Vol. III: Salt Lick BBQ

Worth the Wait

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hances are your backyard-BBQ-smoking expertise falls short of that of the Family Roberts. Patriarch Scott has spent the last half-century manning the famous pits at Salt Lick — first under the watchful eye of his father (who founded the joint back in ‘67), and now with his own watchful eye on the daughter who will eventually take it over. Call them the Corleones of Texas barbecue, if you will.

But fear not, meat-loving chums, with just a little know-how and a dab of elbow grease (and, er, regular grease), you can still knock out some Texas-style brisket goodness that’ll have your guests fighting over the last juicy bits — no fancy smoker required.


“My father always said on briskets, ‘If you go to the grocery store and buy whatever’s on special, it’s probably tough. And after 20 hours it’s still going to be tough.’” says Roberts. “So you need to start with the finest ingredient.”

Duly noted (and, it bears noting, highly reminiscent of Avión’s commitment to only the best rare blue weber agave). Hit your local butcher shop and ask for either choice or prime grade brisket — a little more expensive, but worth it for something you’re gonna spend the whole damn day on. Pro tip: have them trim the fat cap down to about a quarter inch and save yourself the trouble.

Owner/pitmaster Scott Roberts showcasing Salt Lick’s original pit, first used in 1967.


The night before, pre-salt the meat to help it retain moisture and bring out the flavor. About a third of a teaspoon per pound should do it.

Morning of, it’s time for the dry rub. Recipes abound, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that you can get both the rub and the sauce you’re gonna need later direct from Salt Lick, and again, they’ve been at this a helluva lot longer than anyone we know.

A dry-rubbed brisket ready for the smoker.

Pro tip: spray your brisket with a bit of water to adhere the rub better, then coat all sides liberally.


Any charcoal grill will do. Just get a small pile of briquettes going on one side and a tin roasting pan with about a quart of water on the other. Pro tip: heat the water first so your charcoal doesn’t waste its energy warming it up.

You’re looking for a grill temp of about 225 degrees — screw with the vents until you get there. Pro-er tip: a wireless thermometer with probes for both the meat and grill temps will make this whole process much easier.

Roberts’ fellow pitmaster Carmen Gonzalez with Salt Lick’s portable smoker rig.

Now it’s time for your wood chips. Hickory is easiest to find and 6-8 chips in the briquette mix oughta do it — you’ll want to soak them in water (or even better, apple juice) for at least four hours prior to smoking to keep them from burning up entirely.

Pro-est tip: do like Roberts and add a few (soaked) pecan hulls as well to mix up the smoky flavor.


Throw your brisket on the side of the grill above the water, fat cap side down. Insert your thermometer into the thickest part. Close ‘er up with the top vent on the opposite side of the fire so the smoke has to pass over the brisket on its way out.

Final step: sauce caramelizing on the meat over a high flame.

And now, you wait — much like the process of making quality tequila, making quality barbecue requires time, patience and a willingness not to cut corners.

“In order to get that smoke penetration into the meat, it just takes time.” says Roberts. “It takes time for the heat to get into the meat and soften it up. It takes time for the smoke to get into the meat and give it that wonderful flavor. You can’t rush it. You have to be patient.”

In this case, that wait should be in the vicinity of five hours. Lucky for you …


… this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a libation, and master mixologist Justin Lavenue has been kind enough to drop not one but two delicious Tequila Avión cocktail recipes on us inspired by (and perfect to pair with) Texas-style barbecue.


1.5 parts Avión Añejo
.5 part Avión Blanco
.5 part applewood-smoked maple syrup
2 dashes yuzu concentrate
2 dashes pecan bitters
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater Habeñero tincture
1 dash cassia tincture
3 drops saline tincture (1:10)
2 drops pecan oil

Build in a mixing glass and short-stir for 8 seconds. Strain over a large ice cube into a rosemary-smoked Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon peel “wings” and a rosemary sprig, then serve on an oak coaster.

 Smoking maple syrup is easier than you think – you just need a Breville Smoking Gun.

 Cocktail shakers are well and good, but a nice mixing glass lets you see your drink as you build it.

Remember: quality ingredients make all the difference.

Pro-level finishing touch: a rosemary-smoked glass.


1.5 parts Avión Añejo
.5 part Avión Blanco
.5 part grade A maple syrup
2 dashes pecan bitters
2 dashes angostura bitters

 Build in an Old Fashioned glass. Add large ice cubes and stir well to mix ingredients. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Please drink responsibly.


When the internal temp of the meat hits about 180°, take it off and wrap it in foil — this’ll hold in juices as the meat starts to “sweat” toward the end of the cook. Throw it back on, stick the thermometer back in, and monitor until it hits 200°.

Now comes the hardest part: not eating the damn thing yet. Yes, it’s going to smell so good that it gives you low-grade primal caveman meat mania. But you must resist: letting the brisket rest for a couple hours allows the juices to settle and results in a much tastier final product. So be patient. Have another drink. Be glad you’re not Roberts himself, who refrigerates his brisket for 10 more hours before reheating it on his pits.

Scott Robinson’s ideal Salt Lick’s “Thurman’s Choice” plate.

Once it’s rested, slather that baby in your sauce and throw it back on the grill directly over the heat for just a minute or two to caramelize it.

Take it off, slice it against the grain, and serve accompanied by a cold cocktail.

Pro tip: tell your guests to bring the sides.


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