The Salt Lick Style Barbecue

Salt Lick BBQ

Replicating the cooking of the famous Texan Joint

The Joints in America are the rustic and spartan locals where you can eat the traditional barbecue, more or less the correspondent of our trattorias. When talking about joint it is to be asserted that the smoking instrument used is the typical PIT, a rudimentary refractory tub, closed by metal lids and inside which, hickory wood, stifled by oxygen deficiency, slowly tames Brisket, Pulled Pork and Ribs wrapping it slowly in its aromatic smoke. In some joints, the PIT has been replaced by the Off Set, essentially a lying cylinders, often made of metal, and which replicate its effects in a more practical key.

Pit Salt LickIf this is true in 99% of the cases, it is equally true the old old assumption that there is no rule without exception. At Driftwood in Texas, there is a real Mecca for anyone planning a tour between the American joints, in which the approach is slightly different. We are talking about the famous Salt Lick BBQ, whose PIT consists of a kind of circular brick fireplace, topped by a hood, with a grid over the entire surface, lazily lurking on Pecan’s wood, spread like Hickory in Joint of that area. Unfortunately, Texas and the Salt Lick in particular have never returned to my American paths but that’s a cooking process that has always intrigued me. The result is just to take the breath away: a buttery, incredibly juicy and tender meat that blurs in the mouth but with voluptuousness.

So I got pretty good and I saw many of the videos I can find on the net. So I try to make an order on the main principles of cooking in Salt Lick:

  1. Cooking is a sort of “high” direct where two areas are created on the grid surface: a frontal, where wood logs are placed in combustion, so at a higher temperature where the meat is made “caramelizing” for Use an expression of Scott Roberts, the owner, and a back part under which the coals are accumulated and where the meat is left to rest or in any case to finish cooking
  2. In a video you can see clearly that a double layer of rub is applied on the Brisket: before a classic SPG and then the inevitable rub of the house, in this case of a brown color one tending to the dark. The rub is then left to moisten on the meat before cooking it.
  3. The constant hydration of meat with a mop sauce, whose recipe is obviously secretive. What we know is that the wife of the first owner of the Salt Lick was Hawaiian. It seems that the sauce has been invented by her and that it resembles the typical characteristics with its sweet and fruity notes. What comes out of the pictures is that it is a slightly orange salsa, very rich almost “fat”, I do not mean viscous but definitely more “thick” than a normal mop sauce.
  4. The pecans nuts are soaked in water and thrown periodically on the coals to lighten the flame and produce a typical and distinctive aromatic smoke
Salt Lick BBQ Pit

Well. Now let’s see how to plan the cooking to try to get closer to the original.

  1. We will reiterate the setting we had seen with our friend Carlo Alvaro of Bros Hog when we talked about Hot & Fast. On our WSM47 we will remove the Water Pan and place the meat on the highest grid. The amount of fuel we use will be lower, I do not want to get to such high temperatures. Once you get the famous caramelization that you see well from the photos, we’ll put the water pan simulating the move to the less intense heat of the Salt Lick grid.Pecan Salt Lick
  2. We will mix a hardwood  solid charcoal bed with some pecan nuts purchased in a Cash & Carry and soaked over the previous night (do not worry, with nuts we will be able to invent something else). We will not work harder in removing nuts from the shell, a bit because they are particularly cramped in this regard, somewhat to make smoke even richer. Finally, we will pour an entire basket over the charcoal bed and we will roll over some of the dripping nuts right.
    Salt Lick Pecan
    Salt Lick Pecan
  3. As a rub, we apply a first layer of SPG and for the second we will fall on one of The more distinctive brisket we rub we know (yet the name in this sense is explanatory …), which by the way looks much like that in the Salt video Lick: the EAT Most Powerful Stuff.Rub Salt Lick
  4. As for the mop sauce, the sauce seen in the video reminds me very much the color and greenness of an injection produced by Stubb’s called Texas Butter, but it’s mystique, sparingly acidic. I decide to vent a blend: on a base of a sauce that I consider great for mopping that is Bone Suckin ‘, I add a 50% Stubb’s Texas Butter and a 10% Don Marco’s new Sauce with Ananas, Rum And Chipotle, to recreate the exotic notes above described.
    Mop Sauce Salt Lick
  5. In the smoker we will put two classics of the Salt Lick and many texan joints – those that Scott Robert defines the Texas Appetizer, the Beef Ribs and the mixed beef / pig sausages that are seen in virtually every photo. We will leave the two layers of rub on the ribs until it is moistened completely, let it dry in the first cooking time and then begin to mop regularly. We will also add the Hot Links immediately to check the differences on the cooking times.
    Cottura Salt Lick

The Cooking

I have some passion for smoking wood but I have to admit that the notes of pecan nuts in partial combustion hit me: really very sweet and aromatic. Although without a water pan, with two semi-open vEnds and one closed and the upper one almost completely closed, I find it at 260° F extremely stable. In the first hour I turn the ribs on both sides and let the bark stand, after I start to mash the slightly heated sauce. After a couple of attempts I testify over a period of about 20 minutes, more to Hot Links than to the ribs to be honest. Everything goes on smoothly and I do not even go back to the water pan I had planned. I took out the Hot Links after 3 hours and the ribs after 4 and half hours, once reached 95° C internal.


This is an interesting technique. The taste was definitely rich, the juicy meats, with a much less sweet caramelIzation than I would have expected but much more aromatic and a smoky, never invasive  note.

Hot Links Salt Lick
Hot Links Salt Lick

Hot Links Salt Lick
Hot Links Salt Lick

The Hot Links I liked but were very lean. I would like to repeat the experiment with a tastier version of sausage.

Ribs Salt Lick
Ribs Salt Lick

Ribs Salt Lick
Ribs Salt Lick

Even the beef ribs I liked very much, the caramelIzation actually gave a considerable added value and the meat was very juicy. However, I have not been able to find that incredible bourgeoisie that transpires from the many Salt Lick’s videos on the net. I am therefore satisfied with some reserve that I promise to chase through further tests. And is there anyone among you who ate at the Salt Lick? What kind of experience was it?

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