Why are you out of BBQ at 2pm?

November 6, 2014

It's frustrating to wait in line at our favorite BBQ spots, only to find out that they're run out of the meat you're craving. This happens to most BBQ lovers at some point, and many ask themselves the obvious question:

"Hey, BBQ guy! Why don't you just cook more BBQ when you run out?"

There's a very good reason.

BBQ takes hours to cook. Unlike just about every other food served in restaurants, there's simply no way to cook to order.

So pit masters at top pits prepare as much as they think they can sell, while keeping in mind the individual attention that each brisket requires. To execute at a high quality, a pit master can only manage so many briskets, no matter how much capacity his physical smoker can handle.

Lots of average BBQ places cook in larger quantities. The briskets don't get individual attention, and thus the quality varies from brisket to brisket. If the 'Q doesn't sell, it goes in the cooler, and gets reheated the next day. Again, quality suffers.

Rudy's is a great example. They produce very good commercial BBQ, but it's not consistent. Sometimes it's moist and juicy. Sometimes it's dry. Tenderness varies, too.

The best pit masters would never risk this. Franklin, La Barbecue, Killen's, Corkscrew, Pecan Lodge, Snow's and BBQ Godfather are examples. They cook the quantity of BBQ they can cook without sacrificing quality and based on anticipated demand, and when it's gone, it's gone. BBQ aficionados understand this. BBQ isn't like other dishes; it takes hours to smoke, so you can't just whip up more when you run out. Holding it until tomorrow kills quality, so if they smoke too much, it gets thrown out.

Pros like Will Buckman of Corkscrew BBQ even stage their briskets, so a certain number are ready at 11, more at 1pm, etc. This way the Q you get hasn't been sitting half a day in a warmer, drying out and losing flavor. It's also sliced right as you order it, again to maximize quality.

If you're less picky, places like Rudy's can provide tasty BBQ right up until closing. But if you crave world class BBQ, you've got to understand the realities of the business. They're not in a position to change how they create the BBQ; it's your choice whether or not you think the potential inconvenience is worth it or not.

I can't decide for you. While you're thinking, I'll be in line at Corkscrew BBQ.
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