Saturday 26 July 2014

Getting saucy in Llano! Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que.

[At the pit in Cooper's]
Have I mentioned before that I don't like the I35? Yes, it's the backbone road through Texas. Yes, it's part of the Pan America Freeway, the road that allows you to travel from Alaska to the tip of South America (and what a road trip that would make).

But it's also 6 lanes of yawn, and there was no way I was driving it to San Antonio.

Instead, perversely, I started by driving west, to Llano. Now, there's a road paved with good barbecue. There's the Schmidt Family BBQ in Bee Cave and Opie's in Spicewood. But I was strong, and held on for Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano.

[A Cornucopia of Meat!]
Now, every place does it differently, and at Cooper's you get to stand at the pit, admire the cornucopia of meat, and choose what you want. I've heard that some people get barbecue paralysis at this point, unable to choose, but I was focussed. Yes, I wanted brisket. And then something strange happened.

The lovely chap above asked me a question I didn't quite make out, and as I often do when I don't want to admit I don't understand, I said 'yes' (one day this is going to get me into trouble). So he picked up my meat and dunked it in a large pot of sauce on one side of pit. Sauce?! I'm no expert, but I thought the whole point of Texan barbecue was that it didn't have sauce?

[Brisket - with sauce!]
Well, no, it doesn't have sauce in the sense of the sticky, ketchup and brown sugar sludge that you tend to have poured over cheap pork ribs. But this is special sauce, this is mop sauce, and I did a little research.

Because of the continual opening and closing of the pit, it can run a little hot. So a mop sauce is used to moisturise and cool down the meat. You can learn  a lot more about this over at AmazingRibs, but it's basically stock, vinegar and bits and bobs of fat that have fallen off the meat.

Not knowing all this, I was worried that I might ruined a delicious looking lump of brisket - so after having it sliced for me, I sat down with a degree of nervous anticipation in the main dining room.

[Cooper's Dining Room]
Well, I shouldn't worried, these guys know what they're doing. The sharpness of the vinegar just cuts through the fat and complements it perfectly, and adds just a little more moisture to an already melt-in-the-mouth brisket.

Cooper's easily joins my completely unscientific list of best barbecue in the world! Oh, and their potato salad was the best so far too.

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