Killen’s Barbecue – Pearland, TX

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Name
: Killen’s Barbecue
Date: 1/20/18
Address: 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX
Order: ½ pound brisket, ½ pound burnt ends (special), 2 sausage links, 1 beef rib, mac & cheese, fried mac & cheese, onion rings, baked beans, green beans (link to menu)
Price: $90

Speedy: I was down in Houston to visit some friends lately, so of course I convinced everyone to pop over to Killen’s, which is known as one of the top joints in Houston. Killen’s is a bit outside of Houston proper, and we went on a rainy day. All this meant we were left with a short line (though it quickly grew as the weather started to clear). Walking up, I could smell the wood coals burning and got a whiff of some beef on the smoker, so I immediately knew I was somewhere serious.

Monk: Seems like you stumbled onto the perfect time to check out Killen’s, seeing as how I’ve been reading about the long lines there for years. Brilliant, Speedy. Brilliant.

Rudy: Killen’s has been on my must-eat list for a while.  I’ve heard great things about since it opened. Houston is not known for having high quality barbecue like some of the other areas of the state, so I know this place has been getting swamped with people. Since I almost never get down to Houston, I haven’t been able to eat there.

Speedy: Killen’s is cafeteria style, where you first order meat, cut right in front of you, and then sides. One of the guys I was with had been there before and advised to skip the pulled pork, so we went all beef, with the exception of the sausage, which is a pork and beef mix. At Killen’s, you can order plates, or by the weight, and we opted for the latter. They only needed two clarifications with our order – fatty or lean brisket (fatty, duh), and jalapeno sausage or regular (regular). After about 20 minutes in line, we were ready to eat.

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Like at any Texas joint, I started with the brisket. I had high expectations based on my prior Texas trip (when I visited Franklin’s and La Barbecue), and let me tell you, this lived up to expectations. The brisket was peppery, moist, and as good as I could have imagined. I think it was 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue, and tasted very similar. I did not use any sauce, as none was needed. Overall, nearly flawless execution.

Monk: Wow, 99% as good as Franklin’s and La Barbecue? That’s high praise!

Rudy: Yeah, that is huge praise! Add to that the 20 minute wait and that’s even better.

Speedy: The sausage was also great. Made in house, the casing had good snap and a nice spiciness to it. It did start to fall apart a bit, but overall, it was great and is not to be missed.

The burnt ends were a daily special – made with wagyu beef and covered in sauce, they were tender and perfectly chunked. Overall, there was a little more sauce than I liked, but it was tangy and good.

The beef rib was the only thing that I thought could have been better. The rib was crazy tender and easy to cut with a plastic knife, but the bark was not as good as I had hoped and did not touch the brisket. Our beef rib was 1.4 pounds, so nearly $30 – I would have much preferred another pound of brisket.

The sides were good, but like any good barbecue joint, they were a compliment and did not stand out in any way.

I also really liked the atmosphere at Killen’s, as there was a large area of outside seating and lots of seating inside. It’s the definition of a Texas joint, and though it’s only been open since 2013, it’s damn good and not to be missed if you’re in the Houston area. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef Rib – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 4.5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Killen's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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Product Review: Maverick Industries Bluetooth Thermometer and BBQ Tool Set

In early December, Maverick Industries were kind enough to send me some products for review just in time for my annual Christmas smoke. This year, I was doing a small 5lb brisket that my brother had mailed in from Mount Pleasant Meats in Texas as well as a bone-in turkey breast.

Here was the final results of the meats, and while they didn’t turn out quite as I was hoping – I had some temperature issues which led to not being able to rest as long as I wanted – the tools were certainly not at fault and more than held their own.

-Monk

ET-735 Bluetooth Thermometer (link)

On my own dime, I’ve used previous models of the wireless meat thermometer from Maverick, but the bluetooth version is pretty slick. It has the same unit that connects to the probes that attach to the grill surface and meat. But instead of a separate unit that reads out the temperatures and sets alarms if the temps start to fall out of range, I downloaded the Redi Check app from Maverick which accomplishes the same thing. Instead of having to keep up with the other unit to monitor temperatures, I was able to just keep my phone on me as I normally do.

The package comes with two probes but it can accommodate up to 2 more for a total of four- I could have used one more myself for the turkey breast since one of them was dedicated to the grill temperature. In the app, you can set a range for your grill and meat and get notifications if either fall out of range. I set my smoker temp to stay between 225 and 275 and the get notified when the brisket flat hit 165 so I could then wrap it in foil to finish it out. I was then easily able to monitor the smoker temp using the app and could tell when it was time for more charcoal if it started dipping, All in all, the app set up is pretty intuitive and I can’t stress how nice it is not to have to carry around or keep up with another piece of equipment during the multiple hour smoking session.

Official description:
The weather-resistant ET-735 connects to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth. No need to stand over the grill or smoker while cooking – you can enjoy your company and monitor the temperature of your food and oven from up to 160 feet away. The ET-735 allows you to connect up to four waterproof probes (ideal when cooking with sticky sauces! – comes with 2) and will alert you via its accompanying app once the desired temperature is reached. The app includes 15 preset temperatures for all types of meat, or you can input a custom temperature.

BBQ Tool Set with Instant Read Thermometer

A complaint in some Weber Style grill tools I got years ago was the fact that it didn’t come with a carrying case and the individual tools in the set could easily get separated from one another. This BBQ tool set from Maverick does have a carrying case, and its a nice heavy duty bag at that. The stainless steel fork, spatula, and tongs included in this set are all high quality and handled the rigors of moving the brisket and turkey breast on and off the smoker and onto the tray and cutting board with ease. And bonus! It also comes with a digital instant thermometer in the vein of the Thermapen that gets a temp reading within a few seconds. A very nice set.
Official description:
Set Includes
  • PT-75 Digital Instant – Read BBQ Thermometer, Stainless Steel Fork, Stainless Steel Spatula, Stainless Steel Tongs, and a Convenient Heavy-Duty Tool Bag
  • Ergonomic Handle and Holes for Hanging
  • Tool Bag Includes Customized Pocket to Hold Thermometer

The Pedalin’ Pig – Banner Elk, NC

IMG_1547Name: The Pedalin’ Pig
Date: 12/28/17
Address: 4235 Hwy 105 South, Banner Elk, NC 28604
Order: Half pound brisket plate with brunswick stew and BBQ slaw (link to menu)
Price: $14.95

Monk: Usually, I try to close out my year by taking a short trip to a barbecue joint an hour or two away but this year our family took a short, two night trip to the mountains immediately after Christmas. While the mountains wouldn’t be my first choice destination for barbecue, on our way back from the Boone area we passed by The Pedalin’ Pig in Banner Elk (sadly, our first choice Old Hampton Store and Barbeque, a wood-smoked barbecue joint in Linville, was closed until February) as we took a Grandfather Mountain detour on our way back to Charlotte so I was able to get in one last review in 2017. 

A couple days after Christmas, The Pedalin’ Pig was hopping with with folks stopping before or after skiing at  nearby Sugar Mountain on a bitterly cold day. Each of the dining rooms were more or less packed and there was a line out the door. The wait for larger parties went upwards of 45 minutes by the time we left but our party of 4 was able to be seated in less than 5 minutes.

Mrs. Monk ordered the half pound pulled pork plate while I ordered the brisket plate, allowing us to combine our powers into a 2-meat combo plate (which isn’t an option on the menu). According to my handy dandy NC BBQ Map, they use a wood-assisted gasser (my guess would be a Southern Pride) but they were able to get some decent bark on the pork. Mrs. Monk’s half-pound portion had plenty of it mixed in and the meat had a nice smokey taste. The gasser was able to get a somewhat decent bark on my brisket, but the slices were all taken from the flat and as a result were pretty dried out. Still, some decent flavor from those slices of meat.

The bbq slaw was a good rendition of a Lexington-style red slaw while the brunswick stew hit the spot on a cold day. Mrs. Monk’s sides of collards and cheddar grits were equally successful. 

And as loyal readers know, outside of a couple of outliers mountain barbecue is at best considered hit or miss. The Pedalin’ Pig is more on the hit side of the spectrum while not quite essential. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs
Pedalin' Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook’s BBQ – Lexington, NC

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Name
: Cook’s BBQ
Date: 11/25/17
Address: 366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292
Order: Monk: Three meat combo plate (chopped pork, sausage, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, fries, and Cheerwine; Speedy: Three meat combo plate (coarse chopped pork, brisket, ribs) with red slaw, hush puppies, tater tots, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Price: ~$17 each

Speedy: Monk and I were both embarking on a post-Thanksgiving drive from High Point to Charlotte (albeit in different vehicles), so we planned on a noon rendezvous at Cook’s BBQ in Lexington. As I was driving up, I thought that I might be entering a scene from Deliverance, and that possibly Monk was trying to kill me. Good news – he wasn’t, and Cook’s BBQ is real.

Monk: It is a bit of a weird location for a barbecue restaurant but I would never “Deliverance” you, Speedy. Off of 85, you go drive down Highway 8 south of Lexington proper and take a few turns on country roads. Then you drive past a few houses before happening on Cook’s in a dead-end at the end of a residential street.

The restaurant has been around since 1969 (though the current owners took over in 1984) so they must be doing something right, even if I feel it’s hardly ever mentioned along with the other Lexington joints. To add to its bona fides, it was also included along with Lexington Barbecue, Skylight Inn, Allen & Son’s, and other NC barbecue heavy hitters in this 2012 Washington Post primer on NC barbecue ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I had been wanting to stop in for years, particularly once I realized they were open on Sundays – a rarity for most family-owned barbecue joints.

Speedy: One thing that’s a little different about Cook’s from most Lexington style joints is the variety of meats. In addition to pork, they have brisket, ribs, and sausage. As Monk and I do when we see lots of meat, we ordered it all. I opted to go with coarse chopped pork (for a change of pace), the ribs, and the brisket. Monk had the same order, but subbed sausage instead of brisket. We both had red slaw and some form of fried potatoes (tots or fries).

Monk: The table agreed that the sausage was the best meat that we tasted that day, though I don’t know where Cook’s gets its sausage from or whether its house made (I suspect its not). In any case, it’s good.

Speedy: Agree, and I will order it should I go back. The brisket surprised me. NC brisket is generally plain bad (I’ve sworn it off a time or two myself), but this stuff was decent. Not on par with anything I’ve had in Texas, but it was definitely passable.

Monk: I did read afterwards that its one of only two places in Lexington that even serves brisket, so its definitely an anomaly. The ribs were a bit overcooked and fell apart as soon as I attempted to pick up the rack. Not to mention they were overly slathered in a thick, sweet sauce. I would avoid.

Speedy: I didn’t care for the coarse pork. It was a mistake to order it that way. Monk enjoyed the fine chopped better. The sides were all good – particularly the hush puppies.

Monk: I had higher hopes for Cook’s being a hidden gem that might sneak into my personal best of NC list but perhaps my expectations were too high. While Speedy and I agreed that the meats were mostly above average, I don’t know that either of us will be going out of our way to make a special trip out to Cook’s Barbecue anytime soon, threat of Deliverance or not.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Cook's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Find: Eater visits Pecan Lodge

I’ve still yet to go to Pecan Lodge (Rudy liked it a lot) but when I do go I plan to bring some friends and get The Trough.

Ask a Texan what their favorite smokehouse is and the answers will span the state. Ask someone from Dallas, and chances are you’ll hear the name Pecan Lodge thrown around. With the help and desire of their following, Pecan Lodge owners Justin and Diane Fourton turned their brisket out of a truck business into a brick and mortar restaurant that’s hard to miss thanks to a constant line out the door.

Friday Find: Southerners Try NY BBQ

A different twist on the “Foreigners Try American BBQ” video concept. A recently transplanted Texan gets a mini barbecue tour of Texas joints in NYC: Fette Sau in Brooklyn and Hill Country and Blue Smoke in Manhattan.

Gotta say – why didn’t they try Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook though? I can only assume because it isn’t a strictly Texas joint despite it having both brisket and beef ribs.

Linkdown: 9/27/17

– The Whole Hog Barbecue Championship is this weekend in Raleigh (along with the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival)

More coverage from HuffPost

– Marie, Let’s Eat! explores south central Kentucky barbecue; one of the two joints is in the town of Tompkinville, which may have more barbecue joints per capita than Lexington, NC (we even get a brief shoutout!)

– Some photos taken immediately after the fire at Franklin Barbecue

– For the next time you have leftovers after smoking

– Midwood Smokehouse’s burger made of chuck and brisket (and topped with a slice of brisket for an extra $2) makes Charlotte Magazine’s list of best burgers in the city

– Even Phoenix is getting in on the barbecue journalism; their new barbecue column “Smoke Rings” just started

– A couple of barbecue joints on this list – Bar-B-Q King and The Improper Pig

Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que – Gatlinburg, TN

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Name
: Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
Date: 9/3/17
Address: 714 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Order: Bar-B-Que Combo (chopped pork, brisket, and sausage) with jalapeno mac and cheese and coleslaw (link to menu)
Price: $14.99

Monk: While our last barbecue stop on the Monk family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee was a bit of a bust for reasons other than barbecue we got another opportunity a couple days later while we were playing tourist in downtown Gatlinburg. Across the street from the aerial tram Ober Gatlinburg (our main plans for the day), just happened to be Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que and made the decision easy for us.

I know from the review of the Pigeon Forge store from Marie, Let’s Eat! that I was to expect fine-but-not-exceptional barbecue and guess what? Grant was right. The pork was perfectly acceptable but Bennett’s seemed to be very proud of their four sauces found on the table. None of them made a huge difference in the again, perfectly acceptable pork.

The brisket was dry and below average while the best of the three meats that day was the sliced sausage. A little of the table mustard sauce accentuated it nicely. This was the favorite meat of both myself and Mrs. Monk.

Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is part of the locally-owned Johnson Family chain of restaurants that includes pizza, southern, and ice cream with locations in nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. To their credit, they could serve below-average barbecue to tourists simply because they know that they’ll continue to make money regardless but thankfully that’s not the case. While they are a tourist destination that happens to serve halfway decent barbecue, it won’t blow your mind.

For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 2 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Beef – 2 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Find: House of Carbs – “Barbecue for the Forces of Good”

A barbecue-focused episode this week. In the first segment, I would describe fellow Ringer colleagues David Shoemaker and Bryan Curtis as two guys who grew up in Texas but I would classify as more like dabblers into the world of barbecue. Nonetheless, they talk brisket and Texas barbecue with House, who’s experienced La Barbecue

The second segment, Food News, isn’t barbecue-related so skip ahead to 42:25 if you want to hear Danny Chau discuss his excellent article about a recent trip to Charleston to visit Rodney Scott BBQ and Lewis Barbecue and discover the future of barbecue. Danny seems to know what he’s talking about a little bit more when it comes to the world of barbecue.

The Ringer’s Joe House is joined by colleagues and fellow podcasters David Shoemaker and Bryan Curtis to talk Texas barbecue, its growth, and expansion to New York City (3:35). Then House is joined by Juliet Litman for this week’s Food News (23:00). Lastly House sits down with Danny Chau to discuss his recent trip to Charleston and his thesis on South Carolina barbecue (42:25).

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Franklin Barbecue
Date: 7/21/17
Address: 900 E 11th, Austin, TX
Order: 2 pounds brisket, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound sausage (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish

Speedy: Less than 24 hours after my excellent visit to La Barbecue, I was ready to get back at it, this time to the legendary Franklin Barbecue. Rudy dropped me off at 6 AM to get in line and went to take care of some things at work, re-joining me about 8. Getting there that early, I expected to be first in line, but in reality, there were three groups and about 12 people in front of me. Fortunately, I was still there in plenty of time to be shaded for my entire wait, which was hugely clutch. I spent most of the time sitting in a tailgate chair and sipping Lone Stars, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good morning.

Rudy: The shade part was the best by far. I don’t know how the people in the 2nd half of the line made it, I guess just more Lone Stars.  

Speedy: Around 9:00, someone came around to ask what we were ordering, in order to get a good idea when food was going to run out. You weren’t bound by the order, but it was a good way to understand how far the food would go.

Around 10:30 am, I went inside to hit the bathroom (which they opened up around 9:30), and I saw the Godfather himself – Aaron Franklin. I was a little bummed he didn’t recognize me as a Barbecue Bro (AARON – ARE YOU EVEN READING??), but it was pretty cool he was there.

Rudy: I’ll chalk it up to him just being intimidated by your presence. I am sure he scampered to the back to make sure everything was up to snuff. In all seriousness, I think it is great that they open the building early to people that need to use the bathroom or want to purchase drinks or merchandise. I feel like many places would keep the doors closed until they open for food. That was a nice touch.

Speedy: Eventually, the restaurant opened, and Rudy and I were to the front of the line pretty quickly. Like at La Barbecue, we were given a bit of brisket to much on, and it was every bit as good as the previous day, only this time I was expecting it. No matter – we placed our order, got our meat, and found a table to sit at and dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket since that’s what it’s known for and my God, it is incredible. The peppery bark was perfect, the meat was tender and flavorful, and it was simply divine. The previous day I had claimed I had eaten the best brisket I’d ever tasted, but this was every bit its equal. Just absolutely phenomenal.

Rudy: I agree, if barbecue places in Texas are judged primarily on brisket, you have to hit it out of the park to be listed as the best, and Franklin’s did. The bark was amazing, but the flavors ran all the way through the meat, so no matter what bite you got, it was great. We got moist brisket, and the fat was perfectly rendered as opposed to many other places where you end up with a huge glob of fat with drier meat around it.

Speedy: Rudy had been raving about the ribs, so they were what I tried next. I’ve eaten lots of awesome ribs in my day, but these ribs stacked right up there with the best of them. They were perfectly cooked – giving a clean bite every time. The flavor was amazing – with just the right amount of rub that had a touch of sweetness. The ribs were glazed, so neither wet nor dry, which worked perfectly. These may not have been the best ribs I’ve ever had, but I’d say they’re in the top 5. Overall, you’d be remiss to skip out on these at Franklin.

Rudy: Top 5?!?! I need to eat some of the places you’ve been eating! I love them because of the flavor, the fact that they are tender and moist without being wet ribs. They are my favorite by far.

Speedy: The pork was also a great showing. Tender and a little vinegary, it was everything you’d expect from a good pulled pork. In a normal setting, I’d write more to rave about the pork, but it was a distant third in this offering. Not to say it wasn’t very good, but brisket and ribs were the co-headliners.

The sausage was good – considerably better than La Barbecue, but I wouldn’t order it again. Stomach room at Franklin is too precious to waste on just an above average meat. At many barbecue places this would be the top offering, but at Franklin, the brisket and ribs rose to the top.

Rudy: The pork was a pleasant surprise for me because I had not had it before. What I’ve had other places is usually a peppery pulled pork (which this included) but the difference here was the slight taste of vinegar that you don’t get with most other Texas pulled pork. That gave it a distinct flavor compared to the other meats and also made it closer to NC pulled pork, which was a welcome bit of home for me. As far as the sausage, I agree, it was good but I could have done without it in lieu of more of the other 3 meats.

Speedy: The question that came up often after the trip was whether Franklin Barbecue was worth the 5 hour wait. It’s not something I’d do every weekend, but I think it was absolutely worth it. Overall, the wait was a rather enjoyable experience, and if I wasn’t already obsessed with barbecue, I’d call the meat life-changing. I can’t wait for my next trip to Franklin’s!

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 hogs
Franklin Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato