Friday, July 29, 2011

BBQ Book Review: LBJ Barbecue Cook Book

Title: Walter Jetton's LBJ Barbecue Cook Book
Author: Walter Jetton with Arthur Whitman
Published: 1965, Pocket Books, Inc.

Fort Worth native and self-proclaimed 'Barbecue King' Walter Jetton (pronounced ji-TAWN) made his way into the national spotlight as the pitmaster of choice for President Lyndon Johnson. In 1959, the LBJ Ranch (the Texas White House) hosted its first of many barbecues, and Walter Jetton was manning the pits.

A 1959 barbecue at LBJ Ranch. BBQ action begins at 4:00 mark

Mr. Jetton would be the cook of choice for several more of these LBJ Ranch BBQ events, and eventually would make his way to the actual White House for a D.C. barbecue. All of this exposure made the man deservedly famous and he parlayed that fame into a published cookbook in 1965, just three years before his death in Fort Worth. While no longer in print, I was lucky enough to borrow a copy from local restaurateur Amy Severson who keeps a small personal library of historic cookbooks. I was grateful to receive such a historic book with no questions asked.

The book opens with a somewhat fanciful idea of the birth of barbecue on Texas cattle drives and an accurate portrayal of its rise in the meat markets of Central Texas. Here he also wisely proclaims that "Barbecue is the meat, not the gravy and not the sauce." and that "To barbecue, you need a pit". This introduction is followed by many of the recipes you'd expect to find like brisket, spare ribs and a signature barbecue sauce whose recipe is preceded with the proclamation "This is the secret of the ages I am giving you here, and I would not be surprised if wars have been fought over less." Mr. Jetton was a showman in his duties. Always impeccably dressed, he also had an entertaining sense of humor which really comes through in the book. On utensils and atmosphere "there is no reason why they can't stir their coffee with twigs or popsicle sticks. You will find that people love eating barbecue in this way." Then, on venison "if you start cooking it over the fire without nursing it quite a bit first, it will be about as tender and appetizing as a dry board, which few people have any natural taste for." Besides the standards, you can also find oddities like calf fries, Comanche beef heart, vinegarron rice and barbecued spiced bananas which I wasn't expecting to find alongside all of that meat.

To see scanned images from the book, this blog has all of the recipes along with other historical photographs of Mr. Jetton, and for more information on Walter Jetton and his connection with the LBJ Ranch, the Amazing Ribs website has a great profile of Mr. Jetton along with detailed accounts of LBJ's exploits in barbecue diplomacy.

- BBQ Snob

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wanna Buy a Sausage Factory?

There's a sausage factory in South Dallas that's on the market. I wouldn't call it famous, but they've been around since 1970, and a few Dallas barbecue joints like Peggy Sue BBQ and Baby Back Shak serve their products. For just $149,000 it can all be yours.

Renko's Sausages
109 North Lyndalyn Avenue
DeSoto, TX 75115
M-F 8-5, Sat 10-4 (retail outlet)

Image Courtesy of Businessweek

According to a listing, "The product lines comprise of: Hot Links, Mild Smoked Sausages, Polish Rings, Summer Sausages, Sausage on sticks." There is a processing facility as well as a retail outlet next door. I haven't made it down to DeSoto to check out their offerings, but if anyone's familiar with the store please let me know your thoughts.

They seem to be very open about their reasons for selling. Again from the listing, "Due to the lack of involvement by the current owner, Renko has no sales/marketing force to introduce and sell its deliciously excellent sausages." They also lost their contract as the official sausage-on-a-stick of Cowboys Stadium when the team moved to Arlington. I'm guessing that has a little something to do with the sale too.

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Baby Back Shak

DALLAS: Baby Back Shak
1800 S Akard St
Dallas, TX 75215
Open M-Thur 11-6, F-Sat 11-7

Update: It's called the 'Shak Platter'. Four meats; two sides; $14. With the Shak Platter, Baby Back Shak just might have the best BBQ deal in town. I may not be the first to write about it, but this was my first time trying it. To make matter even cheaper, they took 10% off because I had the Q Card, and my drink was free because I follow them on Twitter. Unlike the two and three meat platters where you can choose your meat, this plate comes with brisket, sausage, chicken and those famous pork ribs. I can't leave the Shak beans off my order, and boudin offered as a side is hard to pass up as well.

It amazes me how good these ribs are, and just how bad the brisket is. The sliced beef is downright tough with ribbons of chewy fat. There isn't even a speck of smoky flavor to redeem this beef that lacks any flavor but salt. I don't expect greatness from the beef in a joint that bills itself at Memphis BBQ, but they could do better. On the other hand, I'm not sure how they could improve on the ribs I had on this day. Rather than giant spare ribs, they serve a more manageable size that are easier to handle, and easier to get tender. Talk about tender. There's no meat falling off the bone, but the moist rib meat comes easily from the bone with just a tug. Perfectly seasoned with a decent smoky kick, these made up for the brisket's failings. They also managed to smoke the boneless white meat chicken to a perfect juicy tenderness.

I don't have a clear recollection of ever having the sausage here, but it left a clear memory. It's a spicy sausage from Renko's in DeSoto, and the heat was just enough to perk it up, but not enough to call it a hot link. Boudin is from Zummo Meat Company in Beaumont. It's grilled rather than smoked, and I really enjoyed it. Evidently more than the folks at Boudin Link (yes, a website that rates boudin - I love it) they give this brand a C+. Despite their opinion, the boudin will make it on all of my future orders. While I enjoyed the chicken, the cornish hen from previous visits has a leg up, and I'll steer clear of brisket from here on out. Given the prices and quality, Baby Back Shak needs to find its way into my lunch plans more often.

Rating ***

2008: When you order the ribs here, you may expect a rack of the namesake baby backs, but you'll enjoy the spare ribs (the only rib they serve) just as well. These folks bill their 'cue as Memphis style, but it seems more of a mixture of Memphis and Texas style. Either way, this flat black brick building with the smoking pig painted on the side packs their small dining room full during the lunch rush. I ordered a 2-meat plate with sliced brisket and ribs along with their dynamite vinegar cole slaw and BBQ beans flecked with chunks of smoked brisket. The brisket was oddly served thin sliced with what must be a deli slicer. The meat was silky tender with a bold smoky crust, and nicely rendered fat around the edges. The flavor from the salt rub had punch, but was not overpowering. The ribs however, were at the other end of the tenderness scale, and could have used some more time in the smoker. This is par for the course with Memphis style 'cue which remains a little tough after grilling. Usually Memphis style ribs get all their flavor from the grill, but the crust on these ribs was formed with the smoker as evident from the pronounced smoke line. They had been very lightly sauced before they were grilled, and the resulting flavor was incredible. As I munched through the pile of meat, I praised the soul that married these two eminent styles of barbeque.

Baby Back Shaq on Urbanspoon

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Johnson Street Smokehouse

GREENVILLE: Johnson Street Smokehouse
2810 Johnson Street
Greenville, TX 75401
903-455-8567 ‎
Open M-Sat 11-7

After disappointment in finding Ernie's closed, and a very bad experience at Big Baby's Bar-B-Q down the road, had us itching for some decent barbecue. Pulling into the Johnson Street Smokehouse parking lot just across the big bridge that leads into downtown, things were looking more promising. Both the building and sign looked tidy, but had enough age to look legit. There were also a few cars in the lot long after the prime lunch hour.

Ordering at the counter just inside the door, I could see all of the meats on display on the steam table. Meats could be ordered by the pound, so I opted for 1/2 pound of brisket. That is until they pulled out the gray hunk of roast beef. I quickly changed the order to 1/4 pound. I added some ribs and boudin to the order. The boudin was rough around the edge after a considerable drying out period. Ribs had been severely overcooked, and might as well not have bones at all. The meat could have been boiled just as easily as smoked given it's lack of flavor. Brisket had both undercooked fat and overcooked stewed meat. My guess is that this phenomenon comes form hours in a steam tray. Regardless the cause, the meat was awful. We didn't bother with sides, and left Greenville still hungry.

Rating *

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Big Baby's Bar-B-Que

GREENVILLE: Big Baby's Bar-B-Que
3811 Wesley St.
Greenville, TX 75401

Open M-Sat 11-8, Sun 11-3

There have been many disappointing BBQ road trips in my days, but this one to Greenville was possibly the worst. My father-in-law and brother-in-law were along for the ride, so there was some added pressure for some decent BBQ right off the bat. I can deal with mountains of bad BBQ, but I despise being a poor host. We then sat for about an hour on the service road of I-30 on our way to Greenville because they decided to close the entire Interstate for a few hours. When we finally arrived into town we made our way to the oldest and most storied joint in Greenville called Ernie's. It was 1:30, and I knew they were open until 3:00, so I was both confused and furious at the "Closed" sign out front. They had taken the week off. We then drove north into town to try the second of three planned stops. As a hungry group, we sat down at Big Baby's and placed our order.

A few minutes later, a four meat plate arrived for us to share. Along with brisket, pork ribs, turkey and pulled pork, I also got a Pittsburg hot link. It looked like a turd on the plate, and the flavors were a bit earthly for me in this dry link. This link is certainly one that uses the entire hog. None of the meats exuded smokiness in any form. Turkey was baked deli meat, pulled pork could have been any meat given its total lack of flavor, and the ribs tasted only of the thick rub applied to the meat. The brisket outdid them all in the tasteless category. These slices were a single shade of gray, and might as well have been steamed rather than smoked. It was awful. A side of grocery store grade potato salad did little to help offset the disappointment, and then there was the okra. It's amazing that these perfectly crisp hand battered orbs of still crunchy okra came from the same kitchen as the rest of the food. We were anxious to get on to our next stop.

Rating *
Big Baby's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Texas Sausage Battle

A while back I purchased all of the Texas made commercial sausages I could find at Dallas area grocery stores. My plan was to have a blind tasting with empirical data collected from several tasters and report that data here. Instead, we all just enjoyed the party and ate loads of sausage. I even failed to take good notes, so I can't even attempt to personally rank them. I do have some photos to share.

I do remember enjoying the Nolan Ryan beef sausage (Huntsville), the Kiolbassa (San Antonio) and the Texas Traditions (Houston) sausage. I also lamented not purchasing V&V sausage (Flatonia) from Central Market. I've enjoyed it in the past, and I'll be sure to get it for the next tasting. I promise to do better next time.

- BBQ Snob

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Friday, July 15, 2011

JC's Smoked Meats

OKLAHOMA: JC's Smoked Meats
(Inside Buy For Less)
2500 N. Penn
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
Open F-Sun 11-8

A fellow BBQ lover in Oklahoma City directed me to JC's Smoked Meats inside a Buy For Less discount grocery store in south Oklahoma City. With a line forming at 10:45, I had high hopes. By the time I placed my order for brisket and ribs, there were ten hungry customers behind me. There probably here for the great value including a $15.50 combo of brisket, ribs, hot links and sausage. I was having BBQ for lunch later, so I just opted for 1/2 pound of beef and a rib sandwich.

I could tell as it was sliced in front of me that the brisket was dry. After the ride back home it was even worse. It had some god smokiness and seasoning, but it was pretty tough to chew. I'm thinking this was yesterday's brisket. The ribs were about as fresh. A charred crust covered the dry meat which wasn't quite as smoky as the brisket. With this place being open until 8:00pm, maybe an evening visit would bring fresher meat.

Rating *

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tredway's Bar-B-Q

CORINTH: Tredway's Bar-B-Q
3210 FM 2181

Corinth, TX 76201


Open Tues-Thur 11-7, F-Sat 11-8

A few Fridays ago, I pulled into Tredway's 10 minutes after closing time and left empty-handed. This time I made sure to get there earlier, but on Thursdays they close an hour earlier, so the 'Closed' sign was already out at 7:02. As I approached the window opened right up into this trailer, and a friendly woman asked for my order. They must have had a bevy of meat to sell since three customers after me also received an order of smoked meat. A large glass of fresh squeezed lemonade came alongside my three meat plate of brisket, ribs and sausage.

We were welcomed to sit at one of the picnic tables to enjoy the meal, even though dinner for my wife and daughter was from a Chick-fil-A bag. The sausage, most likely from Smokey Denmark's, was unremarkable with little smokey flavors from the wood fired pit. A mixture of pecan and oak is used to get that smokiness into the thick cut brisket. Well seasoned, tender and nicely moist, this was some good eating brisket and worth returning for. It's the ribs that folks seem to rave about, and the owner inquired how I liked them. I had to be honest that I preferred the brisket since the ribs were just so far beyond overcooked. The sauce soaked meat plopped off the bones into a fatty mess. It was awful to look at, but that meat was actually pretty good. There was a decent smokiness, and the sauce complemented the flavor of the meat well. Sides of buttery corn and canned green beans didn't live up to the meat, but that lemonade was satisfying.

Rating ***

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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Jerk Shack BBQ & Grill

DALLAS: The Jerk Shack BBQ & Grill
1912 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Dallas, TX 75215


Open M-F 11:30-7, Sat 11:30-8

It's not often that I encounter a fusion menu in my BBQ travels, but there it was right in front of me as I sat at the light at 175 and MLK in South Dallas. The Jerk Shack Caribbean and Texas Style BBQ & Grill is the full name, and the sign barely fits on this tiny storefront. Open since last November, they have not yet fixed the AC or gotten that credit card machine despite the Visa/Mastercard stickers on the door, so for now it's cash only. The menu is split between traditional Texas BBQ and Caribbean fare. This meant that rice & peas and fried plantains could saddle up beside my plate of brisket and ribs. I quenched my severe thirst with a Jamaican grapefruit 'Ting' soda.

I didn't have high expectations, but the brisket was well cooked. The meat was a bit dry, but plenty tender. The fat was nicely rendered, but was too generous on each slice. The faint smokiness on the brisket was stronger on the ribs that are first smoked, then fired on an open grill. A layer of sweet commercial sauce covered the meat, but the flavors came through well anyway. The ribs had good flavor, but could have been more tender. Both sides were a tasty escape from slaw and beans, and I would return for the jerk chicken wrap (not pictured).

After the meal I learned that they use a small off brand smoker similar to a Cookshack. John is a pitmaster with experience in Little Elm at a joint called "Famous BBQ". The only listing I could find was for the old Rick's Famous BBQ on the shores of Lake Lewisville, but if anyone out there has other knowledge of it, let me know. John going to need some refinement here to make the Jerk Shack famous for barbecue.

Rating **
The Jerk Shack on Urbanspoon

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Mad Hatter Cafe

When I read about the Mad Hatter Cafe on Thrillist I thought little about trying to find a parking spot in downtown Dallas to try this place out, that is until I saw a brisket sandwich on the menu. The first free lunch hour I had, I made my way to try what was promised on the menu as a sandwich "piled high with slow smoked chopped brisket". I found a mostly legal parking spot and walked up a few blocks to place my order. The cashier noted my confusion when looking over the menu, so I asked what had happened to the brisket sandwich. He suggested I try the 'smoked' pulled pork sandwich instead, and even bothered to add that the menu had not changed since opening day. I guess he was thinking "Why is this crazy man asking for smoked brisket at this downtown cafe". I was asking for it because it's on the online menu - still - taunting me.

The pulled pork would have to do, and I watched as the cook poured out some presauced pork into a saute pan. I inquired about the possibility of an on-site smoking apparatus and was told that their food supplier smokes it. Who is the food supplier? A specific name wasn't given, but my guess is Sysco.

Back at the office I dug into the behemoth. If I hadn't ordered it myself, I would have sworn it was a sloppy joe with a poorly chosen mustard accompaniment. The meat had zero smokiness, a singular mushy texture, and very little pleasing qualities. While I didn't expect greatness out of this cafe's barbecue offerings, this sad imposter for 'smoked' meat was disappointing. I have a feeling the brisket wouldn't be any better.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

BBQ at Baby Dolls

It was around closing time, and I think his name was Henry. No, I wasn't looking for a late night date at Baby Dolls, I smelled BBQ at the exit. The pitmaster himself was holding a tray of foil wrapped sandwiches in pork and beef varieties. Just $3 later, I was on my way to the van with a warm package.

The rest of the bachelor party was suspicious as I unwrapped it in the driver's seat. The meat had a hint of smoke, but the overwhelming flavor was BBQ sauce. With very little meat on a soft white bun, this was a sloppy joe masquerading as BBQ. But really, what do you expect from the BBQ in a strip club foyer around closing time?

I'm always willing to find out.

- BBQ Snob

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lockhart Smokehouse Caves, Serves Sauce

We had some family in town looking for a Dallas dining experience without pretention. The party was large enough (nine) that I deemed it the perfect excuse to try the "Shiner Platter" at Lockhart Smokehouse. A big table was available, so we grabbed it and twenty minutes later a hulking $150 platter (a $75 version is also available) of barbecue so large that it took two men to carry, arrived at our table. It was impressive enough that other diners approached the mountain of smoked meat just for their own photographs.

It was piled high with pork ribs, chicken, brisket, clod, two kinds of sausage, burnt ends, deviled eggs and all the sides. The only thing missing was a rib jam garnish, but I had already purchased some for a meaty appetizer. While most everything was great, it can't be denied that the protracted assembly time took a toll on the sliced beef. Both brisket and clod had dried out considerably, so maybe they could be sure to cut those at the last second before serving.

Along with this cornucopia of meat came a unexpected companion. SAUCE! Yes, Lockhart Smokehouse, that staunch advocate for all things forkless, plateless and sauceless, has caved to local tastes. Forks are in a basket on the ordering counter, and available for a (small) donation, and four kinds of sauces were available for tasting on a counter in the center of the restaurant.

Here's a rundown:

Texabama - This one is thinnish like homemade ranch. Likely a mix of mayo, buttermilk, horseradish and a kick of dijon, this one certainly pays homage to the white sauce made famous by Big Bob Gibson.

Ol' Yeller - An amped up mustard based sauce in the South Carolina Style, this baby had some heat. It was favored by many of the table guests.

LG #22 - A classic Texas Style sauce, but with more amped up flavors and sweetness. This thick tomato-based sauce had lots of sugar (and honey?) and loads of black pepper to provide a good bite. Think more rib glaze than Texas dip.

LG #928 - Very similar to the #22, but with less sweetness and chili powder taking the place of the cracked pepper.

Which one do I prefer? Well, none of them. While many of the Oklahoma table mates were happily dunking and pouring, I was trying each sauce on its own, and enjoying the naked meat. If they start serving fries, it would be tough to pry me away from the Texabama concoction, and the Ol' Yeller would be perfect for pairing with pulled pork (not offered), but the others are just too sweet for my taste, and will never find their way onto a slice of my brisket.

- BBQ Snob

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Central Texas Bachelor Party BBQ Tour

Twelve grown men packed into a twelve passenger van for a Central Texas BBQ tour that would take us to seven different BBQ joints before it was over. Before it began, we packed ourselves full of steak, booze and visions of sugarplums the night before, followed by water and Tylenol as the van left Dallas at 8:00 a.m. much to the dismay of most involved. Three and a half hours later we had arrived at Louie Mueller BBQ where most of these guys would be introduced to real Texas style BBQ for the first time. I will not attempt to relive every moment of the day, but here are some of the highlights.

Louie Mueller, Taylor

After sampling the incredible beef ribs and perfect brisket at Louie Mueller, I was worried that we may have hit the high point in our first stop. The smoky black pepper stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Southside Market, Elgin

I tried the mutton ribs at Southside for the first time. The meat chewy, but less gamey than I'm used to. It was the best tasting mutton I've sampled. The chicken was damn fine to, and I'm not really a smoked poultry disciple. The sausage here was the favorite for many on the trip.

Smitty's Market, Lockhart

Smitty's may have some chewy clod, but every inch of the thick pork chops is worth savoring. The sweet glazed pork ribs were phenomenal, and were mentioned fondly the rest of the weekend.

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart

The turkey at Black's has phenomenal smoke flavor. The brisket here made heads turn as I brought it to the table, and the words "damn good" were mumbled from full mouths all around. This brisket was some of the best I've had anywhere.

Kreuz Market, Lockhart

The brisket here is just so fatty, but the spice and smoke in the jalapeno cheese links makes up for it.

Prime Rib, Kreuz

I got the slab of prime rib more for affect than my affection for it. I should have gotten the clod.

City Market, Luling

Everything at City Market was good, but none of it rose above the ribs at Smitty's or the brisket at Black's.

Franklin BBQ, Austin

The next morning, the boys awoke to whole brisket from Franklin BBQ. As I sliced it on a patio table overlooking the hotel pool, a crowd of blood shot eyes gathered around to marvel. I did everything I could do to oversell this hunk of beef, but upon first bite, everyone agreed that this was the best brisket of the weekend, and probably their lives.

Even the manliest of men succumb to BBQ overload much more rapidly than I do, but the groom-to-be showed his fortitude when he demanded that we continue on to City Market in Luling as our last stop. I was at once proud, and happy that I was giving this guided tour to a man who truly deserved it. I also learned that the brisket at Franklin BBQ is still heavenly, and can help you stare down the worst of hangovers. There was not a single healthy appetite at the table when the meal began, but the brisket just kept going down.

The best of the weekend, not in any particular order:
Brisket: Black's, Louie Mueller, Franklin
Sausage: Southside, Kreuz
Ribs: Smitty's (pork), Louie Mueller (beef)
Pork: Smitty's (chop), Franklin (pulled)

- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rib Rub Challenge #2

After the first Regional Rib Rub Challenge, I got a few rubs sent my way from some suppliers around the country. I fired up the smoker on a Saturday morning for a baby back comparison, and I was also anxious to try a competition style recipe I was working out in my head.

The rubs were a Memphis Style dry rub from Green Diamond Rubs and Spices from Seattle and Bacon Rub by J&D's (they also brought us Baconnaise and Bacon Salt from a previous post). I put those up against a simpler rub of fresh cracked black pepper, kosher salt, brown sugar, paprika and garlic powder.

The pork chops just got a dose of my homemade rub and a couple hours under hickory and apple wood. The flavors and smoke levels were great, but the meat had dried out a bit. I need to get thicker chops. The rest of the meats on the smoker were a mix of St. Louis ribs and baby backs, all with the different rubs applied.

Baby Backs & Green Diamond Rub

Baby Backs & Bacon Rub

Competition Style Baby Backs

St. Louis Ribs with homemade rub

If you like a sweet rub (brown sugar's the first ingredient) that will stain your shirt, then go for the Bacon Rub. It promises a "wrapped in bacon" flavor, but had no bacon flavor on it's own. Then again, who could really tell after it's applied to smoked pork ribs? They threw in some yeast extract for umami, but again, this stuff is supposed to go on meat already.

The Green Diamond rub had a good kick from the red pepper, but it was just a bit too salty for me. I did like the single serving packet which was incredibly fragrant when I opened it. I guess the flavors of those spices had been locked in as promised. At just $2.50 a pop, I'd be willing to try a few other of their options which include cajun, morrocoan and coffee rubs.

In the end, I preferred the old standby of the (modified) black pepper and salt rub. The competition style were sweet, spicy and eminently enjoyable with a honey based glaze, but the extra work and extra time (from opening that smoker so many times for vinegar baths) just didn't seem worth it when just a simple rub and some smoke taste so good. This is the first time I can honestly give five stars to my smoking efforts.

Bacon Grease Chocolate Chip sandwich w/ bacon marmalade

To top it all off, I made some of the Homesick Texan's bacon grease chocolate chip cookies. I had some leftover bacon marmalade and thought an kicked up ice cream sandwich was in order. While the combination may have been a bit much after too many ribs, the cookies were a damn good ending to a wonderfully meaty meal.

- BBQ Snob

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Louie Mueller on CBS Early Show

Set your DVR to record tomorrow's CBS Early Show. Wayne Mueller, owner and pitmaster of the famous Louie Mueller Barbecue will be there showing off his smoking skills. Here's the full press release:

"Instead of smoking meats this Saturday morning for an endless line of guests, Wayne Mueller, 3rd generation co-owner of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas will be in New York, NY appearing on CBS’ “Early Show”, Saturday Edition demonstrating how to prepare and cook Texas beef brisket.

The live July 2nd show is themed “Taste of America” and Louie Mueller Barbecue will be there to represent Texas barbecue. The show will air 9am – 9am EDT and is taped delayed on the west coast. Check your local listing for exact show times in your area.

Mr. Mueller will briefly discuss 3 meats popular in Texas barbecue including an inside look into the preparation, rub, cooking, testing and carving of real Texas brisket.

Louie Mueller Barbecue is no stranger to national television or to acclaim. In May 2006, Louie Mueller’s was recognized by the James Beard Foundation with an “America’s Classic” Award. In 2007, Louie Mueller’s was featured in a pilot episode of The Food Network’s “Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri and in 2008 returned to The Food Network, appearing with Adam Gertler in “Will Work For Food”.

Louie Mueller Barbecue is a family owned restaurant established in 1949. Located near downtown Taylor, TX, the Mueller family has been a Texas tradition slow cooking meats for over six decades."

I'm anxious to see how Wayne takes to the camera, and I sure hope the producers don't make him rush that brisket. Will those beautiful beef ribs make it into the spotlight?

- BBQ Snob

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4 Rivers Smokehouse

FLORIDA: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
2103 W. Fairbanks Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789
Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

I've been traveling to Orlando for a project I've been working on at my day job, and hadn't spent much time searching for a BBQ option. I was happy chomping on good seafood when I could, but right before my final trip to the area, a PR rep for 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park (just a few minutes north of Orlando) invited me to stop if I ever found myself in the area. I arrived a few minutes after closing and walked into the tiny interior to place my order at the counter. Quite a few others were in line, and nobody made mention that closing time had come and gone. I guess selling out the day's meat is more important than being strict with the hours. Besides, the picnic tables on the large exterior patio were still bustling with diners.

The options on the menu were varied and tempting, but I was just there for some of the classic smoked meats. While they bill themselves as Texas style BBQ, the sandwiches vary from a cuban sandwich, tri-tip, burnt ends and even cochon de lait. They were happy to oblige when I asked for 1/4 pound of burnt ends rather than the sandwich, but I was disappointed to find that these burnt ends were little more than chopped beef with a bit more brown than normal. Very good chopped beef for sure, but not burnt ends.

An order of ribs and brisket certainly looked promising. A thick black crust encircled the Angus brisket, and a nice line of perfectly rendered fat clung to the bottom of these slices from the flat. It was thick sliced to help hold the somewhat overcooked meat together, but it was still moist. Most importantly it was evident how this beef had been cooked. It was smoked. The smokiness crept deep into the meat, and the flavor was great throughout. This was some solid eating brisket, in Florida, done in a Southern Pride pit! Ribs were a saucy St. Louis cut that didn't pack the same smoky punch, but were cooked to perfection. The meat required just a tug to release from the bone and it was plenty moist. While not a Texas purist's rib, I enjoyed the sweet glaze that wasn't applied too liberally or burnt on. The seasoning was aggressive with black pepper and the flavors bold, and I ate far too many.

Please remember that the ratings are based on distance worth traveling, and are not meant as a comparison to other similarly rated joints in Texas. Considering there are slim to no Texas BBQ options in this part of the state, I'd gladly travel and hour or more to get my fix at 4 Rivers Smokehouse if I (god forbid) found myself living in Florida. They certainly do justice to their goal of creating quality Texas style BBQ in the Sunshine State.

Rating ****
4Rivers Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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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.