Friday Find: Texas Barbecue in Canada

Darien List of Beach Hill Smokehouse uses a J&R Oyler Smoker to bring Texas barbecue to the frigid winters of Toronto. From Eater’s Smoke Point, which you can watch videos from here.

Description: At Beach Hill Smokehouse, pitmaster Darien List prides himself on bringing meat with the flavors, spices, and fall-off-the-bone textures of central Texas barbecue to Toronto. In a 7,000 pound indoor smoker, he and his team are able to cook 1,800 pounds of meat at one time, which, in a place that gets as cold as Toronto, comes in handy.

The Oak Texas BBQ & Catering – Nashville, TN (food truck)

Name: The Oak Texas BBQ & Catering
Order: 3 meat combo (brisket, beef hot link, bacon brisket) + cilantro slaw
Pricing: $$

Speedy: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – ordering brisket outside of Texas is a dangerous proposition. However, a few places have opened my eyes to the possibility of awesome brisket outside of Texas, and one in particular made me a believer in food trucks. So when I found out The Oak Texas BBQ was going to be outside my new favorite brewery in Nashville (shout out, Crazy Gnome), I knew I had to try. 

Monk: It’s been a fun ride watching Speedy walk back his original declaration of never having brisket outside of Texas.  

Speedy: I showed up just after noon to a small line, and I quickly got excited seeing the two large Texas style offset smokers burning large chunks of wood. By the look (and smell) of things, I was in for a treat.

Of course, I went with all three meats offered, plus the cilantro slaw on the side (skipping the cheese grits). It wasn’t long before this delicious Texas trio was delivered to my picnic table and I was able to dig in. Of course I started with the brisket. I asked for a mix of fatty and lean and was given two generous slices of brisket. The brisket was cooked perfectly, had sufficient moisture, and a wonderful, peppery bark. It didn’t quite melt in my mouth in the same way that the best brisket does, but it was definitely a brisket to be remembered. Martin’s has officially been unseated as the best brisket I’ve had in Tennessee. 

Monk: Wow, that’s high praise, as Martin’s was fantastic when we tried a couple years back and declared that it was just a slight notch below the best in Texas.

Speedy: Next up was the beef hot link. The hot link had good flavor but could have used a little more snap in the casing, and maybe a touch more heat. I enjoyed it, but it was a distant third place in terms of meats for me. 

Finally, saving the best for last, was the “bacon brisket” aka smoked pork belly. My goodness was this delicious. Surrounded by the same peppery bark as the brisket, but with that great pork flavor, this was the best barbecued meat I’d had in months. Really, really phenomenal stuff and a must order. 

Monk: I smoked a pork belly a few months back in a similar manner (in addition to pork belly burnt ends) and freakin’ loved it. I still haven’t smoked a second one yet, so I need to do that soon so I don’t make myself a liar.

Speedy: The cilantro slaw was nice and crunchy, but could have used a little more vinegar zing. However, it was worth ordering. 

Monk: The Oak sounds fantastic and definitely worth a stop next time I’m in Nashville. Will they be a regular food truck at Crazy Gnome (which I also want to check out)?

Speedy: Great question, Monk. I know they have plans to be back on September 26, but don’t know otherwise. I’m definitely hopeful that it becomes a regular occurrence. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 5 hogs (at Crazy Gnome)
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Beef Hot Link – 3 hogs
“Bacon Brisket” – 5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Monk: For some reason, it’s taken me years to finally read “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” as I assumed it was just yet another barbecue recipe book, albeit one from the man behind the most renowned barbecue restaurant in America. But I’m happy to report that it’s so much more than than – more textbook than cookbook – and is a valuable reference for any backyard smoker.

Aaron Franklin and co-author Jordan Mackay, a California based wine writer, take their time before they get to the meat of the matter. The first chapter covers Franklin’s humble beginnings with barbecue and how he leveled up from backyard smoking on a cheap offset to the restaurant he has today (his wife Stacey partnering with him the whole way). It’s a story that has been well-covered before but perhaps not to the depth Franklin writes about in this first chapter.

Franklin (the writing is primarily in his voice) then goes hardcore textbook on the reader, discussing different types of smokers (including the thermodynamics behind how they work) and even how to construct your own offset or modify an existing one if you’ve got one already.

The next chapters cover the wood, fire management for smoking, and finally the meat. Franklin goes in depth into the different types of wood used for barbecue, how to start and maintain the fire during a smoke, and the different meats he smokes (with a particular focus on brisket, naturally).

Finally, he gets to the main event in Chapter 6 (“The Cook”), which builds on the previous three chapters. From the prep work needed to being the smoke to the basics of smoking meat to different spices commonly found in barbecue rubs to the dreaded stall and finally the myth behind the smoke ring. Any aspiring pitmaster will surely pore over every page of this section, dog-earing along the way.

The last quarter of the book is where you will find recipes on how to smoke each meat as well as what sides and sauces to make and even what to drink with barbecue. Franklin is clearly a beer guy, and he gives in-depth thoughts about which beers pair the best with barbecue (avoid IPAs and higher ABV beers, for instance).

I will surely be returning to “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” as I continue my backyard smoking experiments during the pandemic, and as you will read next week this and the “Franklin Steak” book will soon be occupying permanent space on my bookshelf.

Monk’s 5 Favorite Barbecue Meals of the First Half of 2020

Monk: A little later than I’d normally like to post a first half look-back but then again, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a weird year. At least barbecue is (mostly) back. After a lot of backyard smoking (a little more on that below) and an attempt at mail order, barbecue restaurants started to reopen in late spring and adapted to the current situation with all formerly extinct practices like curbside service and carhops that made perfect sense in a pandemic environment.

In alphabetical order:

Chopped pork tray from Backcountry BBQ (review)

A barn full of firewood out back was a sign of good things to come when it came to Backcountry Barbeque, an unassuming barbecue joint south of Lexington that landed in the top tier of my Lexington barbecue rankings.

Pork belly burnt ends and sliced pork belly from my backyard (story)

While I haven’t quite lived up to my promise that I would smoke pork belly again very soon, it is very much on my to-do list for upcoming backyard smokes. Particularly as the weather starts to cool down this fall. I still think about those pork belly burnt ends from time to time.

Beef rib, brisket, ribs, and cheddar bossa sausage from Jon G’s Barbecue (review)

You guys all know how I feel about Jon G’s by now, so not too much more needs to be written here except that you should make the trip, particularly if they have a beef rib on special (but be prepared to pay for it). I’ll also reiterate how glad I am that Garren and Kelly finally opened their store and are doing it their way.

Chopped pork from Rick’s Smokehouse (review)

Rick’s was the favorite of my new Lexington discoveries as part of my recent Lexington barbecue quest, landing just below my co-favorites Lexington Barbecue and Bar-B-Q Center.

Pork, ribs, and chicken from Southern Smoke BBQ (review)

Not too much more to add from my recent review other than Southern Smoke was my absolutely favorite new barbecue I’ve tried this year. I’ll repeat myself from my review: “Do yourself a favor and find time to make the trip like I did. You won’t regret it.”

What should I try in the second half (or what’s remaining of it) of 2020? Leave a comment with your recommendation.