David Calkins, co-owner of Urban Bar-B-Que, called this afternoon to tell me that the Rockville location of the two-store chain had just installed a XLR-600 Southern Pride smoker, which is a significant improvement over the joint’s previous equipment. The Southern Pride machine can handle about 600 pounds of meat on its self-basting rotisserie racks, but even more important, it cooks brisket, ribs, and chicken almost wholly by wood smoke—-oak in Urban’s case.
Calkins knew I’d be particularly interested in how the smoker treats Urban’s briskets, given my ongoing search for real Texas barbecue. The smoke flavor of Calkins’ brisket, which I had once criticized in a review, has significantly improved with the new smoker, the owner says. So has the meat’s moisture content, since the new smoker melts the entire fat cap into the brisket now, spreading that rich, buttery goodness throughout the cut. Plus, Calkins is rubbing his briskets with nothing more than salt and pepper before throwing them in the smoker.
All of this, I think, bodes well for those looking for decent, Texas-style brisket in the big city, which ain’t easy to find. You can bet I’ll soon give the brisket a taste test; you can also bet that I will order it without sauce, since Urban will serve it up with the stuff unless otherwise requested.
The main issue Calkins has now, he says, is holding the meat once it’s finished cooking. He typically pulls the brisket out of the smoker at 9 a.m., two hours before Urban opens at 11 a.m. Holding the meat at 140 degrees can start to affect the quality of it, particularly its color and bark. As Calkins is telling me this, I suggest he consider opening in the morning, right as he’s pulling the briskets out of the smoker. I know I’d be there when the doors open, I say.
“Not a bad idea,” Calkins says. Then he starts rattling off a sort of barbecue version of steak and eggs—-but with brisket instead of a top sirloin or some such cut. Count me in!