The Smoked BBQ Fest held its 6th event this Fall and has quickly become the go-to festival in the DFW area if not in the whole State of Texas. The festival features the absolute who’s who of BBQ across the state. I mean, where else can you get some Kreuz Sausage next door to a Louie Mueller dinosaur beef rib next door to a Zavalas bbq taco… no where but Smoked.

A 90 degree day in Downtown Dallas’ Main Street Garden Park provided the perfect setting for stuffing my body full of bbq like an overstuffed teddy bear. It was dumb and yum all at the same time. This year the event sold out, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to get in on this action when the festival rolls into town next year.

Smoked BBQ Fest, Dallas

Pits featured in my video: Kreuz Market, Louis Mueller BBQ, Heim BBQ, Hutchins BBQ, Ferris Wheeler BBA, Micklethwait Craft Meats, Bodacious BBQ, Hurtado BBQ, Schmidt BBQ, Tejas Chocolate and BBQ, BBQ Mobberly, Meat Church,  Black’s BBQ Lockhart, Panther City BBQ, and Zavalas.

Meat Church, Waxahachie

Also featured: Jimmy Ho, Shiner Beer, Pat Green.

Meeting influencers at Smoked BBQ Fest
Dinosaur Beef Ribs from Louis Mueller, Taylor

Ever wonder why the turkey breast is always dry at Thanksgiving? It’s geometry–that’s the problem. The breast is closest to the heat of the oven and has less fat, so it cooks faster and dries out more quickly. The legs and thighs in a whole bird are surrounded by connective tissue and carcass, so they cook by conduction and not direct heat, taking longer. To get the dark meat done to temperature, the white meat is overcooked and dried out. This why I choose to roast a turkey in parts. Of course,you give up the flourish of carving the bird at the table, but in the end its about fellowship of family, expressing gratefulness, and eating a well-prepared meal. It’s not about the carving.Cooking a turkey this way allows the turkey to cook faster. You can also cook more quantity if you need to. Plus, you can take the carcass and boil it into stock at the same time the bird is in the oven.

The Turkey

  • 1 whole turkey, 10-15 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large stalks celery, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium stock
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (I like Bell’s brand, see note) divided
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh sage
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut into chunks

Using a sharp knife, separate the wings, breasts, and leg quarters (like you would do to a chicken). A sharp knife really helps here because a turkey has more connective tissue than a chicken. Put the turkey pieces in a pan (I like to use a disposable pan to avoid cross-contamination). Season both sides of each piece with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Mix onions, celery, and carrots together. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add ½ cup of the stock to the pan over the vegetables. Season the vegetables with a little salt, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Take the butter chunks and insert between the meat and the skin of each piece, leaving a few chunks to put on top of the skin of each piece. Arrange the leg quarters and wing pieces around the pan, on top of the vegetables. Leave room for the breasts in the pan, but put them aside for now. You won’t put the breasts in the oven at the beginning of cooking.

Cover the pan of dark meat turkey loosely with foil and place in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour. Remove the foil and turn the leg and wing sections over. Lay the breast pieces meat side down in the pan. Replace the foil and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour or until the deepest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees and the breast reads 150 on a thermometer.

Remove the foil and turnover the breast pieces so the skin side is up. Turn the oven to broil and put the pan back in the oven on the lowest rack until the skin of the turkey is golden brown. Remove the turkey from the oven, recover with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes, basting every five minutes or so with pan juices. Put the vegetables from the pan into a blender and turn the blender on medium high. Slowly add about half of liquid from the pan into the blender until pureed.Pour into a sauce pot and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and reduce until thick. Add remaining liquid as needed to maintain desired consistency. Use as gravy over the turkey.

Thanksgiving Gravy

  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 4 tablespoons More Than Gourmet brand Glace de Volaille roasted turkey stock
  • ½ cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1 drop of thyme essential oil
  • 1 drop of black pepper essential oil
  • 2 drops of sage essential oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a 2 quart sauce pot, bring stock, glace, and evaporated milk to boil. In separate container with a lid (like a mason jar with a sealable lid or shakerball mixer), mix together consome and arrowroot and shake vigorously for 1 minute until smooth and frothy. While broth mixture is at a full boil, slowly whisk in the arrowroot mixture. Bring to boil for 3 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened. If too thick for your preference you can thin it out with a little more broth, stock or water. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.The “More Than Gourmet” brand does not contain any added salt, so you will need to season accordingly.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a tropical plant.One-year old roots are dug up and soaked in hot water. The soaking removes the bitter fibrous covering. The root gets mashed up to separate the edible starch. The starch dries out and becomes the arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and vegan!

Arrowroot can be used in place of cornstarch, especially for those with corn allergies. Each has slightly different effects on a dish. Cornstarch comes from a grain and has a higher content of protein and fat, which means it needs a higher temperature for thickening. On the other hand,arrowroot has less protein and fat, so thickening happens faster and at a lower temperature.Arrowroot has a more neutral flavor also. I tend to use cornstarch when I want thickening at the beginning of cooking, such as with a stew or dairy sauces. I use arrowroot when thickening towards the end of the cooking process, such a with acids, vinegars, or lemon juice

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Any barbecue tour would not be complete without a prayer at the alter of all that is holy in Texas barbecue — Franklin’s in Austin.

Meat Fight is a charitable event in Dallas, Texas started by James Beard award-winning food writer Alice Laussade to raise money to support national MS research. The event involves a barbecue competition featuring chefs that don’t cook barbecue.

They also have prizes and an auction for attendees. In 2018, I won the “boner package” which included lunch at Franklin’s BBQ in Austin at the back table with the KING OF TEXAS BBQ himself Aaron Franklin and skipping the famous line to get in that usually starts around 5 am on any given day. (Check out more about Meat Fight here www.meatfight.com) Only a few people in the universe have skipped the line at Franklin’s — President Obama being one of them. So, this prize was a coveted one indeed. And I won it! (I also get to be a judge at Meat Fight 2019 — stay tuned to my Instagram story @chef.john.oneil for that coming on November 10th.)

Badass Lady Chef Jeana Johnson, F&B director for Canvas Hotel in Dallas, won the brisket competition at Meat Fight 2018 and won the overall prize for the best chef. I decided my visit to Franklin’s in Austin had to include her.

Aaron Franklin doesn’t allow videotaping in his behind the scenes tour, so we were limited to still photos. Even so… the experience was amazing. The morning started with Aaron making us espresso. In typical Aaron fashion, he was extremely attentive to detail in pulling the espresso shot and it was fabulous.

Then, Aaron gave us his personal tour of the pits and his theories on barbecue — how to build the fire, what type of wood to use, what pits are best. He gave us his personal history and told of rebuilding after the fire caused by an ember caught in the wind of Hurricane Harvey.

The crowning moment of the behind-the-scenes tour of Franklin’s was eating at the back table outside of Aaron’s personal quarters on-site of the barbecue location. Other friends of Aaron’s from Mexico joined us for lunch. The setting was a small camper trailer (with air conditioning) and picnic tables. Aaron’s wife joined us too. To say that the food was phenomenal is an understatement. Aaron was friendly and personable. He was interested in the barbecue tour we were on and offered advice and insight to the places we would visit.

All of the meats were outstanding. But the real star, surprisingly, was the turkey breast. Aaron gets a special lot of turkeys from a heritage farm in Michigan and cooks them just right so they are the most moist turkey you have ever tasted in your life. He rubs the skinless turkey with butter, black pepper and salt. That’s it. (He shares his recipe here.)

Chef Jeana visited Aaron’s previously and she said the food was just a good on the day of our visit as it was the prior visit. The turkey was equally as moist. That kind of consistency is amazing. I was also impressed with how happy and busy his staff was. Aaron runs a precise ship but his team members all seemed to know exactly what needed doing and were busy doing it. No slackers. And they were all cheerful and friendly.

One afternoon early in our backroads and barbecue tour around central Texas, my cousin Jack Crouch said that we just had to stop by and see Dustin Lauw at Duck’s Heritage Boots. A fourth-generation leather maker, Dustin became inspired to make boots when he had a pair made by the man who became his mentor, Duck Menzies. Dustin was open and forthcoming about his craft, his workshop, and even his life philosophy. You’ll love Dustin and want to go hang out with him at his shop too! Check it out…

https://youtu.be/TRnaTnhRTBY
Episode 1: Y’all Need Some Comfy Boots?
Episode 2: Mechanics of Custom Boot Making

In the third episode from our visit to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, we get a behind-the-scenes tour of the shop from legendary pitmaster Roy Perez. Nothing was off-limits to us as we saw the pits, meat storage, and wood lot. We learned about how they age their post oak wood for a year to dry it out and harden it before throwing it on the fire. Come with me for the last part of our extended visit with Roy at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas.

This is the second episode of Backroads and BBQ from our visit to Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas. The day before we went to Lockhart, we visited with Aaron Franklin at Franklin’s BBQ in Austin. When we told him we were headed to Kreuz, he recommended the pork chop and jalapeno sausage hot link. So, that’s what I got. Check it out!

We first met Garrett Hill at 309 Coffee, the quaint local coffee shop that he manages in Georgetown, Texas. He told us about his small coffee roasting business and invited us to come visit. In this episode, we get to tour the roastery and talk to Garrett about the coffee business, how to roast coffee, and the technical aspects of getting the roast dialed in right. You get a behind the scenes tour to his coffee roasting operation. Check it out!

No barbeque tour would be complete without a visit to Lockhart, Texas. And, no visit to Lockhart, Texas would be complete without a trip to Kreuz Market.

When we were finished, I saw The Legend Himself — Roy Perez — walk in and go to the back. I just had to go shake his hand.

We went to Kreuz (prounounced like “critz” in the German way) on a Wednesday afternoon — not the best or busiest day in BBQ world. I didn’t make an appointment and didn’t expect to do much other than eat some meat and take some pictures. We didn’t make an appointment and didn’t call in advance.

As it turned out, Roy took time to give me a full tour and talk to me for a long time about Kreuz Market, barbeque, food philosophy, life, Whataburger, and even a lesson on how to slice brisket. He gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the coolers and meat storage. Nothing was offlimits to us and our cameras. He was so welcoming and inviting — by far the best ambassador of Texas BBQ that we encountered. I’m sure he was busy and had other things to do that day, but he made time for us. Seemingly, nothing was more important.

From the Kreuz Market website:

In 1875 Jesse Swearingen opened Lockhart’s first meat market. The term “meat market” referred to what we would call today a grocery store with a butcher on hand offering fresh meat.

In 1900 Charles Kreuz Sr. borrowed $200 and bought the market from Jesse. $200 was a lot of money in rural Texas in 1900. Kreuz Market quickly became known as the best grocery store in the area. Shoppers flocked to what was described as a modern, “progressive” grocery store.

Charles came from a family of German immigrants that made their way to Central Texas in the 18th Century. The Kreuz clan smoked meats like they did in the old country—German meat-market style. He fused his German heritage with Texas raised cattle and pork smoked over native post oak wood.

Barbecue has humble beginnings. Butchers like Charles wanted to make use of an animal nose to tail with little waste. Smoking scrap cuttings and the less desirable parts was a way to monetize the whole animal. Plus, it tasted good.

BBQ meat was also a working man’s food. It was often eaten at lunch time by cowboys, rough necks, ranch hands, and farmers looking for a quick, high protein meal to fuel long days of hard work.

A 1930 newspaper article from the Lockhart Post Register that describes the early Kreuz experience:

“The Kreuz Market at any time of the day will serve smoking hot barbecue on a piece of oiled paper with a supply of crackers and the customer may in addition supply himself with onions, tomatoes, coffee, soda water, near beer or even pies and cakes. The meat and the cracker served on paper at the oven are taken by the purchaser to a table where a knife is chained and there the barbecue is cut and eaten. Table knives, forks or dishes are not furnished.” Lockhart Post Register, June 30, 1930

Charles’ sons sold Kreuz Market in 1948 to Edgar Schmidt. Edgar had been the Kreuz Market butcher since 1936. He knew how to smoke meat and he knew the grocery business.

Edgar made changes and transitioned the food market into a restaurant. He closed the grocery store section down entirely in the early 1960’s. From then on it functioned as a restaurant and was a market in name only. In 1984 Edgar retired and sold the business to his sons Rick and Don Schmidt.

In 1987 Roy Perez received a phone call that would change his life. The home builder from Lockhart, Texas took a call from his cousin who worked at Kreuz Market who said they needed workers. Roy immediately quit his home building gig and started smoking sausages for Kreuz owner Rick Schmidt. Roy fell in love with working the pits and was quickly promoted to manager within three months.

Edgar died in 1994 and left the Kreuz Market building to his daughter Nina Sells. His sons rented the building from their sister and continued to run the restaurant.

This division would set off a bitter family feud as the brothers argued with their sister about rent hikes and building improvements. After years of legal battles with his sister, the pair settled and Rick built a new, larger restaurant in 1999 on nearby Colorado Street in Lockhart. Rick’s sister Nina reopened in the old Kreuz building as “Smitty’s.”

This was a huge change in Lockhart. Kreuz had been open on Commerce Street for 99 years. It was a Lockhart landmark and tradition. Changing locations was a big risk.

Hundreds of Lockhart residents and dignitaries gathered in 1999 when Kreuz pit master Roy Perez dragged a metal bucket full of hot coals from the pits at the old location to the new one. This ceremonial event helped comfort customers that were unsure about such a radical change. The move proved successful. The newer building was able to serve more customers and the flavor of the meat stayed the same.

Rick retired in 2011 and sold the family business to his son Keith Schmidt, 5th generation owner.

Today Roy Perez remains the Kreuz Pit Master, armed with mutton chops and a meat cleaver. Since he started smoking meat 32 years ago, Roy’s reputation for working with smoke has spread and he has become a celebrity in the world of barbecue. The mere mention of his name conjures up images of pit smokers, butcher blocks, and large, sharp knives.

Every morning Roy arrives at Kreuz, grabs some post oak logs to get the fires burning, then checks the journal he’s been keeping since 1987 to decide how much meat he’ll smoke that day.

Next comes a little seasoning rub, then it’s time for brisket and shoulder clod to smoking, followed shortly by ribs and pork chops.

Some know that their brisket is ready when the buzzer dings, or when their thermometer tells them so. Roy knows when his barbecue is ready by sight, smell and feel. No gauges and no room for mistakes.

When you care about barbecue rankings, your most important batch of brisket happens when a food critic comes to town. For Roy, every day is as important because people come in every day from across Texas and the world.

Roy’s been called the “King of Texas barbecue” more than once, a title for which he hasn’t campaigned, nor accepted.

In today’s food for thought, I talk about my earliest food memory. Hint: it’s when I was 3 years old!

This episode of Backroads and BBQ finds us at a small, quaint locally owned coffee shop near downtown Georgetown, Texas. We met Garrett Hill, their manager, who also owns Apothecary Coffee Roastery (which will be featured in a future episode). We get to see their operation and chat with Garrett about coffee, roasting, and how he got his groove. Check it out!