Thursday, January 21, 2010
FORT WORTH: Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ
301 Stockyards Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76106
Open Sun-Thur 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9:30
The newest palace of BBQ has opened in Fort Worth right next to Billy Bob's. This location is both cavernous and squeaky clean. Like the other two Cooper's locations, ordering here is done at the pit at the entry. This is really just a showy warming pit, but the real work is done out back in the (oddly uncelebrated) fire pits where mesquite wood is burned down to coals for high heat cooking. Low and slow is not the Cooper's way. These meats are cooked with direct heat from coals rather than smoked with indirect heat and wood smoke. You'll notice the lack of smokiness in the flavor, but this is what Cooper's fan have come to expect. They've also come to expect some expensive meat covered in salt and pepper.
I ordered a sampler of brisket, pork ribs, a beef rib and a "Big Chop". After all, Cooper's calls themselves the "Home of the Big Chop". As your meat is cut you have the option to have it dipped in a thin vinegar sauce, or to leave it naked. I dipped the chop and pork ribs, but left the brisket and beef rib untouched. It didn't matter much after the kid weighing my meat wrapped it all together in a single piece of butcher paper thus spreading the sauce all around.
If you're new here, you may be stunned once you reach the register. I purposely ordered more than I could eat, but it was $34 for my spread, which included a pleasant and eggy potato salad. The chop is precut, so you don't have much choice in the size you get. Mine was 1.3 pounds and cost over $15. That's a steep price if you want just a taste of their signature cut. The profits are also aided by the self servingly generous portions cut by the guys in the pit. I whittled down the amount of brisket I was offered to a paltry .44 pounds, which was approximately 1/3 of what the guy first offered to cut.
When I finally got a serving of the free beans, I found a spot at the long picnic tables. I think they could play arena football in this joint if they cleared out the tables, but if you can find one close to the end, you can stare at the huge flat screens. I happily started with the big chop (pictured above with a hot sauce bottle for scale). It was tender, moist and perfectly seasoned. Compared to their usual lathering of salt and pepper, they showed some restraint on this cut, and it benefited greatly. It was nearly a perfect piece of pork, but it could have use more smoke.
The beef rib was a mediocre piece of undercooked beef with far too much unrendered fat in the meat. Fat was a theme when it came to brisket. The untrimmed slices were nearly half fat (3oz. of the 7oz. of meat I was charged for) which is forgivable unless you're paying by the pound. The flavor was decent throughout, and the intramuscular fat was well rendered, but bites with the crust were overwhelmed by salt and pepper.
Pork ribs were better with a lighter touch to the seasoning, and a well formed crust. The smoke was more evident in this cut than any other, and the overall flavor was great. While I understand that this type of cooking provides less smoke flavor, I didn't miss it any less, especially since it was compensated for by generally overseasoning the meat. If you're looking for a sure thing on your visit, stick with the potato salad and a big chop, as long as you've got someone to split it with.
Posted by BBQ Snob at 7:20 AM
Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT