Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cooking the perfect brisket - Louie Mueller style

Several of the posse members, including me, have purchased smokers in the past month. We're trying to get as good at smoking meat as we are at eating it, with mixed results so far. The pork butt is pretty easy to get right, but the flawless brisket is another story.

Original posse member Gary Barber passed along the link to a great new web video today, where Wayne Mueller shows how to cook the perfect brisket. We met Wayne during our Central Texas BBQ Tour last November, pictured above. He's the co-owner of legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, started by his grandfather in 1949.

Wayne shares his tips with Andrea Valdez of Texas Monthly in a recently-released web video, titled "How to smoke the perfect brisket." It's 13 minutes long and worth every minute of viewing.

Some basic tips from Wayne, as we search for the ultimate technique:

"The less skill, the more fat."

"Never flip a brisket"

"Be quite liberal with your rub."

I can't wait to fire up the smoker again in the early morning this weekend, forever in search of smoking the perfect brisket.

(Photo by Gary Barber)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The G Man comes up short again

Gary Barber, the Texas BBQ Posse's biggest eater, caught flak during the Marshall Cooper BBQ fest for once again coming up short in the end. Gary, aka G, started building his legend on our first BBQ tour to central Texas, as described by Dallas Morning News writer and posse founding member Gary Jacobson.

"Think of the fullest you have ever been at a Thanksgiving meal, then multiply by two," Barber said, after eating five more-than-full meals in 24 hours.

After a strong performance again on the East Texas BBQ tour, Gary B. faded during the Fort Worth BBW Tour, where Gary J. wrote, "Even our biggest eater, Gary Barber, couldn't keep pace." He could only nurse his brisket sandwich at Smokey's, our last stop.

Here's a recent email trail, as posse members give Gary grief for leaving half a brisket sandwich on the table at Marshall Cooper's.

Email headline: This photo sums up our friend G at the Marshall Cooper BBQ throw down

Chris W: One pound brisket sandwich leftover on G's plate, BRUUUUUUTAL.........

Irwin: Damn dude, what up G?

Gary J.: To paraphrase Ahna, it's sad...

Gary B.: After 2 sandwiches and half a dozen ribs on the first plate. I would have never put it down if it weren't for the fine homemade pecan pie that was put in my face. What a fine day.

Chris W.: You know i HAD to dog you my friend!

Gary B.: I wouldn't expect anything less, but sometimes the photo doesn't tell the whole story. I dish enough out, so I can take it.

Irwin: You let dessert get in the way of BBQ? Was it BBQ pecan pie?

Gary B.:It was one of the best pieces of pecan pie I have ever had. The ice cream was starting to melt. The choice was clear. I had to act fast, regardless of the ridicule I knew I would endure over not finishing my third sandwich.

(Photos by Mike Gibson & Chris Wilkins)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Posse favorites: Clark's french fried corn on the cob

Clark's Outpost BBQ in Tioga offers a unique side dish to go with your ribs and brisket. And no, we aren't talking about their world-famous lamb fries, aka the cowboy's favorite.

We took a road trip to Clark's last month, to do our posse duty of sampling various smoked meats while passing on the sides. Our waitress mentioned we should try their french fried corn on the cob, it was something special. We gave up without a fight and ordered one each.

The deep-fried corn cob arrives at your table warm and covered with butter. It has the texture of perfectly grilled corn but melts in your mouth. I'm pretty sure it's the best corn on the cob I've ever tasted.

We're planning a small tour of north Texas joints next month, starting at Clark's. The "no sides" BBQ tour rule will have to be tossed aside so everyone can sample a true Posse favorite.

Clark's Outpost BBQ, 101 Hwy. 377 at Gene Autry Drive, Tioga, Texas. Open Mon-Thurs 11 am- 9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-9:30 pm, Sun 11 am-8:30 pm.

Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Monday, May 10, 2010

The secret is out: It’s Yum Yum wood

Every pit master has secrets. Eddie Brown at Off The Bone in Forest Hill, the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s top-ranked barbecue joint, is no different.
What kind of wood do you use in your smoker, we asked Brown on our recent Tarrant County tour.
“Yum Yum,” he said.
What’s that?
“Can’t tell you, it’s a secret,” he said. “But it starts with a ‘P.’”
Brown smiled and nodded his head.
He said he mixes pecan with oak. And he kept that proportion to himself.

Off the Bone BBQ, 5144 Mansfield Hwy, Forest Hill. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

(Photo by Chris Wilkins)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

Texas BBQ Posse members were treated to a special stop on the barbeque trail on Saturday afternoon. Expert backyard pitmaster Marshall Cooper invited us to join his family and friends for an incredible spread of smoked meats and sides.

Marshall began following our BBQ tours through Gary Jacobson's stories in The Dallas Morning News.

He wrote Gary, "I would like nothing more than to include you and your entourage at my next backyard BBQ. I will slow smoke beef brisket, pork ribs and pork shoulder and make sure there is enough for everybody to eat until they are stuffed! Just let me know if you guys could handle it."

Marshall started his dueling smokers the night before, loading them with over 100 pounds of meat. Eighteen hours later the feast for 25 folks began, topped off by pecan pie baked by his wife Sheilagh, from a four-generation Marshall family recipe.

He has learned many lessons since he bought his first smoker in 1987, most importantly that cooking great meat demands time and patience. The proof was in the brisket, pork and ribs, some of the best we've had in Dallas.

(Photos by Chris Wilkins & Tom Fox)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Barbecue Chronicles: Fort Worth area has good barbecue, but it's wise to space the tastings

On barbecue tours, it's better to plan a break for the middle rather than the end.

We learned that valuable lesson on a recent Saturday during a 100-mile, nine-hour excursion to four places in and around Fort Worth. Since the stops were close, all the eating was stuffed into five hours.

Even our biggest eater, Gary Barber, couldn't keep pace.

Barber (a multimedia editor at The Dallas Morning News) ate a half-pound of sausage, a quarter-pound of brisket and two ribs at the first stop, Off the Bone in Forest Hill, at 11 a.m. By our last stop, Smokey's Barbeque in Fort Worth at 3:30 p.m., he could barely nibble on a brisket sandwich.

"All my energy was devoted to digestion," he said.

Still, we accomplished our mission: Fact-checking D Magazine's recent list of the top barbecue joints in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as rated by Full Custom Gospel BBQ blogger Daniel Vaughn. The places we toured were all among his top six.

Our conclusion: None of them beats the only Dallas County joint to crack Vaughn's top half-dozen - Meshack's in Garland at No. 5.

After trips to the Central Texas barbecue belt last November and East Texas in February, this was our barbecue posse's third tour. We had our largest turnout, starting with 21 people and finishing with 13, including the first female posse members.

Suzi Woo, wife of News photographer David Woo, said she was struck by how serious everyone was. She said she'd never seen so much discussion "about a strip of meat, except perhaps on the Food Network."

Ahna Hubnik, a video editor at The News, brought expertise honed by eating barbecue at her grandparents'.

Smoke, Hubnik says, is mandatory: It "should be like a good perfume, just enough to make you wonder if it was a natural occurrence."

An early start

With so many people, cars converged from several directions. Our vehicle left Oak Cliff about 10 a.m., with trip planner Chris Wilkins driving. Others in the group were Michael Hamtil and newcomer Bryan Gooding, a friend of mine.

Wilkins and Hamtil work on the photo staff at The News. Gooding is a studio manager for QuadPhoto.

It seemed that Gooding had hardly finished explaining his recipe and technique for smoked jalapeƱo pimiento cheese - it tastes awesome - when we arrived at Off the Bone.

Still a half-hour from opening, we walked to the back of the former Dairy Queen near Interstate 20 and Loop 820. There we saw what being named the best barbecue joint in the area can do for business: the recent addition of eight feet of new smoker, doubling capacity.

As he loaded more ribs onto racks, owner and pitmaster Eddie Brown told us what he expected to serve that day: 90 slabs of ribs, 240 pounds of brisket, 40 pounds of sausage, 40 pounds of hot links and lots of chickens.

His talk made us hurry to the front of the building so we wouldn't be too far back in line. When you tour with a group our size, you create your own traffic jam.

Brown's brisket looked and tasted like roast beef, a letdown, but we praised his ribs, sausage and chicken.

As we finished eating, Brown took a break to talk.

He said he had added staff to reduce waiting times and admitted that maintaining quality while cooking so much meat was a challenge. He said he opened his place just four years ago but had been developing his technique for 25 years, cooking for the toughest judges around - his children.

"When I got it right, they'd tell me," said Brown, who cooks with a mixture of oak and pecan wood.

Brisket jerkyWe then headed south a short distance to Everman, home of Longoria's BBQ, rated No. 3 in the area. As we snooped around the rear of the building, trying to see the smokers, David Longoria opened the back door and invited us in.

He said his brother, Danny, was usually Mr. Outside, the one who explains their operation to barbecue enthusiasts, and he was Mr. Inside, the one gets up close and personal with smokers, grills and ovens.

"It's a greasy job, but not a dirty job," he said. He slowly spun a rack in a tall smoker, demonstrating how easily he could check meat.

David also does a pretty good job explaining.

He said that his father, Fidencio ("Fred"), built the wood-framed place about a dozen years ago. There are eating tables in the ordering area, as well as two separate dining rooms, one that Fred decorated as a tribute to James Dean. The smokers and grills are in an area covered by a roof but only partially enclosed.

Longoria's has some unusual specialties: brisket sausage, smoked brisket burgers and brisket jerky. We all liked the sausage and jerky.

Next, we headed west a short distance to Interstate 35 and then turned north. We exited on the edge of downtown Fort Worth and made our way to White Settlement Road and Angelo's, rated No. 6 by Vaughn.

Before the tour, there was controversy about including Angelo's. Despite its high ranking, the once-great place had lost a step, some posse members argued. They were right. Angelo's pork ribs were nearly uniform in size and shape, causing Gooding to say: "These look like they were extruded from a machine."

Some of us liked the wild-game trophies that covered the walls, especially the unusual stringer of nine giant bass, frozen by the taxidermist as if they were flapping.

We quickly finished eating and headed to the last stop, Smokey's Barbeque, on the east side of Fort Worth, rated No. 4.

Smokey's ribs were good, with an interesting combination taste: first sweet, then peppery.

While Barber ordered his sandwich, which he could only nurse, Hubnik showed some stamina. She ordered the four-meat sampler, planning to take home what she couldn't finish. She also had a piece of strawberry buttermilk pie. "Pie is a must after barbecue," she said.

We left Smokey's, most of us much wiser about our eating limits, and headed to photographer Tom Fox's house in Arlington. Tom's place has a huge, shaded deck. That deck is the main reason we packed so many tour stops so closely. We wanted to end the day drinking a beer, smoking cigars and talking barbecue.

Everyone was upbeat, despite the crammed eating schedule. There was some disappointment.

"All the brisket I ordered today was terrible, and that makes me sad," Hubnik said.

Above all, we vowed, next trip we'll plan our quality break time for the middle.

Fort Worth barbecue tour itinerary

11 a.m.: Arrive at Off the Bone BBQ, 5144 Mansfield Highway, Forest Hill; 817-563-7000. Open Mon-Sat 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
12:30 p.m.: Longoria's BBQ, 100 Christopher Drive, Everman; 817-568-9494. Open Mon-Fri 10:30am-7pm, Sat 10:30am-4pm.
2 p.m.: Angelo's, 2533 White Settlement Drive, Fort Worth; 817-332-0357. Mon-Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3:30 p.m.: Smokey's Barbeque, 5300 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth; 817-451-8222. Mon-Thurs 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Story by Gary Jacobson
Photos by Chris Wilkins

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Woe is Woo on Fort Worth tour

Regular readers of our barbecue chronicles will remember David Woo, pictured below, the great wheelman on our East Texas tour in February. Newspapers and websites across the country picked up the story, which lauded him, and his GPS, for helping us navigate rural roads.

On our Fort Worth Tour in April, however, Woo’s GPS failed him.

He followed its instructions to the letter and wound up trapped in the middle of the packed Downtown Arts Festival. Some of us, by luck, detoured around downtown.

“I forgot about the festival,” Woo said as he, and those in a couple other tour cars that followed him, showed up late at our last stop, Smokeys on the east side of Fort Worth.

A barbecue tour wheelman can never relax.

(Photos by Michael Hamtil & Chris WIlkins)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Franklin BBQ: The little trailer that could

Dallas Morning News colleague Michael Ainsworth was recently on assignment in Austin when he asked advice on which barbeque joint to visit on his way back to Dallas. I directed him to Franklin BBQ, a little place in Austin that's been generating big buzz lately on the Texas BBQ trail.

Michael arrived at the auqa blue and white trailer located in a parking lot beside I-35 around 2pm on a Wednesday. They were about to close but still had brisket left. Franklins is a "til the meat runs" out place when it comes to a closing time.

He messaged me 30 minutes later saying this was the best meal he'd ever had in his life. Even better, he brought some big chunks of brisket back to Dallas. That meat tasted just as good sitting in my living room in Dallas later that evening as it did for Michael sitting at a picnic table outside the little trailer that could.

Franklin Barbecue, 3421 N. I-35, Austin, TX 78722, (512) 653-1187. Open Wed. - Sun. 11am-4pm or when the meat runs out.

(Photos by Michael Ainsworth)