Gary Jacobson

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History more interesting than BBQ at Pizzitola’s in Houston

Pizzitola’s. Great name for a pizza joint. And that’s exactly what what some potential customers mistakenly thought until the place changed its signs several years ago, adding references to barbecue, said manager Lexie Moore. “Everyone thanked us for bringing barbecue to the neighborhood,” Moore said. “We had it all the time.” We arrived at Pizzitola’s Bar-B-Cue on Shepherd Drive in Houston about an hour or so before closing on a Friday night. The joint touts itself as “Houston’s Home for Spareribs” and they weren’t bad. Neither was the sausage. But the brisket was closer to roast beef, dry and without…
 - 06/12/2012

If you want good BBQ in Houston, get in a car and drive 2 hours

Gatlin’s BBQ, located just a few miles from downtown Houston, might have the best motto we’ve ever run into on our barbecue tours. “Welcome to Gatlin’s,” the sign said. “Where love is the secret ingredient.” And if you want to experience the reality of life in a no-zoning, anything-goes big city, this is the place. Next door is a garden expo that looks like a nursery. Directly across the street are an engine repair business, a house where people live and an automotive sales building. Welcome to Houston. Gatlin’s gets rave reviews from some, but the Posse was underwhelmed. “If…
 - 06/11/2012

The Posse takes a beach break in Galveston

For me, a little beach goes a long way. So, during the Posse’s 45-minute beach break in Galveston last weekend, midway through a 700-mile, 35-hour barbecue tour, I mainly watched the pelicans dive-bombing for fish. At times, I’d swear those big birds were flying in attack formation. Phil Lamb, an attorney and also the wheelman on the tour in his Chevy Tahoe, fished from a rocky breakwater nearby. He caught one small mullet and 15 pounds of seaweed. Chris Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News, shucked his shoes and walked into the surf for a while. Then…
 - 06/09/2012

Unlocking at least one secret to what makes Fargo’s Pit BBQ so good

Alan Caldwell, owner and pitmaster at Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan, has been very protective of the cooking secrets that help make his joint one of the top two or three in Texas. In the past, he has refused to tell the Posse and BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn the kind of pit he uses or the kind of wood he burns. “You still refusing to show anyone your pit?” he was asked during our weekend barbecue tour that covered 700 miles and took us to the Texas Gulf Coast. “That’s my secret,” he said. “Let’s talk about something else.” After…
 - 06/08/2012

The thrill is gone from New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ

Everyone in the Posse — all five of us on this trip — looked forward to our visit to New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue in Huntsville, the first stop on a 700-mile, 35-hour tour last weekend to the Texas Gulf coast. Some love the Church’s food and wax poetic about the atmosphere. But we were disappointed. Really disappointed. “It was like a bubble burst,” said Posse member Phil Lamb. “Boy, the romance is gone from that place.” “It was probably good yesterday,” Jim Rossman said after tasting the brisket. No smoke, no taste, and the meat looked as if…
 - 06/06/2012

Avoiding the dreaded barbecue belch

On a barbecue tour, sometimes wisdom sneaks up on you. And so it was in Galveston on Saturday when Leon O’Neal told us his secret to preventing his customers from burping after they ate his smoked meat. Use dry wood, the owner of Leon’s World’s Finest In and Out B-B-Q said, standing in front of a tall wall of cut oak. “That’s where the after belch comes from.” In other words, sappy wood is burping bad. Some might put this wisdom in the same category as always buy brisket from the left side of the cow, which we wrote about a…
 - 06/05/2012

Casting call for the Aaron Franklin-John Mueller BBQ movie

Just finished the February Texas Monthly cover story about Aaron Franklin and John Mueller and it is a very nice read. Posse member Mike Gagne even thinks the tale of the novice pitmaster (Franklin) and the troubled master (Mueller) would make a great movie. Tobey Maguire as Franklin? Sean Penn as Mueller? One pivotal scene in any movie would certainly have to be when Franklin had his barbecue epiphany at Louie Mueller Barbecue in 2002. “I think I might have cried a little bit,” Franklin told Texas Monthly of his reaction after his first taste of Mueller’s brisket. When the…
 - 02/01/2012

Do Texans need some Q-schoolin? It’s your turn to tell us what you think

Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper is a man of conviction, especially when it comes to smoked meat. After mulling our recent Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour for several days, he was still stunned by the lack of smoke taste we found on the barbecue at the original Sonny Bryan’s, Odom’s, Dickey’s and Peggy Sue’s. Why don’t some of the most popular Dallas BBQ joints, some with real wood pits, put more smoke flavor on their meat? Is it because of the cost of wood? Do customers really prefer smokeless BBQ? Or, don’t they know the difference? “I would like to know…
 - 01/20/2012

Where’s the smoke? the Posse asks after visiting historic Dallas joints

The wooden sign on the wall at the original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse on Inwood Road says “Real Texas Bar-B-Que.” It’s next to a large black and white photo of Sonny himself. The late Dallas BBQ patriarch, dressed in a white shirt, white apron and white chef’s hat, has a gentle smile on his face and a big carving knife in his hand. Once upon a time, that sign might have been accurate. Not anymore. The same goes for all four of the joints the Posse visited on a recent Saturday during its Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour, which included the…
 - 01/19/2012

To shig, or not to shig, that is the barbecue question

Excuse me if I’m late to the party, but I just learned a new word: shigging. It means stealing, or attempting to steal, someone’s barbecue secrets. The term seems to have come out of the BBQ competition circuit, but also works for joints and backyard pitmasters. For example, my good friend Bryan Gooding, who won the chicken category at the Blues, Bandits & BBQ cook-off in Oak Cliff last year, won’t share his recipe. But I watched him. And there’s vinegar — and ice cubes — in his brine. And on tours, the Posse is almost always shigging. We’re constantly…
 - 09/15/2011

Hey, Drew, next year, let’s Get Sauced! in November

How hot was it at the 2nd annual Gettin’ Sauced! competition in Austin last week, organized by Drew Thornley and Man Up Texas BBQ? “If sweat was gold, my friend Steve would be a millionaire,” one Yelp reviewer wrote of the event at Independence Brewery. How hot was it? The official high was 110 degrees, just two degrees short of the all-time record for any day, any time in the Texas capital. (The record was tied the next day.) How hot was it? Texas BBQ king Aaron Franklin waved the white flag after about two and one-half hours in the…
 - 09/01/2011

No, this isn’t another rant against gas-fired bbq

First off, Johnsonville’s Big Taste Grill, pictured above, uses propane. Don’t even think about wood…or charcoal. But doesn’t that machine look cool! The semi-tractor-hauled cooker weighs 53,000 pounds, is 65 feet long, 20 feet high and 6 feet in diameter, according to materials sent to us by Johnsonville, the sausage company. A dozen cooks can grill 750 brats at a time. The lid alone weighs 6,000 pounds and is operated by a hydraulic system. If you want to check out the grill, which has traveled to charity events throughout North America since 1995, it will be in Burleson July 21…
 - 07/14/2011

We read a label on a Cookshack smoker oven — this ain’t real Texas BBQ, folks

Normally, we don’t like piling on. But some opportunities can’t be resisted, especially when it involves a topic important to us: real wood-fired barbecue. A couple months ago, we got a good debate going here about wood vs. gas, and even ran highlights of a Southern Pride recipe for Texas-style brisket that we thought supported our point of view. Now, our attention turns to commercial pellet machines. Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper found the above photo of labels attached to a Fast Eddy’s by Cookshack Model FEC100 “smoker oven.” The company says on its Web site that the machine is “100%…
 - 06/16/2011

The Pecan Lodge gets some advice from a pro on its new pulled pork sandwich

We were about to leave the Pecan Lodge during our impromptu Best-of-Dallas barbecue tour Saturday when owner Diane Fourton popped the question. “Do you guys want to sample the pulled pork?” We felt a little sheepish. BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn had raved about the dish when he stopped by our table earlier. But none of us had ordered it. We had been committed to the hard core staples of Texas barbecue. Nothing but brisket, ribs and sausage. (All right, a couple of us also got the fried chicken.) Pulled pork is a new menu item for the Pecan Lodge. Diane…
 - 06/15/2011

Lockhart Smokehouse shrugs off review, smokes 3,000 pounds of meat a week

Lockhart Smokehouse owner Jeff Bergus was working the front of the house during the Posse’s visit to his Oak Cliff joint Saturday afternoon. When new customers arrived, he asked if they had ever been to his place before. If no, he immediately escorted them to the meat-ordering counter in the back. After a while, he sat down at the Posse’s table and chatted. We asked how business has been since his place received a one-star food review from The Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago. A framed copy of the review hangs on one wall, along with copies of…
 - 06/14/2011

Dallas is raising its BBQ game

We’ve commented in the past about the lack of great Texas style — real wood-fired — barbecue in Dallas. But during the Posse’s “Impromptu Best of Dallas BBQ Mini-Tour” Saturday, one conclusion was clear: Big D is raising its game. Over a period of about four hours, we ate at three joints. Each smokes with a different kind of wood. The Pecan Lodge at the Dallas Farmers’ Market uses mesquite. Meshack’s Bar-B-Que (OK, it’s in Garland but we’re counting it as Dallas) uses pecan. And Lockhart Smokehouse in Oak Cliff uses post oak. Admittedly, these three places were already our…
 - 06/13/2011

Smokin’ Possum Cookoff a character-building experience for the Posse

We’re still processing everything we learned at the Smokin’ Possum Cookoff. It will take a while. We had fun cooking just outside our cabins at Possum Hollow Resort on Possum Kingdom Lake over a nearly weather-perfect weekend. As for our results, however, the best thing we can say is that it was a character-building experience. Our first entry into the world of sanctioned barbecue competitions was a crash course in harsh reality. Cooking to maximize the impact of that one bite a judge takes of your food is not the same as cooking for friends and relatives in your backyard.…
 - 05/23/2011

The first families of Dallas BBQ meet up at The Great Posse Smokefest

A spouse of one Posse member likened The Great Posse Smokefest this past Saturday and Sunday to a sleep-over for 10-year-old boys. Yes, I did take my pillow and, thankfully, got to use it for an hour and a half. The smoking of meat started Saturday evening, continued all night, and culminated in a party for Posse members and friends, totaling more than 50 people. The highlight, other than the fellowship around the pits, was early Sunday afternoon when the owners of the Pecan Lodge — Justin and Diane Fourton — met the owners of Lockhart Smokehouse — Jeff and…
 - 05/17/2011

Myron Mixon may conquer the world, but there’s no way it’s real Texas BBQ

Gotta love the title of Myron Mixon’s new book, Smokin’. One word that conjures a thousand pictures. And the self-proclaimed “winningest man in barbecue” even weighs in on our recent debate here about wood versus gas. “Can I smoke food on a gas grill?” Mixon asks rhetorically midway through his opening chapter. “You bet your ass you can,” he answers. Mixon’s credentials are impressive, as he lets you know in a short section called: “How Much Have I Won?” No self-esteem issues with Myron. Of course, anyone who has watched him on TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters already knows that. He cites…
 - 05/16/2011

We love the smell of hickory smoke in the morning

It’s 11 a.m. on a beautiful day for The Great Posse Smokefest in Dallas. Everyone has had a nap — some longer than others — and we feel rejuvenated after a night of fellowship around the pits. Most of the meat is done and resting. Chris’ pork butt still has some time to go. Justin’s brisket, which looks absolutely beautiful, is finishing. We just loaded the chickens on the Jambo. For now, we can relax and enjoy the smell of hickory smoke. Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse
 - 05/15/2011

Marshall Cooper explains the temperature variances of his competition-tuned Jambo

When the temperature gauge says 250 degrees, that’s the grate temp for the center third of the pit, Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper says, based on three months of test cooks. The left third of the cooking chamber, away from the firebox, is 10 degrees cooler, and the right third, nearest the firebox, is 25 degrees warmer, perfect for chicken and pork butt. Cooper fired the pit at 6:30 p.m. with three 22-inch hickory logs and has added a log an hour. It’s 2:30 a.m. and the gauge is a steady 250. “This cook is going damn good,” Cooper said, sitting…
 - 05/15/2011

Welcome to The Great Posse Smokefest

It’s 1:30 a.m. on Preston Crest Lane. The Jambo J-3 is locked in at 250 degrees. Five briskets soaking up clean hickory smoke. We’ve got a half-dozen racks of ribs in the brine, waiting to be rubbed and put on the smoker at 6 a.m. or so. A couple of chickens, and pork butt, too. Justin Fourton, pitmaster of the Pecan Lodge, plans to arrive at 4 a.m. with his pit. Later, Jeff Bergus, owner of Lockhart Smokehouse plans to arrive with some of his original Kreuz Market sausage. Welcome to The Great Posse Smokefest. We hope to have fun…
 - 05/15/2011

The wood versus gas BBQ debate continues as we analyze a Southern Pride recipe

Southern Pride makes gas-fired commercial smokers, which burn a little wood for flavor, and offers cooking tips to its customers. For one of its larger machines, the XLR-1400, which has a capacity of 72 briskets, the recipe for “Texas style brisket” says cook 12 to 14 hours and use a total of two 4-inch by 12-inch logs. That’s for a “heavy smoke” taste, the recipe says. A couple weeks ago, we got into a good discussion on this blog about real Texas barbecue and whether it could ever be cooked with gas. We still say no and offer Southern Pride’s…
 - 05/06/2011

A grim indictment of the lack of BBQ choices in Dallas

I just bought a copy of the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin, by Gloria Corral. Daniel Vaughn, the BBQ Snob, reviewed it a couple weeks ago and he’s right. The 174-page paperback is skinny on critical guidance. But if you live in Dallas, like some of us in the Posse, it’s also evidence of our lack of barbecue choices.   Corral has write-ups on nearly 60 places within the city of Austin. Subtract the chains (anything with more than one outlet, which knocks out County Line, Bill Miller, Cartwright’s and PoK-e-Jo’s, among others) and there are still about 35 joints,…
 - 05/05/2011

Brisket burglary! Is there a worse BBQ crime?

In our recent post about Baby J’s Bar-B-Que & Fish in Palestine, we promised to tell you why Jeremiah “Baby J” McKenzie padlocks the cooking chambers on his brisket pit.   Well, that wasn’t the only instance of brisket burglary we encountered on our recent East Texas barbecue tour. Taste and temptation must be the devil’s work. Ron Davis, who runs Stacy’s Bar-B-Q in Jacksonville, told us that “every now and then” someone breaks into the small building that houses his two big gas-fired smokers and grabs some meat. “They don’t wear gloves and the briskets are hot so they…
 - 04/29/2011

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