Award-winning pitmaster Steve Graham and his primary smoker at Pit Stop BBQ. (Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

An experienced competition cook, Steve Graham has filled his Pit Stop BBQ restaurant outside Waxahachie with trophies and plaques. He knows how to cook for a tough audience, judges, even different sets of judges.

For example, he said, he always tried to get a look at the judges before he started preparing his meat. Older judges like salt, he said.

“In a competition, that first taste is everything,” Graham said. So the flavor has to be bold and great.

If you read our posts about our recent South of DFW Tour, you know that we loved the atmosphere of Graham’s place, but not so much his food.

Graham didn’t flinch. He said he now cooks for a new set of judges, his customers.

“Ninety percent of people don’t like fat,” he said as he explained why he trims fat from his briskets. The Posse always tries to order fatty brisket.

“The people who eat my ribs want them falling off the bone,” he continued. “People around here want ’em tender and I try to accommodate ’em.” The Posse likes a little tug off the bone.

Graham said he cooks the old-fashioned way in a wood-fired smoker. The legs of his pit are shorter, but with a little imagination, it resembles an Imperial walker from Star Wars.

“I don’t get to push a button and go home and go to sleep,” he said of places that use gas-fired pits. “I sit in my chair and watch my fire.”

Refreshing words, no matter what we thought about his food.

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