Alana Peden

Articles by Alana Peden

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Baby J’S Bar-B-Que & Fish

Oct 25, 2011 By Alana Peden

Editor’s Note: Just five more days 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 Jeremiah McKenzie, 39, of Baby J's Bar-B-Que & Fish in Palestine. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Describe the scene at Baby J’s. I have a little joint where you walk in and feel at home. It’s real colorful. My board’s black; it’s got "Baby J's" on it with a homemade piece of cobbler. When you go out, it’s “Nothing Baby About It,” with two babies, a boy and a girl. What type of wood do you use? Pecan and a very little amount of hickory. Who did you learn your craft from? Did you work previously for another BBQ joint, learn it from family, or did you just learn it on your own? My brother-in-law and my dad like to barbeque a lot. I was in the oil fields workin’ and I got fired, because I’m kinda heavy-set. I said, “I’m never going to get fired again. I’m going to start my own business.” And I started barbequing and being successful. You must feel pretty good now. The same guy that fired me came back and gave me a bunch of catering. What’s your signature meat? Our customers say the ribs. We use baby back, and they’re real tender. I believe in using the old-fashioned rib. We slow cook it, we don’t boil it, and it’s tender and juicy with good seasoning. We dry rub it, and it falls off the bone. Sauce or no sauce? I don’t put sauce on mine. We make our own sauce, black Kansas City-style barbeque sauce. I don’t want sauce. Good barbeque doesn’t have to have sauce. Our ribs aren’t dry. Slow and low or high and faster? Slow and low. We cook our brisket about eighteen hours. Don’t get in a rush with it. What temperature do you try to maintain? About 175, not over 200. It’s so tender, you gotta let it cool off to cut it. What non-secret ingredients are in your spice rub? I love a lot of onion powder. I like garlic powder, those two are very healthy for you. We use a lot of black pepper, the good, restaurant kind.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Hard Eight BBQ

Oct 18, 2011 By Alana Peden

Editor’s Note: The Texas Monthly BBQ Festival is almost here! Each day until then, we’ll be talking to one of the featured pitmasters, with questions from TM staffers, esteemed BBQ experts, Twitter followers and you, the readers of this blog. Today we bring you Chad Decker, 38, of Hard Eight BBQ in Stephenville, Brady, and Coppell. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. What is your heat source? Strictly mesquite wood. We burn it down in the incinerator until we get good coals, and then we take the coals from our heat box and shovel them and spread them out underneath our meat. Mesquite always gives the barbecue a good flavor. We derive from the Hill Country area, and mesquite wood tends to be the most favored flavor of meat down there. We’ve found it to be pretty popular up here in the North Texas area as well. Who did you learn your craft from? My dad, and my family. We grew up there in Llano, and this is the way we cook. This is how everybody does for every FFA meeting, livestock show, backyard barbeque, church on Sunday; everybody does this the same way. So that’s where I learned it. Did you previously work at another BBQ joint? I worked at Cooper’s for a little bit. You know, just in the summer there in Llano. One summer, three or four weeks there, it wasn’t a long term deal. I started this place with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Phillip and Vicki Nivens. What’s your signature meat? A lot of people really do like our ribs. Our ribs are one of our main items. Of course, being a barbeque place, brisket and sausage are the most popular. But as far as one of our signature items, I’d say our ribs, and then we have our brush poppers. A brush popper is a small piece of turkey breast, wrapped with a jalapeno onion, then wrapped in bacon, and then grilled over mesquite coals. Do you make your own sausage? We have our own sausage recipe. It’s a beef-pork mixture that we wanted to be eaten as a meal. Somebody can come in here and have it as a meal, instead of a side item like most people do. I’ve got customers now that love our sausage so much they’ll just say, “Give me half a link of that,” and that’s all they want. It’s not that big, greasy, overwhelming, when-you-bite-into-the-grease-just-shoots-down-the-back-of-your-throat, it’s not that way. We use more of a coarse grind, so you get a taste of the meat itself. You get to actually taste the texture of the meat that’s used in the grind.