Sunday, August 31, 2014

Austin - Texas is known for its BBQ, but I learnt recently there are other regional styles of BBQ which are defined by the cooking style, cultural influence, common animals and produces. Central Texas-style BBQ has a strong influence from the German and Czech immigrants. The focus is all on the beef and sausages with minimal seasonings - mainly salt and pepper. The sides are considered less of importance. I went to the two popular BBQ spots in/near Austin to have a taste of what good BBQ is.

Franklin's BBQ

Franklin's BBQ is the place to go for the best smoked brisket in the State. Their opening hours are rather peculiar - 11AM until sold out. People are willing to wait for hours in front of this BBQ joint before it opens.

I arrived around 7:30AM on Saturday hoping to be the first one in line. Already about 20 people were ahead of me. The first group arrived at 6AM, and the second, at 6:30AM. Optimally, if you want to eat around 12pm, better arrive before 8:30am as the line expands quickly. 

Waiting in line for hours is all part of the experience - bring a chair, share beers with your neighbour, mingle and make some new friends. Luckily, I arrived at Franklin's prepared thanks to my Airbnb host Leslie & her boyfriend Thomas who provided me a camping chair and some Mexican sodas. If you have a chance to visit Austin, I highly recommend booking her room. 

The 4-hour wait felt very short when I introduced myself to 5 Mexican Texans from Houston. Because we are from different cultural backgrounds, live in two cities and passionate about food, we definitely had a lot of things to talk about. They are also pro pit masters so I learned a few tips and tricks on the art of smoking meat and making a good Texan BBQ sauce. 

At 11am, the doors are finally opened. You can order meats by the pound or you can opt for the 2-meats combo platter with two choices of sides. I added one link of sausage to my meal. At Franklin's, fans rave about their brisket, and I can confirm these are the best briskets ever. I am unlikely to find something like this in Canada. The taste and texture are just a whole different level. The briskets are so flavourful and juicy with a well-rendered fat, a blackened salty-peppery crust and a glistening meat. The meat breaks apart with the slightest force. The other meats are also as good. Both pork and beef ribs are delicious and falling off the bone. The beef-and-pork sausage has a good dose of smokiness. 

At the end of the meal, you can request the pit master for a tour of their smokehouse where 75-85 briskets are being smoked for the next day in offset smokers. They take between 15-18 hours to be ready. The key to a perfect brisket is temperature control and patience to let the meat develop its own flavour with the assistance of salt and pepper. The wood is also as important. Here post oak is used because it burns cleanly, provides uniform heating and the flavour is not overpowering. 

Four hours sound like a long time, but if you come prepare with a positive attitude, time flies quickly. It's worth the wait!!!

Franklin's BBQ
900 E 11th St.
Austin, TX
Franklin Barbecue on Urbanspoon

The Salt Lick 

The Salt Lick is another popular BBQ joint located 20 mins outside of Austin with a breathtaking view of the Hill Country. The meat is first cooked inside a smoker, then refrigerated for 24 hours before finishing the cooking process over an open fire pit basted with a mop sauce.

I was on conference for a week and one of the excursions is a wine tasting and BBQ buffet at the Salt Lick. About 100 attendees chose to go to Salt Lick. We arrived at the Salt Lick Cellar where we were introduced to five of their finest wines which pair well with their BBQ meats. Afterwards, the buffet tables were set with a row of chafting dishes containing all their meats and sides ready to be grabbed. Since we don't have Texan BBQ in Montreal, I'm not expert in BBQ. I can say the meats were tender, juicy and flavorful. The mop sauce and BBQ sauce helps elevate the flavour of the meat. Simply delicious. We ended our meal with a hot sweet peach cobbler with perfectly caramelized cobbler crust topped with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream - the perfect dessert to end the meal.

The Salt Lick
18300 Fm 1826
Driftwood, TX
The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon
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