4 Things We Learned at Lockhart Smokehouse Camp

By Farah Fleurima  |  July 24, 2014
Credit: Farah Fleurima

We sat in on Lockhart Smokehouse’s hands-on, up-close, expletive-laced Smoke Camp, a primer on how to select, prepare and serve meat that cooks “low and slow." Though the pitmasters will be different, here’s a taste of what to expect at the next session, this Tuesday at Lockhart’s new location in Plano. Call 972-516-8900 to reserve your spot.

Lesson 1: Read Your Meat
Our pitmaster/instructors Eric Perry (right) and Damian Avila took us into the kitchen and trotted out three sealed, raw briskets to teach us what to look and feel for when seeking a great cut for smoking. Generally, a USDA Choice (which includes Angus) is higher quality than USDA Select. We could feel the difference: On the Select, the fat cap that crowns the brisket was malleable (water and salt injections were starting to break down the meat). The fat cap on the Choice was firm and hefty, ideal for smoking (Lockhart smokes Choice). We learned that while some smokehouses trim fat from raw cuts, Damian and Eric prefer to leave it on to moisten the meat through smoking; customers can request trimming on individual orders.


Lesson 2: (Dry) Rub It Right
There’s no secret to rubs, Eric says, season to your preferences, be it with salt and pepper, or a more complex blend (peppers, garlic powder, Italian seasoning on occasion). One tip: Don't let rubs stay on a brisket too long — one night minimum, two days max. Certain add-on ingredients have become popular of late, but Eric stresses, “No oil. No water. No mustard. No ketchup.” Lockhart, in fact, debuted with a no-forks, no-sauce policy in keeping with Hill Country tradition. Alas, fervent demand pushed them to start offering both, but the pitmasters still believe sauce-free meat is best. Or as Eric opined, “Sauce is for hippies and assholes.”

Lesson 3: Learn Your Pit
As Lockhart’s pitmasters attested, successful smoking is all about practice, time and temperature and less about the nifty gadget you smoke in (Eric home-smokes in a converted fridge from early last century). Smoker thermometers be damned, the pit pros here rely on the clock and feel of the meat after hours at a steady temperature (between 225 F and 240 F). When finished, the fat cap should exhibit equal parts jiggle and firmness, like an unfrozen gel pack. The crowning touch: Let big hunks rest before cutting to redistribute juices. 

Lesson 4: Arrive Hungry
Your $100 ticket includes the carnivore’s bounty above: turkey, chicken, sausage, ribs, brisket, sides, and whatever else your hosts want to throw in.