Texas Brisket Secrets Revealed
The Backyahd BBQ crew just got back from a weeklong Texas BBQ tour in Austin and San Antonio. It wasn’t easy choosing which joints to try, but after a lot of research with the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints, the BBQ finder app (iOS, Android), and online reviews, we landed on:
First and foremost, know that all these joints are amazing. Comparing their briskets is as controversial and religiously debated as comparing high-end cars. Everyone is going to have a different opinion. Everyone has different tastes and different preferences.
This blog is going is going to focus on each joint’s brisket smoking process and my personal recommendations for when you visit them. I’m going to try to stay away from the contentious discussion around “who is best” and focus more on what each place brings to the table and what sets them apart.
I was able to talk with the pitmasters at each joint. I asked a ton of questions. They all welcomed the interaction and openly shared their process. I highly recommend you go back around to the smokehouse, respect their space and, if the opportunity arises, politely ask a few questions to help you improve your skills. They are busy and working, so try not to overstep.
Let’s start by going over brisket process categories and what the joints have in common and how they differ.
- Wood: Most use Post Oak. Valentina’s and Pinkterton’s use Mesquite.
- Trim: Other than Snow’s, everyone does an aggressive trim. Similar to my Foolproof Brisket Trim method. But most do not trim the silver skin on the meat side because it is too time consuming when doing briskets at volume.
- Binder: No one uses a binder.
- Rub: Most just use salt and pepper. Snow’s uses table salt, the rest use kosher salt. Valentina’s uses a more complex rub. I personally think Franklin’s uses Lawry’s, but cannot confirm that.
- Side Up: Everyone cooks fat side up.
- Spritz: Only Terry Black spritzes with Worchester sauce at the start and switches to ACV after bark is set. No one else spritzes.
- Pit Temp: Everyone smokes between 250-275. Snow’s brings down to 225 after a couple of hours.
- Meat Temp: No one probes for temp. They all go by color and feel, which is something that is developed over years of cooking. They may use a probe to check for tenderness, and use temp as a guide, but they don’t act based on temp alone.
- Time: Everyone cooks for about 1.25-1.5hrs for every pound of brisket. They smoke for about 3/4 of the cook, around 9 hours for 12-15lb briskets, and 5-6 hours for 7lb briskets, then wrap and finish the cook until it is done.
- Wrap: Everyone wraps. Snow’s and Valentina’s use foil. Everyone else uses butcher paper.
- Tallow: Everyone puts tallow on the brisket before wrapping. But not much. Just enough to cover it.
- Rest: Everyone rests. Most in a commercial warmer 145 degrees for 5-12 hours. Snow’s only rests for 2 hours in a basic cooler.
The BBQ Joints
Now let’s get into the detailed process and our thoughts for each of the joints we visited.
Terry Black’s Barbecue
@backyahdbbq Terry Black’s Brisket Method #bbq #texasbbq #brisket #smokedmeat #howto #learnontiktok #terryblacksbbq ♬ As It Was – Harry Styles
Let’s look at Terry Black’s brisket. They do the foolproof brisket trim, no mohawk, shaved deckle, rounded flat corners, and a quarter inch fat cap. They don’t use a binder, but do spritz with Worchester sauce after 1 and a half hours, and then switch to an ACV spritz after the bark is set. They rub with only salt and pepper and smoke it fat side up with Post Oak at 250 degrees for 9ish hours. They then check for a dark mahogany color on the cusp of a burned crust. They wrap it with butcher paper and pull when it feels right. To test they pick it up and gauge doneness by how the point and flat bend and how the lean feels under it with a squeeze. They then move the briskets to a 145 degree warmer and rest until it is ready to serve, which can be 10-12 hours.
When I’m back in Austin, I’d hit up Terry Black’s and get a slice of point, a spicey sausage, a beef rib, and potato salad. It’s one of the only places that serves beef ribs every day, so don’t miss out on that. Their pepper-forward bark is a bit crunchier than other places, which I personally prefer. Definitely make sure you ask for some burnt ends.
@backyahdbbq Franklin Barbecue’s Brisket Method #bbq #bbqtiktok #smokedmeat #brisket #learnontiktok #franklinsbbq #austin #texasbbq #franklinbbq #franklins #texas ♬ Just Breathe (feat. Lukas Nelson) – Willie Nelson
Let’s look at Franklin’s brisket. They do the foolproof brisket trim, no mohawk, shaved deckle, rounded flat corners, and 1/4″ fat cap. They don’t use a binder and do not spritz. They claim to only use salt and pepper, but I’m confident I tasted garlic and onion – possibly Lawry’s. They smoke it fat side up with Post Oak at 250 degrees for 9 hours without opening the smoker doors. They remove it from the smoker, when it turns a dark mahogany almost black color, they pour tallow on top and wrap in paper until done at about 195-203 degrees, but they pull by feel not temp. They then move them to a 145 degree warmer and rest until it is ready to serve, which can be 10-12 hours. (I heard from other folks that they re-wrap in clean butcher paper before putting it in the warmer, but can’t confirm that).
The staff here really stood out from the other places. As we moved through the line I felt like I was visiting with friends. They gave us a pit tour, asked us a bunch of questions, and took time to chat like we haven’t seen each other in a while even though we’ve never met.
I would definitely return for the brisket, sausage, and the mustard forward potato salad. The other menu items were good, but I can personally cook ribs, pork, coleslaw, and beans well enough at home. The brisket was definitely the star of the show.
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
@backyahdbbq Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ Brisket Method #bbq #texasbbq #brisket #smokedmeat #austin #valentinastexmexbbq #texas #learnontiktok ♬ Just Outside Of Austin – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Let’s look at Valentina’s brisket. We ordered the Mex Taco mix because we wanted to try something different. Valentina’s does the foolproof brisket trim, no mohawk, shaved deckle, rounded flat corners, and 1/4″ fat cap on the flat and a 1/8” fat cap on the point. They don’t use a binder and do not spritz. Their rub is primarily salt and pepper and they also add garlic, onion, chili powder and “other spices”. They smoke it fat side up with Mesquite at 260 degrees for about 9 hours. They wrap in foil when a dark mahogany bark forms, and pull by feel not by temp. They lift it in the middle, observe how the point and flat bend and squeeze to test for tenderness. They then move them to a 145 degree warmer and rest until it is ready to serve, which can be 5+ hours.
I’ll be back to Valentina’s and will get the brisket, corn, and queso. Using Mesquite sets them apart from the others who only smoke with post oak. The flavor difference is immediately apparent upon first bite. It’s not overpowering like most people think Mesquite is. It’s unique and delicious.
@backyahdbbq Pinkertons’s Brisket Method #sanantonio #texas #bbq #texasbbq #smokedmeat #brisket #beef #didyouknow #learnontiktok #bbqtips #pinkertons #pinkertonsbbq @pinkertonsbbq ♬ The Truck Song – Lyle Lovett
Let’s look at Pinkerton’s brisket. They do the foolproof brisket trim, no mohawk, shaved deckle, rounded flat corners, and 1/4″ fat cap. They do not use a binder and do not spritz. They rub with salt and pepper and smoke fat side up with Mesquite at 250 degrees for 9ish hours. They wrap with paper when they see it turn a dark mahogany color, the bark is set, and the flat fat is starting to curl up. They then switch to Post Oak for the remainder of the cook. To test for doneness they lift the brisket in the middle and observe how the point and flat bend.
When it is done, they place in a warmer at 145 degrees until ready to serve, which can be 5+ hours.
If I come back to San Antonio, I’ll stop at Pinkerton’s and get the brisket, pork ribs, rice, mac and cheese, and potato salad. They, by far, had the best tasting sides out of all the places we visited. The ribs are great if you like a sweet rib. Using Mesquite gives there a brisket a flare that you won’t find in most post oak only joints.
@backyahdbbq Snow’s BBQ Brisket Method #bbq #texasbbq #smokedmeat #snowsbbq #learnontiktok #texas #brisket #food #tiktokfood #barbecue #yum ♬ You Gotta Move – Mississippi Fred McDowell
Let’s take a look at Snow’s Brisket. Snow’s is located in Lexington, Texas and is #9 on the Texas Monthly 2021 Top 50 BBQ Joints. They don’t trim their briskets because they arrive pretty well trimmed. They don’t use a binder and don’t spritz. Their rub is simple: Just table salt and pepper. They smoke it fat side up with post oak for a couple of hours at 250-275 degrees, then down to 225 degrees until they wrap. Because they don’t round off their flat corners, they need to monitor the briskets and look for anything that is starting to burn and rotate or move away from hot spots. They wrap in foil when the bark turns a light mahogany reddish color. Then back on the pit at 250-275 degrees and pull it when feels right – usually a few hours later. To test for doneness, they lift it from the middle with their thumb on the top and gauge doneness by how the point and flat bend and how the flat meat feels. This instinct develops with time and if you are new to it, you can start testing around 195 degrees, but never above 211 degrees.
They use 7lb briskets, so their total cook time is only 9ish hours. After pulling they let it cool on a metal table for 10ish mins, drain the excess fat into a bucket, then place in a basic cooler for a couple of hours before slicing with an electric knife.
One thing to consider with Snow’s is the wait time. We arrived at 5am and were still 75th in line. We waited 6 hours before we got our food at 11am. It was still a great experience, we met a bunch of great people, and Clay, the pitmaster you see in this video, openly shared his techniques. When I get back to Snow’s, I’m definitely going to save all my room for the brisket.
You can’t go wrong with any of the joints we hit on this trip. I encourage you to head to Texas and try to stop at each of them and start with our recommendations. Just make sure you double check with them to ensure they aren’t closed. We wanted to go to Leroy and Lewis, 2M Smokehouse, Interstellar, and many others, but they all have funky hours that didn’t fit into our schedule.
I love the simplicity of each joint’s process. Instinct based cooking is what we should all strive for. The modern tools and techniques we use help us learn, but eventually we should abandon overthinking and let the food communicate to us when it needs attention and when it is done.
I hope this blog helped set you in the right direction for your Texas BBQ trip. I would love to hear your feedback and recommendations for other joints to checkout the next time I’m in town. Louis Mueller and Truth BBQ are already on the list.