Smoker’s Delight

By Logan Bishop

Cowboy boots, longhorns and the bluebonnet flower are all iconically Texan. Texas also has its own distinct flavor –BBQ.

I come from a family that believes the smoking of meats to be a true art form.  We took vacations to visit masters in smoking artistry. I grew up with a father who has studied the art of the dry rub, the slow smoke, and the spicy sauce.  For the uninitiated of superior BBQ, let me enlighten you.

Barbecue is traditionally divided into two major categories: beef and pork. While Tennessee pit masters are often cited for their work with pork butt and ribs, Texas claims fame for slow-cooked, hard-crusted beef brisket.

Smoking meats is a time-honored process through which collagen is melted down into gelatin, a reaction that occurs at heat ranges of 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this temperature, two competing reactions are occurring—the connective collagen is slowly liquefying and imbuing the surrounding meat with flavor while the muscle tissue begins to soften. Taking a tough brisket and smoking it into a moist, tender, mouth-watering meal requires maintaining this temperature level until the system reaches thermodynamic equilibrium.

One Texas family has built and nurtured a “Barbecue Dynasty” in and around the Austin area.  Louie Mueller opened his familial smokehouse in 1949 in Taylor, Texas.  The Mueller pits have been featured in numerous top BBQ lists, highlighted on several Food Network programs, and received many prestigious cooking awards, including the James Beard Foundation Award.

The Mueller Barbecue storefront

While Louie Mueller has since passed on, his grandson operates the storefront in Taylor while his great-grandchildren have opened BBQ joints of their own here in Austin. Those familiar with John Mueller’s Meat Company or La Barbecue have visited restaurants owned by the Mueller family.

Several famous pit masters can also trace their lineage back to the Mueller’s in Taylor.  Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s Barbecue, oft mentioned for the legendary line to the meat counter, served as a pit master under Bobby Mueller. Lance Kirkpatrick did his stint at Louie Mueller’s and later opened the Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew here in the Capital.

In Austin, barbecue royalty surrounds you, so don’t miss the opportunity to taste and understand the meaning of ‘superior’ barbecue.  The time is now! Call some friends and go grab a couple burnt ends and a glass of iced tea to taste the distinct flavor that is Texas.

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