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 Joe Arriago, 33 of Big Daddy’s Roadhouse BBQ in Lavon. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com.

Photograph by Daniel Vaughn.

Who did you learn your craft from? We went to a school for this, and my boss paid for it. And everyday I try to learn more. We try to do the most we can here. I’ve been working here for all 16 years, and I love it. I love my job. There’s always something new every time to learn. What’s your signature meat? We got brisket, sausage, turkey, ham, ribs, chicken and pulled pork. We have all those seven different kinds of meats. My favorites are the brisket and the ribs. I think those are the best here at Big Daddy’s. Sauce or no sauce? I like the meat with no sauce. Sometimes, with the meat we cook, you don’t need the sauce. They already come in with real good flavor. But we do have a barbecue sauce here for customers. It’s Big Daddy’s own recipe. It tastes real good. It’s sweet sauce. Slow and low or high and fast(er)? We prefer to cook barbecue low and slow. It does take a little more time, but there’s more flavor. We’re not in a hurry because we don’t want to burn the meat or anything. A whole brisket takes about 16 hours, sometimes about 20 hours; it depends on how big the brisket is. We put the meat in at night and it’s ready by the morning. At night, we cook the meat real low so it comes in nice and tender. We already know the meat’s going to come out perfect. What non-secret ingredients are in your spice rub, if you use one. The way we cook meat here, we don’t need any spices. Do you start a new fire each day or do you keep the same one going? We keep the fire going all day, everyday. The pit always has something on it. There’s always meat on the pit. Aluminum foil or butcher paper? When we put the meat on the pit, we don’t put anything on it. That’s why the meat comes in real tender. We don’t need to put foil on the meat while it’s cooking because the temperatures are real low. But when we wrap it up for the customers, we use both. The paper helps keep the meat more moist. Do you use or have you considered using a gas- or electric-fired smoker for any of your meats? No, never. We only use wood here at Big Daddy’s. It’s really the best way. Ever have any Texas barbecue outside of Texas? No, I’ve never had barbecue outside of Texas. I like it at Big Daddy’s. – STEPHANIE KUO (Questions by Jason Cohen, Andrea Valdez, Pat Sharpe, Katy Vine, Sonia Smith, Daniel Vaughn, Jim Shahin, J.C. Reid, @stewlevine & @JoePerryinTX).