This article is part of a series that spotlights Texas pitmasters in their own words, available exclusively to TM BBQ Club members.

Ernie Morales knows the community-building power of Texas barbecue. His passion for ‘cue was ignited years ago, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Morales opened up Panther City BBQ with his longtime friend and business partner, Chris Magallanes. The duo promptly scored a spot on our list of the Top 25 New Barbecue Joints in Texas the following year, and the rest is history. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check them out in a special episode of TM BBQ Club’s ‘Cue Course series, and read on for a sneak peek into Morales’s pitmaster philosophy. 

Tell me about the first person who taught you about barbecue.

My brother-in-law, Joe Cortez. He always cooked brisket for family events, weddings, et cetera.

Do you remember a backyard or a barbecue joint that started your barbecue obsession?

I grew up eating barbecue at Angelo’s Bar-B-Que in Fort Worth.

What message are you trying to share to your customers through your food?

Getting people together . . . fellowship.

As a professional pitmaster, are you a BBQ Freak just like the rest of us?


When is the last time you ate someone else’s barbecue besides your own?

I just ate a huge platter from Cattleack Barbecue last week.

What’s the most surprising barbecue dish you’ve eaten?

The Real Deal Holyfield taco from Valentina’s . . . life changing.

What’s the best beverage to wash down barbecue?

A cold beer . . . or a Big Red if beer isn’t on the menu.

What’s a tool you use in cooking that might not seem like an obvious barbecue tool?

My hands. Touch is the most important tool.

What recommendations do you have for someone new to Texas ’cue?

Passion and patience. It’s worth it.