I don’t frequently eat BBQ that really impresses me. When it does happen, however, I get excited. I’m going to break format here and tell you right now that Opie’s has some of the best baby back ribs I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.
Initially I wondered if I had experienced a fluke. A freak accident of meat and smoke that turned into the perfect marriage of the two. Then I went outside to the pits where Marco, the pit boss, was removing 8 slabs of gorgeous, mouth watering baby backs. Clearly, this was not a fluke. I was experiencing the winning end of a consistent, near perfect product.
But what about the brisket? How does it compare to other joints?
The lean brisket had an excellent moisture content with a generally balanced smoke level and sweet, rendered fat. Unfortunately it was cut with the grain. It was clear that had it been cut against the grain it would have been a lot better. Still, it was quite good.
The moist brisket was a bit more dry than the lean yet maintained a very balanced smoke, an excellent smoke ring and wonderful flavor. Marshall Owens (@WestTX_BBQ) made a great point: Opie’s should be the brisket standard. If what you’re eating is as good or better than Opie’s, it is in the more elite category of barbecue. I believe I mostly agree with that.
Instead of the regular sausage I opted for the jalapeno and cheese. Man, I was happy about that choice. It had a snappy casing, a fantastic spice level and a texture that did a great job of highlighting the jalapeno and cheese components.
Pork spare ribs were the last item I ate at and, while they were good, the baby backs just really overshadowed them. The spares had a soft texture, easily separated from the bone and had a noticeable pepper level. But my mind just couldn’t let go of the baby backs. Damn, they’re good.
After I ate, Kristen (the owner) took me out back to meet Marco (the pit boss) and to check out their set up. Opie’s runs two large Oyler pits and one traditional brick style pit constructed out of steel.
For those of you unfamiliar with an Oyler pit, it is basically a large pit capable of holding a huge volume of meat. The meat sits on rotisserie racks which turn continuously throughout the cook. The heat source is 100% solid fuel (that means all wood and no gas or electric elements). Oyler pits resemble some of the large gas powered pits but, unlike their gas counterparts, Oylers require attention and a skilled pit boss at the helm.
Opie’s uses mesquite wood which I found very interesting because normally I find that mesquite imparts a flavor I don’t care for. However, I have a theory as to why I didn’t detect the mesquite at Opie’s. The Oyler pit is designed to use as little fuel (wood) as possible while still maintaing its temperature and giving off ample smoke. I think that this design is great for mesquite since you don’t have to burn a lot of wood which lowers the possibility of imparting the flavor profile I’m not a fan of.
Interestingly, the Oyler pits are so cavernous Marco estimates it could take as long as 2 years to adequately season one. That’s a huge pit.