23 pitmasters

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” TC’s Ponderosa Barbeque

Oct 28, 2011 By Stephanie Kuo

Editor’s Note: Just two 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 Tom Hale, 59, of TC's Ponderosa in Dickens. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. What is the heat source you use at TC's Ponderosa? We use a combination of wood and propane. It’s Southern Pride. I couldn’t keep up doing it old style with the wood alone, so we had to find someway to keep up with our customers. We had to go that route. Who did you learn your craft from? I learned from my family from my granddad and my dad. It’s something we used to do on weekends, and I picked up on it back in 2001 as a profession. What’s your signature meat? Brisket, I think like everybody else in Texas. Our brisket is good because of consistency and flavor. We use mesquite wood, and we make our barbecue the same everyday. We just use a dry rub on it and put it at a certain temperature everyday and put the right amount of smoke on it. Do you prefer sauce or no sauce? We don’t put sauce on the meat as we cook it. It’s on the side, and most people like the sauce. They don’t use a large amount of it or anything. We make our own sauce here. There’s nothing too special about it. We actually have a Smokin’ Hot, it’s what we call it. It’s pretty hot, and we smoke it in the pit ourselves. Do you make your own sausage? No, I buy it from a German guy about sixty miles from where I live. He’s well known all across the state, and he’s won a contest. The guy I bought this store from had been doing business with him, and I just sort of picked him up. We inherited him.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Wild Blue BBQ

Oct 27, 2011 By Emily Mitchell

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…

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que

Oct 26, 2011 By Layne Lynch

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 Scott Roberts, "north of 55," of The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in Driftwood. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photo courtesy of Salt Lick What is the heat source you use for your barbecue? Live oak. We only use live oak. We use live oak because the oak families are one of the indigenous and heaviest woods in Texas. It’s very heavy and dense. And when it burns, it burns very clean. Very fine ash, very fine smoke. It doesn’t float up and get on the meat and make it gritty, and the smoke gets a lot finer and penetrates the meat better. It’s not bitter. Some woods can be bitter, like green mesquite, but live oak doesn’t ever do that. It adds smoked flavor to the meat, but doesn’t overpower it. It allows both flavors to become one. Where did you learn your barbecue craft from? My family came here from the Southeast. When they came here, they were in wagons, and they barbecued when they were in wagons. That style and those recipes they had on the wagon were handed down from generation to generation to my father, and my father taught them to me. That’s where our open pit comes from. They did not have these closed smokers that you see today because, like my father said, the wagon did not have bumper hitches to haul these closed smokers around. They did all their stuff on open grills. So they would sear their meat on one end of the fire, move it away from the fire, and throw coals underneath, and slow smoke them. And if the wind blew you too much in one direction or the other, they would be burnt around the edge. So when you come into Salt Lick that’s what you see. It’s a deeper flavor that you can’t get from closed smokers. Watching your father do that when you were younger, did you know that you wanted to go into that food direction? It was very enjoyable. Having the fire and the smoke and the meat, and then it all comes together through your efforts. It was very enjoyable, but I really did not know the technicalities of what it would mean. What were the barbecue plates you would eat growing up? I started out loving the pork ribs the most. And then it was brisket, and then I got a love for sausage. So, my favorite plate is our combination plate which is pork ribs, beef brisket, and our sausage. What’s your signature meat? The signature meat to me is pork ribs, but the signature meat to a lot of other people is the brisket. We’re getting a whole lot of compliments on the turkey. The signature meat here is that we have a variety of meat. We work real hard to make sure each one of them is our interpretation of the best they can be and then people will get what they want. Honestly there’s a lot of people that love the turkey. A lot of people who love the ribs. A lot of people love the brisket.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Vincek’s Smokehouse

Oct 26, 2011 By Willa Cockshutt

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 smoke Who 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.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Baby J’S Bar-B-Que & Fish

Oct 25, 2011 By Alana Peden

Editor’s Note: Just five 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 Jeremiah McKenzie, 39, of Baby J's Bar-B-Que & Fish in Palestine. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Describe the scene at Baby J’s. I have a little joint where you walk in and feel at home. It’s real colorful. My board’s black; it’s got "Baby J's" on it with a homemade piece of cobbler. When you go out, it’s “Nothing Baby About It,” with two babies, a boy and a girl. What type of wood do you use? Pecan and a very little amount of hickory. Who 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? My brother-in-law and my dad like to barbeque a lot. I was in the oil fields workin’ and I got fired, because I’m kinda heavy-set. I said, “I’m never going to get fired again. I’m going to start my own business.” And I started barbequing and being successful. You must feel pretty good now. The same guy that fired me came back and gave me a bunch of catering. What’s your signature meat? Our customers say the ribs. We use baby back, and they’re real tender. I believe in using the old-fashioned rib. We slow cook it, we don’t boil it, and it’s tender and juicy with good seasoning. We dry rub it, and it falls off the bone. Sauce or no sauce? I don’t put sauce on mine. We make our own sauce, black Kansas City-style barbeque sauce. I don’t want sauce. Good barbeque doesn’t have to have sauce. Our ribs aren’t dry. Slow and low or high and faster? Slow and low. We cook our brisket about eighteen hours. Don’t get in a rush with it. What temperature do you try to maintain? About 175, not over 200. It’s so tender, you gotta let it cool off to cut it. What non-secret ingredients are in your spice rub? I love a lot of onion powder. I like garlic powder, those two are very healthy for you. We use a lot of black pepper, the good, restaurant kind.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Lamberts Downtown Barbecue

Oct 25, 2011 By Layne Lynch

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 Lou Lambert of Lamberts Downtown Barbecue in Austin. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photo by Ralph Lauer What is the heat source you use at Lamberts? Wood. Oak Wood. Where did you learn your barbecue craft from? Number one, just growing up in a barbecue culture in West Texas. Number two, just trial and error and doing a lot of cooking. I learned the basics of barbecuing just growing up around it and learning it from family and friends and then refined it by doing it as a chef. It’s something that I love to do. You grew up on a ranch. Was barbecue something you guys ate pretty much everyday? I wouldn’t say everyday, but it was a major factor in how we ate. A lot of grilling, a lot of smoking. Did you have any idea how influential it would become in your life? Not at the time. But looking back now as a chef and restaurateur, you just see how that influenced the foods that I love to cook and the way I cook because we do a lot of grilling, a lot of smoking, and a lot of wood roasting. I think it was the influence of growing up around those big, bold foods of West Texas.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days”: City Meat Market

Oct 24, 2011 By Jessica Huff

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 Gerald Birkelbach, 55, of City Meat Market in Giddings. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. Photographs by Daniel Vaughn. What is your heat source? Post oak. Who did you learn your craft from? I learned it right here with on the job training starting 37-and-a-half years ago to be exact. What’s your signature meat? I think our signature meat is the pork Boston butt and the pork ribs. Sauce or no sauce? It is offered, yes. I do it both ways though to be perfectly honest. It depends on how I feel. We also make a jalapeno pepper sauce that’s on the tables and if I want sauce I’ll use that over BBQ sauce.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days”: Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

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.

TMBBQFest, “23 Pitmasters in 23 Days:” Taylor Cafe

Oct 23, 2011 By Daniel Vaughn

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 Scott Morales, 45 and Vencil Mares, 87, of Taylor Café in Taylor. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. As far as your heat source, I assume you guys use all wood there? Scott: Yes. And what kind of wood? Scott: Post Oak Who did you learn your craft from? Did you previously work at another barbeque joint? Scott: I learned the majority from Vencil and then a little bit on my own, just barbecuing on weekends. How about you, Vencil? Vencil: From Southside Market in Elgin, Texas. And at your place do you have a meat that you consider a signature meat? Scott: Probably our turkey sausage. The turkey sausage and pretty much everything’s to die for. The turkey sausage, you guys make that in-house. Do you have another sausage? Scott: Yes. We also make our own beef sausage also. Is that like an Elgin "hot guts" style? Scott: No it’s pretty much a signature of Vencil’s. It’s always been.