How to do ‘Cue

May 1, 2016


The whole house is still redolent of smoke. If there’s a better scent, I have yet to encounter it.

All day the meat – pork shoulders and beef ribs – sat in this contraption, soaking up the smoke and becoming increasingly delicious.  Barbecue Pitmaster, John Markus hauled his mobile pit up our hill and set up a tent.  Then he returned in the dark of the morning – 5 a.m. – to fire it up.


This is one of the ribs.  But you want to see it up close to see how truly marbled the meat is.


There was, incidentally, a LOT of beef.


But have I mentioned the pork?


This is what the pork looked like a few hours in, about the time John loaded in the beef.  And this is what it looked like twelve hours later, when it emerged:


and inside…


Then it got pulled, mixed with a Carolina mustard sauce, and devoured.

Watching John hover over the pit all day, watching the temperature, filling it with more coals, moistening the meat (he used apple juice), gave me a whole new respect for pitmasters.  This is not cooking, it’s a labor of love and unlike any other activity in the kitchen. It’s biting your nails, wondering what’s going on inside that smoking behemoth, fighting the urge to open it up and take a look.  It’s having faith and appreciating mystery. Above all, it’s patience.


This is Larry Martinelli, John’s friend and helper, with the first butt out of the smoker.


How did it taste?  The pulled pork was the best I’ve ever had.  And the beef….


I have an indelible memory of the first time I went to Luling Texas, walked into City Market and watched the man pile brisket onto butcher paper.  I took a bite and went to some other place.  It was a primal taste, all meat, mineral and smoke.  I’d never experienced anything like it, and I’ve been chasing that flavor ever since.

In the meantime I’ve tried a lot of barbecued beef, in a lot of great places, and what I’ve learned is this:  I got very lucky that day in Luling.  I hit a magic moment, one that happens very, very rarely.

It happened again yesterday.  I feel so lucky.

If you want to know what else we ate – there were about 50 of us – here’s the rest of the menu.  I’ll admit I overdid it, cooking for days and making way too much….. But I never want anyone to leave my house hungry.

Lovely local cheeses.

Cole slaw

Baked beans

Aunt Birdie’s Potato salad

Macaroni and cheese

Nancy’s Biscuits

Nicky’s Vanilla Cake

Art Park Brownies

Cappuccino Brownies

Lots of beer and wine….



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  • Vicki Brown says:

    O. M. G.
    I envy you.

    We all envy you.

    I can almost smell it from here!

  • Mark says:

    Classic Reichl commentary. Made me feel like I was part of the celebration. Wonderful post, thank you.

  • Alan says:

    This sounds awesome. How does one become fortunate enough to be one of the 50?

  • Texas BBQ, at its best is like what you describe here. Its a true art. That’s why there are so many BBQ cook offs. There was a place in H town – “Ottos”, that practiced his kraft till it was over the moon. He was ask to go to the White House and declined. Everybody but everybody that knew “Q” ate there. He’s retired now, but the BBQ was the best. Its called “in or out”… do you want it more of it cut from the inside or the outside?

  • Linda says:

    This is my first post and had to comment that this sounded so amazing. What a party that must have been. I like these kinds of posts much better than your restaurant posts. 🙂

  • Momma J says:

    My son smokes meat using a very similar method, and it’s amazing!

  • Moe says:

    I am a certified Kansas City BBQ Judge and such, I am lucky enough to have judged 100’s of contests all over the U.S. Each one is different and I have tasted it all, from the blah to the over the top in brisket, pork, ribs and chicken. I must say from the raw meat to the finished product, this truly looks like some over the top BBQ. John and Larry along with you as the host should be proud of an outstanding get together for your guests.

  • annie says:

    So fabulous! Thanks for sharing .. Wish we were “besties” so I could have been there!