Thus far on Grill Marks series we've talked about ways to use a Weber kettle grill to do some light smoking. In advance of this weekend's OC Barbecue Festival, let's talk today about heavy-duty smokers and the way a particular place in the middle-of-nowhere Texas cooks the best brisket I've eaten at a restaurant. As Grill Marks progresses, we'll ease you into making slow, smoked meats at home.
Snow's BBQ of Lexington Texas, a hole-in -the-wall (open only on Saturday mornings) came out of obscurity in 2008 when Texas Monthly crowned them the “Best BBQ in Texas.” Fans of perennially popular restaurants around the state asked, “What? Who? Where the hell is Lexington?” and world-wide fame rained down on this one-stoplight town (population 1,178) where cattle ranchers auction their steer just around the corner from Snow's.
Snow's has several BBQ pits in a yard covered by corrugated steel roof. They burn post oak logs down to coals, and shovel those into a variety of different cookers. One is a giant propane tank converted into a “stickburner” with the firebox set off to the the side of the cooking vessel. Others are the sort of brick pits more typically found in the Carolinas: the kind where the burning oak coals line the bottom of the pit, and meat cooks high over those embers, dripping their fat and juices onto the coal bed.
In the barbecue competition world, we say “it's not the cooker, it's the cook” because you can just as easily win a contest in a smoker you built yourself from a steel drum as you can in a $20,000 custom built trailer rig. All the equipment at Snow's looks hand-built in the wonderful way resourceful barbecuers have made their equipment for centuries. There's nothing pretty or fancy about the cookers, but the meat that comes out of them justly deserves the Best BBQ in Texas title.
So…if it's not the equipment, then what makes Snow's so good? Is it the meat prep? Apparently not. Listen to the pit man in this video, and he explains the extremely austere way that meat is cooked in central Texas style of BBQ. I've bleeped out the ingredient list in his “mop” because they didn't agree to have their secrets broadcast on the internet. If you want to know what's in the mop, you'll have to visit Lexington yourself and talk to the pit man. Just get there early on Saturday morning. They'll sell out by noon, and when the food is gone, you're S.O.L.
Hope you enjoyed your vicarious visit to Texas, and we'll see you next time when I show you how to build your own smoker!
The author is an award-winning BBQ Pitmaster who teaches Smoking 101 classes. Details on professorsalt.com