Day #5 Houston Rodeo: Brisket Testing

February 26, 2016 | BBQ Road Trip

It’s practice day. Only 24 hours remain before we submit our brisket for the judges to drool over, weep with joy and enthusiastically masticate on while hopefully awarding us top marks… that’s the general idea anyway!

Today was our last full day to hone our skills with the sole intention of creating the best bark possible. The 4 main things the judges are looking for are:

  • Sight/Texture
  • Smell
  • Tenderness
  • Taste

One thing to remember is that this is competition BBQ, so it can often be a million miles away from what you’d expect to see on your plate in a restaurant. This little hunk of joy has to be babysat to within an inch of its life – our Pitmasters our key, meticulously checking the temperatures to ensure they drop as low as 200F at some points and up to 225F at others. It’s a science that takes some serious practice and can go either way, the difference between a winner and a catastrophic failure can be anything as insignificant an extra few minutes at the wrong temperature to a brisket being badly wrapped in the wrong kind of peach paper. Thankfully this is what we do every day so we’re armed with our thermometers and rolls of peach paper, ready to give this competition what for.

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It’s now the turn of our PItmasters to get their hands dirty. John (Headingley), Stuart (Nottingham) and Cristiano (Leeds) have been preparing for this for the last few months – hours of meetings, mountains of test brisket and enough emails to crash even the best servers Microsoft can offer. After all this preparation and pontification we simply decided to do what we do in our restaurants; if we’re going to win anything we want it to be with the product we churn out everyday.

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For us, this event is less about the glory and more about what it means to us and our product – to prove that what we do is as authentic as we say it is. We bang on about authenticity constantly and we mean every word we say. To us, making brisket in England that stands up to whats made out here separates us fro the crowd. We’ve done our time travelling the roads of America, racking up over 20,000 miles in an R.V and hammering a path for BBQ fans. We do this so we can create BBQ that’s as close to the best we’ve had out here… and here we are, The World’s Championship Bar-B-Que in Houston, Texas, about to go up against those that have taught us what we know. Finally, the student stands on their own ready to show the teacher just what they’ve learnt!

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The first briskets we “threw down” (that’s how it’s known over here) were spot on and just as we’d have hoped. Nice thick bark, the salt and pepper rub had worked a treat with the addition of our signature Red’s rub, plus a few tricks we’ve learnt along the way to get the smoke ring nice and deep. The first few slices were super nice and fatty (perhaps a little too fatty for the UK but just how they like it over here), but we trimmed back the next ones a little more so the fat was nice and equal. As you can imagine, it’s not just a case of throwing a few more in, waiting 20 minutes and pulling it out – this stuff takes 12 hours, so its right back into the smoker with a few more slabs of Nebraska’s best and we head back to the bar!

Ronnie Killen from Killen’s BBQ stopped by to offer some words of advice and to invite us back to his joint on Sunday so we can have a proper tour of the place from the man himself”. Turns out he was trained in London in the 90’s as a cordon bleu chef – he started experimenting with BBQ a long time back but it didn’t work out. He then opened an incredibly successful steakhouse which he still owns now, but his passion and heart remains firmly with the awesome BBQ he puts out every day. This place is literally a who’s who of the BBQ world – we’re small fish in a very big pond over here…. and we love it!

Now, onto the competition!

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