Kris Manning of Smokey Joe’s BB-Q in Dallas is no less than barbecue-obsessed. Ever since he was a kid, he’s been trying to emulate the top-notch ’cue he grew up eating. Now that he’s a professional pitmaster, it just keeps getting better and better.
Tell me about the first person who taught you about barbecue.
The first person that taught me about barbecue was Earl Harris. Earl is a former Army vet that took me under his wing to teach me everything I needed to know: how to work my fires, temperature management, and the dos and don’ts when it comes to cooking barbecue.
Do you remember a backyard or a barbecue joint that started your barbecue obsession?
Every year my family and I go to Brenham, Texas, for my family reunion. Growing up, I would watch my cousins cook some of the best barbecue I’ve had on an open fire pit out in the country. My goal has always been to replicate a plate as good as the ones at my family reunion. Also, Terry Black’s Barbecue in Austin started my obsession with brisket. The first time I had their brisket, I couldn’t believe how moist it was. From then on, I became obsessed with brisket and wanted to figure out how to make my brisket that amazing.
What message are you trying to share to your customers through your food?
My goal is still to replicate the amazing food from my family’s traditions that I grew up eating, and to give people that same family reunion feel.
As a professional pitmaster, are you a BBQ Freak just like the rest of us?
Yes, of course.
When is the last time you ate someone else’s barbecue besides your own?
I love eating barbecue. I’m planning to take some barbecue road trips in the future. I actually just ate at a great barbecue restaurant in Orlando, Florida, called 4RiversSmokehouse. They had some pretty great stuff too.
What’s the most surprising BBQ dish you’ve eaten?
Fried ribs in Waco, Texas! They were pretty amazing.
What’s the best beverage to wash down BBQ?
I love an Arnold Palmer.
What’s a tool you use in cooking that might not seem like an obvious barbecue tool?
On our old brick pit, we welded an eight-foot fork to drop the ribs with. Extra heavy, but it got the job done.
What recommendations do you have for someone new to Texas ’cue?
Beef ribs are a must. Brisket, of course. And house-made sausage.
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