Friday Find: “Here’s Why Wood is the Unsung Hero of Texas Barbecue”

Monk: Zagat travels from New York to Lockhart, Texas to understand why post oak is so instrumental to that style of barbecue. Post oak – so named because it grows straight enough to make fence posts – is native to central Texas and in this video is referred to as “wholesomely sweet” and the “terroir of Texas barbecue.” The host even spends time with the hardworking laborers who have cut down and split it for Kreuz Market since 1975 before treating them to a meal there (a nice touch).

(h/t The Smoke Sheet)

Description:
Texas’ Hill Country is known as the center of American barbecue culture thanks to an abundance of amazing local ingredients. And while most people recognize cattle as the secret to the state’s legendary cuisine, it’s Texas Post Oak that helps put everything in motion. The wood is so popular that restaurants like New York City’s Hill Country Barbecue Market won’t use anything else, even if it means having it shipped over 1,700 miles every week. Zagat traveled to Texas’ famed Kreuz Market in Lockhart to discover what makes this regional wood a favorite amongst pitmasters – and why making that beloved brisket is a lot more dangerous than we think.

Black’s Barbecue – Lockhart, TX (mail order)

Name: Black’s Barbecue
Order: Black’s Sampler (2 lbs lean brisket, 2 lbs ribs, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Jalapeno and Cheese, 4 rings of Edgar Black’s Homemade Sausage – Garlic)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: Like most of you, Monk and I are sheltered in place (right?! right?!), so unable to visit our favorite ‘cue joints for more than takeout. But despite this, the blog must go on. What better time to try something I’ve never had before: mail order barbecue? I know many of the more famous joints (and some perhaps not so famous) offer this, and I’ve always been curious. So if I can’t make it to Texas, let’s bring Texas to Tennessee. Rudy and I had ventured to Black’s back in 2014, and loved it, so that seemed like an appropriate order. 

Monk: Though I unfortunately didn’t make it on that trip with you and Rudy, from the report it sounded great (particularly the brisket). So yes, I was in on this idea because as Chip Douglas told Steven Kovacs “necessity is the mother of invention,” Speedy.

We each placed our separate orders earlier in the week but the barbecue is not overnight shipped from Black’s in Lockhart until Wednesday. Open the styrofoam box and each meat is vacuum packed separately with dry ice that evaporates as it warms. And wow, is there ever a ton of smoked meat in that box. 

This…

…turned into all this…

Speedy: With all this meat, it took me three sittings to eat the brisket, two on the ribs, and one for each type of sausage. I started the place you should start with at any Texas joint – the brisket. Living in an 800 square foot apartment with all communal space shut down, I had no choice but to heat the brisket in an oven. So I wrapped that 2 pound brisket in foil, added some Worcestershire to retain moisture, sprinkled on a little extra pepper, and let it heat for 45 min. I was very concerned with what the product was going to taste like, given it was lean brisket (I generally prefer fatty) and reheated in an oven, but holy hell was it good.

The brisket was plenty moist and had amazing flavor and good bark. I was immediately transported to Texas and can say this was better than any brisket I’ve had in Tennessee and rivals what you get straight off the smoker most places. I could not have been happier with this. I ended up chopping leftovers for sandwiches the next day (lunch and dinner), and the brisket remained very good. Overall, a great experience.

Monk: I definitely was a little wary of lean brisket shipped frozen overnight and then reheated in an oven (I have access to my smoker but still went the oven route for ease). Worst case, I imagined it would end up dry no matter how well I reheated it and I’d have to chop it up and add sauce for chopped brisket sandwiches as Speedy did. I didn’t add anything into the foil wrap like but what came out was plenty moist and had that same peppery bark described above. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of brisket that Black’s delivered. 

As far as the ribs, I took the same approach as the brisket and simply wrapped them in foil unadorned and they also came out solid. While I like ribs, I don’t like them as much as Speedy and also don’t have a preference between dry and wet. My first time I ate them dry and found them to be flavorful and smoky and not too dry. My second time a few days later, I added sauce and while I personally didn’t find it necessary, it worked well. All in all, I believe I ended up liking the ribs more than Speedy.

Speedy: I did the ribs in two sittings. The first one I didn’t add anything to the foil to reheat. I thought the flavor was good, but the ribs were under-seasoned. The second time, I added sauce before heating, and I thought that served the ribs much better. Even reheating, I could taste the smokiness and recognize the quality, but I think adding the sauce was necessary. 

At the time of writing, I had only tasted the garlic sausage. I thought the flavor of the sausage was really good, but I didn’t get the much desired snap from the casing. I blame this on the oven reheat, as I don’t feel sausage is made for that as opposed to the grill. But I was still happy with the sausage.

Monk: I thought each of the three sausages had good flavor, particularly the jalapeño cheddar. My major complaint about the sausage was that it was perhaps a little greasy and crumbled apart when I sliced. For me, it was my least favorite of the meats. Upon reheating in the microwave on subsequent eatings, the casing was rubbery and almost inedible. Perhaps some pan frying or grilling is in order to crisp up the skin for the remaining links. 

Speedy: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the order from Black’s. It was fairly pricey ($95 including shipping), but there was A LOT of food there – probably enough protein for 8-10 meals. I definitely prefer the experience of going to a restaurant more, but if we’re stuck in quarantine much longer, I may end up a repeat customer.

Monk: Even with the slightly different experiences in reheating between Speedy and me, I would also consider ordering from Black’s Barbecue again, even though shipping was even pricier for me in NC than it was to Speedy in Tennessee. Speaking of which, may I propose we try White Swan or Morris Barbecue or Parker’s for our next mail order review to give NC barbecue equal time? After all, it does indeed look like we’ll be in this circumstance for a bit longer.

Ratings:
Experience – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Linkdown: 8/1/18

– House of Swank in Raleigh designed an iconic NC barbecue t-shirt but has recently learned that the design has been ripped off by Tervis tumblers that are being sold at some Bed, Bath, and Beyonds

– Has Lockhart lost some of its luster?

– Savor Virginia has a Richmond barbecue tour

– No, of course Franklin Barbecue is not closing

– Aaron Franklin does, however, have a new cookbook in the works that isn’t about barbecue but is sticking with beef

– The Y’All Sauce Co. out of Winston-Salem is a new line of barbecue sauces inspired by Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi; sauces from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana are in development

– Steve Raichlen remembers Jonathan Gold

– What are your thoughts on the term “pitmaster?”

– Nice find by Twitter user @MatthewTessnear

Linkdown: 2/25/15

– The chapter on Midwood Smokehouse from Marie, Let’s Eat! was posted earlier this week (our photos from the meet up here); he also checked out Mac’s Speed Shop during his Charlotte-area travels in January

– More on Smoke Modern Barbeque’s second location in Ballantyne

– A review of Uncle J’s BBQ and Restaurant in Kings Mountain from the Gaston Gazette

Expansion into the South is a sign of City Barbeque’s success; Speedy checked out their Cary location a few weeks back and thought it was decent

– Could Aaron Franklin actually win a James Beard Award?

– Did you know a barbecue pork sandwich chain used to dominate Texas and the rest of the south?

– Lexington makes the list on Thrillist’s list of best barbecue cities in the US

– Lockhart also makes the list at #3, and TMBBQ has a timeline of the city’s barbecue

– Is chicken mull having a moment? First a post on The Daily South, then another on Serious Eats (granted, both by Robert Moss), now Garden and Gun has a recipe