ve probably increased the brisket by 500 percent and the ribs have been new territory for the past eight years or so. We sell a lot of them. Do you make your own sausage? Yes, we make anywhere from 10 to 15,000 links a week. Its all hand tied and cooked with post oak. Do you use aluminum foil or butcher paper? We don’t cook with any aluminum foil. We do serve on butcher paper. What holds the flavor in though is that hot fire heating it up. What are some of your favorite barbecues in Texas besides your own? Oh I couldn’t really tell you. I mean I’m sure everyone has their own niche and claim to fame, definitely their own backing and following. But that’s a hard question to answer or argue about. I say give everyone a try. What do you think a home cook should look for when buying a brisket? Don’t want it too lean in my opinion. Not too much excess fat but I mean you watch everyone pick one out for the BBQ competition and you want it to shake. Any other advice or techniques for the home smoker? Buy quality meat. Ever had Texas barbecue outside of Texas? This right now [as he is driving through New Mexico] is my first trip outside of Texas and we couldn’t find a BBQ pit in Colorado. What BBQ are you looking forward to trying at the TMBBQ Festival? I don’t see it as a competition, it’s more like a gathering. We’re feeding Texas Monthly’s party – I’m not going to it with a competitive mind. We just have a good time and meet a lot of people. How many pounds of meat do you cook in a day? That’s a hard one for me to answer because we touch every bit of it and everything we do. But we do butcher a lot of meat and when we do our four-day production, it’s over a ton. (A ton being 2,000 pounds raw.) We do a whole lot and at 13 years of Smitty’s being open we’ve increased it every year.