Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t resist good barbecue — or any barbecue for that matter. It’s my Achilles Heel, my downfall. So when I had the opportunity to attend the 10th annual BBQ Crash Course at Austin’s South By Southwest Festival (SXSW), I leapt at the chance.
A little context: I’m a Los Angeles native, and while I often smoke my own barbecue, I’ve never had authentic Texas BBQ before. I had no idea what I was in for.
Every year for the past 10 years, a handful of BBQ masters bring their best to SXSW to present to festival goers. This year, the participants were: Louie Mueller Barbecue, Black’s Barbecue, Schmidt Family Barbecue, and Opie’s Barbecue. Music was provided by Beaver Nelson.
I grabbed a tray and an obligatory slice of white bread (which doubles as an impromptu plate to soak up the fat), piled on some pickles and onions, and got in line.
Barbecue specialties vary by region, and in Austin, Texas, beef brisket is the king. All four outfits had some on hand to compare and enjoy.
Louie Mueller’s brisket was satisfying, but they also brought some smoked sausages that were out of this world. They also had a terrific peach cobbler for dessert.
Black’s brought two kinds of brisket: lean and fatty. Black’s fatty brisket may have been some of the best BBQ brisket I’ve ever eaten. They also prepared an incredibly inventive dessert comprised of slices of smoked sausage caramelized by torch in maple syrup and served on a skewer in between donut bites. Kudos to their chef on that one!
Schmidt Family Barbecue brought some decent smoked brisket and sausage. Their brisket had a dark complex bark.
Opie’s Barbecue brought some mild, delightful smoked turkey and jalapeño-cheese sausage to mix things up. But it’s in their brisket that they really shine. It’s smoked for eighteen hours, and it really shows. The infusion of smoke was so intense, it was almost distracting. As much as that sounds like a pejorative, though, it’s not. Opie’s finished off by providing a tasty banana pudding, a Texas favorite.
The BBQ Crash Course was an introduction to Texas BBQ that I’m sure I’ll never forget, and one thing’s for certain after my experience: I’ll be attempting to chase that flavor in my own meat smoking for as long as I live.
While pictures do not do justice to the flavor, enjoy this gallery from my experience.