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’re featuring Gary Vincek, 48, of Vincek’s Smokehouse in East Bernard. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com.

Photo by RioGailTX

What is your heat source?We use pecan and oak wood. We start off with pecan and finish with oak. If you do everything with pecan it gets dark; pecan’s a real heavy smokeWho 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?I used to work at Dozier’s. It’s just a meat market and barbecue joint. I learned here on my own through trial and error. There was a lot we didn’t sell.What’s your signature meat?Mainly brisket.Sauce or no sauce?

We have it here if people want, and about 85 percent of people want it. But when we’re cooking, we don’t use any except the mop sauce which is vinegar, oil, and Worcestershire sauce. Do you make your own sausage? Yes, with beef and pork butts. Slow and low or high and faster? Slow and low. I usually don’t try and get ’em over 240 or 250 degrees. Eighteen hours on a brisket that’s ten to twelve pounds. What non-secret ingredients are in your spice rub, if you use one. Salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder. Favorite BBQ in Texas other than your own? All the barbecue at Texas Monthly [BBQ Festival]. But I don’t go out to eat barbecue that much, so I couldn’t tell you. Do you start a new fire each day or do you keep the same one going? Every day. Aluminum foil or butcher paper? After it’s cooked we put it in trays with foil on top. Lots of places serve barbecue on butcher paper, but I’ve never had any problems with my method. What should the home smoker look for when picking out a side of brisket from the market? Is grade or quality important or does smoking render them all equally delectable? It should be as thick as you can find, especially on the lower side. What’s the one other piece of advice you’d give to someone smoking a brisket at home? Slow. Take it slow, and do not wrap it in foil while it’s cooking. Lots of people think you gotta wrap it in foil while it’s cooking. That’s a roast. Do you use or have you considered using a gas- or electric-fired smoker, such as a Southern Pride, Ole Hickory, or J&R, for any of your meats? No, ma’am, I really haven’t considered it. We use strictly over open coals and flamed. That’s the only way to get the smoke to it. Ever have any Texas barbecue outside of Texas? I never really have. I really haven’t eaten barbecue anywhere else except Texas. (Questions by Jason Cohen, Andrea Valdez, Pat Sharpe, Katy Vine, Sonia Smith, Daniel Vaughn, Jim Shahin, J.C. Reid, @stewlevine&@JoePerryinTX.)