Sunday, February 5, 2017

Is Snow's the Machu Picchu of Texas BBQ?

The Posse on their first BBQ journey in 2009. L-R: Mike Gibson. Gary Barber, Jesse Hart, David Guzman, Gary Jacobson & Chris Wilkins.

Among the wonders of the world, it probably doesn't rank with Machu Picchu or the Great Pyramid of Giza.

But in the world of Texas barbecue, nothing compares to a trip to Snow's on a Saturday, the only day the joint is open. It's a rite of passage for lovers of smoked meat.

Soon after Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins posted a Facebook photo from our recent visit to Lexington, a commenter wrote: "Can't wait to get out there for the first time!!! Soon... very soon!!! The breakfast of champions for sure!"

And when he does get there, he'll probably pose in front of the famous sign -- "We traveled the distance..." -- and have his picture taken to commemorate his visit.

So, I asked Snow's owner Kerry Bexley, how many people have posed in front of that sign over the years?

"There's no way of telling," he answered.

How about a guess?

Bexley thought for a moment. He then estimated 25 a day, translating into more than 1,200 over the course of a year. Multiply that by the eight years Snow's has been open and you get about 10,000.

Based on our many trips to Lexington, though, I think Bexley might be underestimating. The number could easily be doubled.

Whatever the exact total, it's impressive.

And after we ate Saturday morning, the two members -- Ray Shepard and David Messersmith -- of our group making their first pilgrimages added to the number.

Ray Shepard & David Messersmith during their first visit to Snow's BBQ in Lexington.
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Smoked beef tenderloin the Lopez Island way -- hot and fast

Editor's note: Posse members not only love to eat barbecue but they also love to cook. Bryan Gooding, who recently retired and moved from Dallas to Lopez Island in Washington state, shares his secrets for smoking great tenderloin.

By Bryan Gooding

Though I love to barbecue meats you can’t treat a beef tenderloin like a brisket or pork butt. The smoking needs to be hot and fast since there isn’t enough fat on a tenderloin to survive a long time in low heat.

So I use my smoker with a lot of heat from a wood fire. In this case I used apple wood but you could get a nice spicy taste from mesquite or a soft buttery smoke from pecan.

Since this is fast you don’t need to worry about over-smoking the meat so you can avoid wrapping in paper.

Making the rub, from start to
finish. (Photos ©Bryan Gooding)
To make the rub, pulse chopped shallots and garlic in a small food processor to a smooth mince. Crush the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Add the brown sugar, crushed coriander/black pepper mixture and salt to the food processor and blend together.

Slather a thick coat of the rub all over your tenderloin and let it marinate in the refrigerator uncovered for at least three hours but not more than five. Before cooking, set the tenderloin out and allow it to come to room temperature about an hour before cooking.

Have your smoker up to 400 degrees.  Start the fire with charcoal (always use a chimney with newspaper because that charcoal lighter fluid crap is not good for you), add your wood and let the charcoal burn away so you have a nice hot wood fire.

Set the tenderloin on the grill as close to the firebox as possible without letting the flames lick the meat. Place the thick end of the meat towards the fire.

I set my meat thermometer, centered, in the thickest part of the tenderloin. I started out at about 45 degrees internal temperature on the meat. Close up the smoker and try to keep the temp at 400 degrees (adding wood as necessary).

I found that a fire that hot needs more air than the fire box vents allow so I cracked the door to give sufficient air.

I pulled the meat once the internal temp hit 130 degrees (this took about 40 minutes during this cook) and double wrapped it in foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes before slicing into thick pieces.

The beef tenderloin is a perfect meat for a group meal as you get the whole range from rare to done. Cut your more done meat from the small end and rarer cuts from the thick end. I find the combination of the smoke, shallots, and coriander spice gives you an unusual flavor pallet to what can be otherwise a fairly plain-jane cut of meat.

We serve ours with a sauce made with creamed horseradish combined with sour cream and a little salt.

The recipes

2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
3 large shallots, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¾ cup Kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 beef tenderloin, trimmed (about 4 lbs)

Some charcoal for starting your wood fire (unless you have a better way)
Plenty of good smoking wood – pecan, cherry, oak, mesquite, apple or whatever is handy in your area

½ cup sour cream
¼ cup horseradish
salt to taste

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How to put some smoke on your prime rib roast before using the 500-degree reverse sear

The Gagne's prime rib roast ready for carving. (Photo ©Texas BBQ Posse)

Warning: This isn't a normal Posse blog post. Just how atypical? I had to look up how to spell sous vide.

But don't worry, that vacuum-sealed cooking method was used only for warming up some wonderful leftovers from the meal that long-time Posse member Mike Gagne cooked on Christmas Day.

Mike is a University of Texas law school grad and serious Longhorns fan, so when we (Mike is married to my daughter, Libby) decided to cook prime rib for the holiday, he went right to the source of all knowledge --

He quickly found a long thread on the subject that mentioned a Serious Eats article by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. For the juiciest prime rib, Lopez-Alt argues, start low on temperature and go slow on cooking, then finish very hot with what he calls a reverse sear. Everything is done in an oven.

That's when Mike's Posse background took over.

"It's not us if we don't put some smoke on it," he said.

Mike's cooking variation started the roast, which had just a salt and pepper rub, on a Weber kettle. The Weber was set up offset, with charcoal and pecan wood chips. Mike wanted a light smoke flavor so he let the meat cook for 30 minutes at about 250 degrees.

Then the roast, which weighed about 12 pounds or so, was transferred to an oven, pre-heated to about 230 degrees. The roast stayed there until its internal temp was about 130 degrees, which took about 2 1/2 hours.

Now the hard part. Be patient. Mike took the roast out of the oven and let it rest, covered by foil, for about an hour. He then kicked the oven up to 500 degrees and put the meat back in for another 20 minutes or so.

That final sear produced a beautiful looking, juicy, smoke-flavored rib roast. He served it with a mild horseradish sauce.

The next day, we ate the leftovers re-heated in a warm water bath sous-vide style. The meat was just as tender as Day One. This could become a family Christmas tradition.

Mike Gagne carves up the finished rib roast. (Photo ©Texas BBQ Posse)
Warming leftovers sous-vide style, the meat was just as tender as Day One. (Photo ©Texas BBQ Posse)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Lights, Camera, Eat BBQ! The Posse -- briefly -- goes Hollywood

George Clooney and Leo DiCaprio can relax. It's unlikely anyone from the Texas BBQ Posse will challenge them for leading roles in Tinseltown.

Still, we had our brush, very briefly, with video fame. And while nothing came of it -- yet, anyway -- the experience was great fun so we thought we would share it with you.

About a year ago, the folks at 12 Forward Entertainment in Dallas approached us about making a "pitch" video for a reality TV show based on the Posse. The video would then be used to sell the concept to producers and networks.

We liked the idea and assembled a group for a quick trip to Billy's Oak Acres BBQ in Fort Worth.

Re-watching the video now, it certainly does provide a good summary of the Posse's origins and purpose, all in less than four minutes.

On camera, co-founder Chris Wilkins probably summed us up best. "Barbecue is an emotional subject," he said, "an incredibly personal subject."

There is also a brief discussion about one of barbecue's great philosophical questions: How much smoke is too much?

"I think I'm in the school of liking smoke," Daniel Goncalves said with conviction, while admitting there have been times when the smoke has overpowered the meat.

"I can't get enough of it," Phil Lamb said of smoke.

And there is a brief diversion into why I'm the most likely Posse member to say I don't like something, and, even, "get punched in the face" because of it.

"You have to remember he's a reporter from the old school and he pisses people off for a living," Jim Rossman said of me.

Make that past tense since I'm now retired. But Rossman, as usual, may have a point.

Anyway, we want to thank Melanie and Terry Wester at 12 Forward for making the video and allowing us to run it here. We do like it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

UPDATE: Step-by-step, cooking butcher paper wrapped brisket - See the video

Pitmaster Marshall Cooper and son Mark wrap a brisket with butcher paper. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse) 

By Marshall Cooper

Six years ago, we wrote about cooking brisket wrapped in butcher paper. It continues to be one of the most read posts on this blog.

As anyone who cooks knows, the more you cook the more you learn. So since that initial post, I've made some refinements to my butcher paper technique that I'd like to share with you in this Posse cooking update and accompanying video.

For me, the major benefit of using butcher paper instead of foil, or leaving meat unwrapped during an entire cook, is that you end up with a better texture of barbecue, very moist and tender and less potential for over steaming. The butcher paper, which is used near the end of the cook, seems to breath, keeping the brisket from drying out while shielding the meat from too much smoke.

Butcher Paper Wrapped Brisket from Gary Barber on Vimeo.

Cooking butcher paper wrapped brisket is really simple if you stick to basics and don’t try to complicate things by using countless techniques you hear about or see at the barbecue joints. Here's how you just keep it simple:

1. Start by buying a choice or prime grade 12-14 pound brisket. Trim the thick fat off the bottom side down to 1/4” or so. Trim the sides as well to 1/4”. Trim the heal off the top side. If you don’t want to bother with trimming, don’t worry about it.  Then, use whatever rub you like. A simple rub for brisket is 1/2 cup coarse ground (16 mesh or butcher grind) fresh black pepper, 1/4 cup of kosher salt and a 1/4 cup of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Or 1/2 cup of black pepper and 1/2 cup of kosher salt & throw in 1-2 tablespoons of granulated garlic. That’s it. Now season the brisket, sprinkling the rub from a red plastic cup, applying a light even coat, not too heavy. You want to be able to still see the meat.

2. Now fire up your smoker so it will burn fairly clean, and bring it to it’s ideal cooking temperature so that it won’t burn up your brisket while it cooks for 10-12 hours, unwrapped. This will probably be 225-250 degrees (F) for most backyard stick burners or charcoal pits. Use whatever wood you like -- hickory, post oak, pecan or a mix of whatever you like. Just get it burning clean and even. Someone once told me if the smoke doesn’t smell good while it’s burning, the meats gonna taste terrible.

3. Place the brisket on the pit cold. On most backyard stick burners, it should probably go fat side up. Fat side down on charcoal pits if the fire is directly below the meat. You decide what works best on your pit.

4. Cook the brisket at a steady temperature. After 4-6 hours you will see water starting to puddle on the top. This is when it’s in the “stall." If you don’t know what the stall is, you can read more about it on Amazing Ribs web site. Basically it’s when the internal water in the brisket begins to evaporate and the meat stops cooking until the water has evaporated. The stall will take around 4-6 hours to complete if you do not wrap. And we are not going to until later. So be prepared to let the brisket cook unwrapped for 9-12 hours. If it looks like the meat is burning, slow the pit down.

5. Once the puddles of water on top of the brisket start to dry up, the brisket is coming out of the stall. The internal meat temperature should be around 175-185 (F).

6. Let the brisket continue to cook until your index finger will sink into the fatty end about an inch. Then wrap the brisket in the pink butcher paper like I show you in the accompanying video. Use this butcher paper available from Amazon, it’s what Aaron Franklin uses in Austin.

Follow the directions in the video by letting the brisket cook 1 to 3 more hours until the butcher paper is saturated. Check for doneness by feeling if it’s floppy. If it is, then check the internal temp if you must.

7. Let the brisket rest for at least 1 to 4 hours! Repeat, because it's so important: Let the brisket rest!

Then enjoy!

Posse member Marshall Cooper is a leading backyard pitmaster with more than 40 years of experience smoking meats. He is a commercial real estate broker at Capstone Commercial Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Inflation watch: Franklin's barbecue and Austin home prices on same track

All sold out at the original Franklin Barbecue trailer in Nov. 2010. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins sent me a photo the other day from a trip we made to the original Franklin Barbecue in November of 2010.

It shows the front of Aaron Franklin's little trailer in Austin and his barbecue prices at the time.

"Sweet memories," Wilkins said in his email subject line.


Franklin then sold his terrific brisket for $13 a pound. Now it's $20 a pound, a nearly 54 percent increase.

Ribs were $11 a pound then; now $17, also a 54 percent increase.

Franklin, of course, has since moved to a permanent building near downtown, which increased operating costs. And there was a huge jump in the price of raw brisket a while back.

Still, that 50 percent barbecue increase occurred over a period when overall consumer prices in the country rose by only about 10 percent.

But compared to another staple of life, shelter, Franklin's prices appear right in line. Since 2010,  the median price of an Austin-area home has jumped more than 50 percent, from about $179,000 to about $275,000.

So, Austin not only has one of the hottest residential real estate markets around but also one of the hottest barbecue markets.

More Franklin price comparisons:

Pulled pork, $11 a pound in 2010, $17 now.

Sausage, $9  vs. $12.

Tipsy Texan sandwich, $4.95 vs. $8.

Single serving sides (potato salad, slaw or beans),  $1.35 vs. $2.50.

Quart-size sides, $8  vs $9.

I'm certainly not an economic expert. But I would think that there is still some upside to both Franklin's prices and Austin homes.
Gary Jacobson carries the Posse's first-ever Franklin brisket to the table in 2010. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)