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I guess secrecy has always been a part of great cooking. Does your mother-in-law’s recipe really contain every ingredient and step needed to duplicate her home-made rolls? BBQ competitions are no exception, especially when it comes to brisket. How did you create that perfect “bark” and smoke ring around the edges? Competitors are always sneaking around others’ pits hoping to pick up that hidden ingredient – is that foil or butcher’s paper? What was that temperature again? How long are you “resting” that meat?

As the Davis-Hawn BBQ team prepares for its third entry into Oak Cliff’s Blues, Bandits & BBQ competition this weekend, what if I told you that the key to success is really no big secret at all – it’s the wood. Hickory! Or is it Post Oak? What about Pecan or Mesquite? Or is it something more?

Texas BBQ. If you travel around the Great State of Texas, you will discover that Cooper’s in Llano, Franklin’s in Austin and Pecan Lodge right here in Dallas all use different woods available to them (hint: Pecan Lodge doesn’t even use Pecan). One of our great builders, Clay Snelling, smokes a marvelous brisket and he swears by Post Oak – not just any Oak like Red Oak or White Oak (mind you, this isn’t flooring, it’s BBQ – Central Texas style BBQ!).

Pit Master’s Experience. Sure, the wood is a key component to great BBQ, but you know it’s got to be in the hands of a master to produce that perfectly rendered fat and texture of exceptional brisket. If you have to reach for the sauce, you’ve missed the mark! Unfortunately, masters are kinda hard to come by these days. Whether its pit masters, master carpenters, or master builders – they sure seem in short supply. Probably because mastering anything takes incredible skill, patience, practice, hard work and perseverance. No shortcuts to mastery.

The Real Deal. A lot of folks always seem to be looking for those shortcuts, though. BBQ chains (sensing the shortage of pit masters) now have Southern Pride rotisserie gas ovens that use a small amount of wood chips or pellets. Just push a few buttons and out pops the brisket, consistent and forgettable – “Pass the sauce, please!” But if you drive past Kidd Springs Park on Sylvan Ave. this Friday night, you’ll see thirty different BBQ teams up all night tending their all wood fires, perfecting their craft. It will be cold, we’ll be tired and smell like smoke, but it will be worth it!

Slow Down. I always tell folks who ask that the best part about smoking meats is that you can’t hurry through it, you must slow down. That is hard for us to do these days. Inviting some good old friends, or getting to know some new ones, there is nothing quite like hanging around the pit, enjoying the pace, the peace, the company, the stories and the smells! It’s kinda like pressing a reset button.

BBQ and Building. So what does BBQ and all this have to do with great building? I think the bottom line is that people can sooner or later tell when you take shortcuts. Great BBQ takes the right wood, in the hands of a master, with patience and skill, working with good friends to produce a fine quality that you don’t want to cover up – a truly memorable experience. Great building can’t be much different than that.

Build to Last (and hold the sauce)!

Dave Reichert and the Davis-Hawn team