Editor’s Note: Just three 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 Abraham Avila, 42, of Wild Blue BBQ in…
Articles by Emily Mitchell
Oct 23, 2011 — By Emily Mitchell
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 Nick Pencis of Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photo courtesy Daniel Vaughn. What is your heat source? We use pecan. It’s just kind of a preference thing. Stanley’s actually sits on a pecan grove. I was smelling the pecan smoke, and I thought ‘no one around here smokes with pecan. Everyone’s hickory, hickory, hickory. Or mesquite or oak, and it’s like, I’m gonna be a different guy.' It’s my personal preference, and I just decided I’m gonna be straight pecan guy. Who did you learn your craft from? I came to work here in 2005, and I bought it in 2006. That’s the crazy thing, I had never in my life barbecued before. But I just have always been a huge, huge fan of barbecue. I'm 100 percent self taught. What’s your signature meat? I’m really happy with our sausage. I don’t know if I would call it our signature meat, but I’m happy with the philosophy. I don’t like MSG or weird chemical things. The sausage is just pork and spice in a natural case. Do you make your own sausage? You know, there is a meat market a block from here that’s been here since the 1950’s and I take my recipe and they make our sausage. It’s fresh. I’m not able to actually do it here, but they do it for me there. They bring me sausage every other day or so. The first batch we ever made was for the Texas Monthly BBQ festival last year. And people liked it! So I was like, alright, let’s figure it out.
Oct 7, 2011 — By Emily Mitchell
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 (fire away in comments section). Today it's Angela Ashley, 54, of Casstevens B-B-Q & Catering, which is tucked inside a Diamond Shamrock "Cash and Carry" in the town of Lillian, just southeast of Fort Worth. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn What's your heat source? We use mesquite on two pits that are ancient! They are old. We’ve been cooking in those things for as long as I’ve been there and before. And we repair the ones that we have because we get much better service. When it develops a few holes, we get the welder to come out and fix it. Harold Casstevens, the founder, he had these two pits built for his specifications. He started the business in 1976, and was considered the "mayor" of Lillian. He had it up until six years ago, and he sold it to his son-in-law, and then he turned around and sold it to [current owner] Jameson Titus. Who did you learn your craft from? I’ve been here for 13 years. So either you got good at it or you weren’t there anymore! Harold Casstevens taught me everything that I need to know about the pit, and the quality of meat and everything. I worked for him for a lot of years. And he basically taught me how to build a fire, how to tell how hot the pits are, how to get them hot. Because we have one [pit] inside and one [pit] outside. We used to have both of ‘em that sat right on the street because I tell ya, that’s the best advertising that you can have. The pit sitting out front with the mesquite smell coming out… I mean, he taught me that from the very beginning. Instead of going and paying lots of money for your advertising, just keep those pits going all day with that smoke and that smell coming out all day. And he was right. But it’s been so dry, the fire chief from down the road, he said ‘Look. I’m not gonna give you a hard time about the pits…but can you please just move one of ‘em inside?’ So that’s what we did. What’s your signature meat? I will tell you, people come from miles around for our all-beef smoked bologna. I mean, I am not kidding you! You would not believe…it’s crazy. Cass [Casstevens] from the very beginning, he used nothing but all-beef bologna. And that stuff gets hard to find. And so we use all-beef bologna and we smoke it on the pit and we slice it ourselves. And it just hangs off the bun. And these guys come in, and they will have one or two a day. We’re also very well-known for "Old Ike" hot links.* And when we don’t have ‘em, these guys get upset. And they love the black-brown crust on our brisket. And it really is the best I’ve ever had, and I’m not just sayin’ that.