These Texas Barbecue Schools Will Teach You to Smoke Meat Like a Pro
Learn the tricks of the trade from Goldee’s, LeRoy and Lewis, Panther City and other top BBQ joints
Texas’s reputation for barbecue extends far beyond the state’s borders, as visitors make the pilgrimage from all over the country (and the world) to sample brisket, beef ribs and other smoked meats. Visiting as many barbecue joints as possible makes an excellent to-do list for locals and out-of-staters alike, but with a little instruction, you may be able to supplement those visits with some top-notch DIY barbecue of your own, perfected at various schools and classes offered around the state.
Barbecue classes range from in-person affairs to online options that let you learn at your own pace. BrisketU teaches regular classes all over Texas — often hosting them at breweries — on the finer points of brisket, ribs and other classics. There’s also Aaron Franklin’s Texas-style BBQ MasterClass, which covers everything from building a fire to trimming meat. But below, we’re highlighting four classes you can take on-site at some of the best barbecue restaurants in the state (each is currently ranked in Texas Monthly’s top 10).
Whether you’re looking for an easygoing Q&A or a full-day, hands-on experience, all of these will put you one step closer to achieving meat-whisperer status.
LeRoy and Lewis gives barbecue enthusiasts multiple options for learning their way around a smoker. First up is the New School BBQ University, which takes place twice per year — the next session will occur in early 2023 — and includes a whole weekend’s worth of instruction and hands-on activities. If you don’t want to wait that long, they’re offering a one-day summer school class on August 13 for $600. This is essentially a condensed version of BBQ University, during which enrollees will learn how to butcher and trim beef cheeks, brisket and hog; the finer points of casing and smoking sausages; fire management; and how to wrap and slice brisket. It will also include a guest panel, breakfast and lunch, and it all concludes with a happy hour.
“This is an abbreviated and intensive course for the professional, pop-up, or serious backyard cook,” says chef and pitmaster Evan LeRoy. The in-person classes draw a diverse crowd. “We’ve had people come from all over the country to learn, as well as from just down the street. There are lessons that apply to both sides of the spectrum.”
LeRoy and Lewis also offers online classes via Zoom. The next one is July 1 and covers everything you need to know about brisket and sausage. Then there’s the Patreon membership; for $30 per month, backyard enthusiasts get access to 100-plus instructional videos they can view without having to leave the house. The videos cover topics like cooking a brisket, rendering fat, breaking down animals, making desserts and even cleaning your barbecue pit.
Goldee’s currently holds the top ranking on Texas Monthly’s best-of list. Naturally, that means long lines of people who wake up early for the first crack at scoring great barbecue. You’re welcome to join that line, but if you’d like to attempt recreating some of that meaty magic on your own, enroll in Goldee’s brisket class. It’s going down July 18, and attendees will spend all day learning about the restaurant’s own brisket process, including how to trim and season the meat, how to manage fire and temperature, and how to cook, slice and plate. The class ends with a Q&A with the Goldee’s guys. At $1,000, it’s not cheap, but you get eight solid hours of expert instruction, plus a Goldee’s goody bag filled with a hat and shirt, Goldee’s sauce, brisket rub and all-purpose rub.
Given the price and intensive instruction, the Goldee’s team says that their classes are geared toward professionals or home cooks who are super passionate about barbecue. In addition to the July 18 class, Goldee’s will host other sessions at later dates that focus on other meats and preparations, so stay tuned for those.
Once a popular food truck and now a brick-and-mortar restaurant serving some of the state’s best barbecue, Panther City began offering classes during the pandemic. After an enthusiastic response, they’re still going strong, with monthly classes that cost $200 and run four hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In groups of 15, attendees learn how to effectively use a smoker, select wood, and trim, season, and cook brisket, ribs, and one other rotating protein. You’ll get pro tips for choosing a home smoker, and you can ask questions about your specific model to glean advice on making the most of what you have.
Cattleack owner Todd David holds an informal Pits & Punch session at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month. You don’t have to sign up or pay a fee, just show up to join other smoked-meat enthusiasts looking to improve their barbecue game. During these “fireside chats,” you can ask questions about all things barbecue, from fuel sources and gear to achieving the perfect smoke ring. Then, stick around to eat.
The restaurant has notoriously short hours, opening its doors on Thursdays and Fridays for lunch only. But they also open on that first Saturday of each month to feed Pits & Punch attendees (and everyone else), so you might as well take advantage and score a Flintstones-size beef rib while you’re there.
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