It was right here–this exact location–in downtown Houston that I found smoke-infused religion. Purveyor of real Texas barbecue and former world-champ, Grant Pinkerton, and I visit at Pinkerton’s Barbecue, running through the finer points of beef versus pork ribs, brisket, whole hog cooking, world championship cook-offs and starting them young. Just in time for the upcoming season, he details tried-and-true, smoked-to-perfection methods, swapping favorite recipes for ducks, geese, doves and side dishes, too.  Mouth-watering episode.

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Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to MOJO’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast, where today I’m sitting in downtown Houston, in heaven. I’m with Grant Pinkerton at Pinkerton’s Barbecue and I’m going to describe it like this, I had an epiphany. I found religion right here at this table outside in the shade about 2 years ago when I first met Grant and I decided I was going to start off and bust his balls a little bit about Texas Barbecue. I mean, come on, let’s get real. I’m from the deep south. Who the heck smokes beef ribs? I mean, I’m from the deep south, the real south, where barbecue means pork. And then I tried some of those beef rib crack cook and I found religion. Grant, how the heck are you, man?

Grant Pinkerton: I’m doing really well. How are you?

Ramsey Russell: I’m good. It changed my life. I mean, I had to call you. I got back home, I got a pellet smoker, not the real deal pit smoke like you all do here, but I had to call you and get a recipe. And I mean, I’m going to say twice that we smoke ribs, it’s beef ribs, not pork ribs and 2 for one. And we have to drive about 45 minutes to find good beef ribs. There’s a butcher about 45 minutes away in a little community of Flora, Mississippi, that had big old, nice big beef ribs. And I go in and say, I want them long ones right there. He likes to cut them crossways, like for a grill, asado style. I want them beat the big, long heaping. It’s like I describe as eating. If there was a rich beef flavored ice cream, it would be a smoked beef rib.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, there you go.

Ramsey Russell: Is that a big deal? Is that something you started off doing way back when or –

Grant Pinkerton: I mean, beef ribs are a very traditional item here in Texas Barbecue. They’re not offered at every place, but the places they do, they’re the kind of the crown jewel of the barbecue establishment. And here we sell out of them. We cook a whole lot and we sell of out in the first hour and a half. And actually, we have a customer who, we don’t know his name, but he’s a guy that will show up here about 4 or 5 times a year. He’s the first customer in line. He comes in and says, I’ll buy every beef rib you have. He takes a, asks us to take plastic wrap and wrap them up. He sticks them in a duffel bag and he flies them back to LA. So we don’t know who they go to in LA, but somebody famous in LA is eating Pinkerton’s beef ribs in and out.

Ramsey Russell: He didn’t come through today, did he?

Grant Pinkerton: Not today.

Ramsey Russell: Okay. Cause I’m down here staying with a buddy of mine. Oh, Brent Morlan and I looked up from his house, oh, it’s only 25 minutes. We’re meeting at 4. So he said, well, yes, we better leave about quarter to 3. I’m like, oh, that’s ridiculous, man. It’s 25 minutes from here. We left at 03:15 and we were 15 minutes late. Houston is not like Brandon, Mississippi. It’s there’s a lot of stretch. It was bumper to bumper and crawling through there, but here we are and we’re going to be hungry by the time we get eaten. Can’t smell the smoke wafting across this place.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Are beef ribs the leaderboard? Is that, like – what’s going to sell out first in an average day?

Grant Pinkerton: First thing to sell out is always beef ribs.

Ramsey Russell: First thing.

Grant Pinkerton: Oh, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: And then –

Ramsey Russell: So I’m not the only one that’s found this religion.

Grant Pinkerton: No. And then and then it’s brisket, we don’t cook as many beef ribs as we do brisket because it’s a higher money item. They’re not cheap, but if you want one, you got to have it right?

Ramsey Russell: You got to have it.

Grant Pinkerton: So they’re not cheap for us. They’re not cheap for the customers. The people who come here to eat them, they’re looking for that so everybody leaves happy if you’re a beef rib customer. But they’re the first thing that goes and then brisket. Brisket in Texas Barbecue is, man, that’s your money pump right there. That’s your biggest driver. That’s the number one food people are eating. I have a lot of friends from Mississippi and I actually run around in the barbecue scene down there and in Tennessee and those kind of places. For those of the listeners that are over in that region, if you think of your chopped pork sandwich, it’s the same thing here, but it’s beef –

Ramsey Russell: Brisket.

Grant Pinkerton: And that’s just what people want. We have the pork on the menu and we chop it. We kind of do it Tennessee style where we chop it. It’s not so much pulled and then we season it, put a little extra sauce, throw it on a bun, maybe some coleslaw. I love that sandwich. I’m a real sucker for it, that’s uncommon around here. But your average Texan just wants a chopper sliced beef sandwich with a little bit of sauce, maybe. Maybe nothing, no sauce, an onion and a pickle.

Ramsey Russell: Golly.

Grant Pinkerton: And a jalapeno sometimes. But I know you’re not a fan.

Ramsey Russell: No, I’m a huge fan of jalapenos. But I was telling you, as we were micing up that last year, I got this big old sample platter. Took me 4 days to eat it and I ate every dang bit of it. And I was driving down the road. I was somewhere up in north Texas, heading north and he just eating in my lap, talking on the speakerphone. About that time, the guy I’m talking to goes, hey, you still there? Dropped the color. I’ll call you back in a minute. And I had bitten into the hottest jalapeno pepper I’ve eaten in 20 years. I like hot jalapeno.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: But it took me a while to cool off and call the guy back.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, lucky you didn’t have to stop and pick up a thing of milk.

Ramsey Russell: I had some in my chefs from a coffee and yeah, that’s what’ll do. It is just kind of rinsing your mouth out with some milk. That’ll knock that bite off just a little, I had to. Man, where the heck do you get a jalapeno like that in this day and age? Because it seems like everybody’s trying to grow jalapenos for the bell pepper market.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: And I want a jalapeno. When I eat jalapeno, it’s amazing how good that goes. That’s another very Texas thing is barbecue and pickles and onions and jalapenos.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I mean, distinctly Texas.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, that comes from – well, a lot of times beef, it’s kind of a fattier meat. So we’re always looking to put some acid with fats. As a cook, a chef we’re not putting sugar with fat, especially with the beef flavor. The acids is really what complement the salts and the acids and the pepper, that’s what really complements these notes that we have in Texas Barbecue.

Ramsey Russell: I agree.

Grant Pinkerton: So when you’re eating really fatty food, that’s when you really want to add that acid. Our sauces are the same way, if you think about it some of them thin, they’ve got some mustard, vinegar, some ketchup, but they always make sure that the acidity is high and all that.

Ramsey Russell: You going to sell out every day that you open up the doors, which is 6 days a week on the top, beef ribs, then brisket. And which going to sell out further, the lean brisket or the fatty brisket? Which going to sell out first?

The Lean vs. Moist Brisket Dilemma: A Daily Comedy

I was very militant about giving the people choice, so I’d ask every customer, lean or moist side, the fatty side and it would be weird.

Grant Pinkerton: The funniest part about that is actually just depends on the day. I mean, back when we first opened it, I used to work the board. I was very militant about giving the people choice, so I’d ask every customer, lean or moist side, the fatty side and it would be weird. Sometimes you go on a run of 5 briskets that was all lean and then you’d be have all these fatty sides stacked in the alto sham where we keep them warm. And then people would come through and run through all the fatty. It was just so bizarre. But at some point, we just stopped giving people the option and they just start getting the brisket to make sure that –

Ramsey Russell: Target brisket.

Grant Pinkerton: Exactly.

Ramsey Russell: Little bit of this, little bit of that. What’s third on the list?

Grant Pinkerton: Probably pork ribs. I believe we sell probably more pork ribs here than anybody in the state of Texas.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. We go through about 168 racks a day.

Ramsey Russell: Is that across the board demographically or do you have some demographics that like it more than others?

Grant Pinkerton: No, Houston.

Ramsey Russell: Bunch of guys coming from Mississippi to get it or something.

Grant Pinkerton: Houston is big time pork rib eaters. And my pork ribs are sweet. So we sell a lot of pork ribs in this market. My store in San Antonio, less pork ribs, but it’s grown on people. They just really ordered sausage and brisket or beef ribs and sausage or beef ribs and brisket. But now that they’re starting to figure out, man, this guys got some banging pork ribs you’re starting to see sales climb and climb. So we sell, I mean, that’s like 86 pigs a day at each location.

Ramsey Russell: You’re a kidding. So that’s a lot of seaweed pig going down, man. Holy cow. By comparison, how many beef ribs?

Grant Pinkerton: Beef ribs, I’d have to say we’re probably, maybe 35 racks.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: But if you look at the price comparison, a rack of beef ribs, 8 pounds, $35. I mean, each rack of beef ribs is like $250, $300.

Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy. I had no idea they were that much, but I know they cost you a pretty penny when I buy them.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I feel like if somebody can cook a perfect brisket, you have mastered your smoker. I’m a pellet smoker guy and I don’t think I’ve got the lifetime left in me to master real Texas pit barbecue. I just don’t. And what’s the secret to cooking a great brisket? Cause sometimes mine are tough and sometimes they ain’t. But most times, they’re somewhere between tough and where I want them.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. I tell people that in order to cook, be a good brisket cook, you need to be as good at the beginning of your cook as you are at the end. It’s a longer sober –

Ramsey Russell: Cheaper.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, that helps. But also it’s easy to – it’s actually a very forgiving piece of meat, but people lose focus and they screwed up. And I think a lot of things that people do to mess it up is they get antsy and they pull it off too early.

Ramsey Russell: I think so.

Grant Pinkerton: And that’s what happens when it’s tough and dry.

Ramsey Russell: Well, it tells you, if you google it and look at it or whatever amateur time like me, it’s so many minutes or hours per pound.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: So if I got an 8 pound rib, 8 pound brisket, it takes this long to cook. And that ain’t always a true.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s a lie.

Ramsey Russell: It is a lie.

Grant Pinkerton: I tell people brisket’s done when it’s done. We maybe cook –

Ramsey Russell: Like a white stalls like it.

Grant Pinkerton: Why?

Ramsey Russell: Why.

Grant Pinkerton: There’s a lot of connective tissue and fats inside the meat that starts melting out. You also have an evaporative cooling process. As the moisture starts melting out of the brisket, you start getting evaporative cooling off the surface and that actually helps lower the temperature of the internal temperature of the brisket. we have about 75 briskets a day here.

Ramsey Russell: 75 briskets a day at one location?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, at just this store. And some will come off at 02:00 in the morning. Most of them are, there’s about the same size, too, after we get done trimming. Some will come off at 06:00 or 07:00 in the morning. So for you at home cooks, the idea that you can go pick a brisket off and it’s just going to be done at the same time as another one is because you cooked at the same time and the same temperature and it was the same weight. That’s just, it doesn’t work that way.

Ramsey Russell: So when is it ready? I’ve got it sitting on my smoker. When is it ready? When do I need to pull it off? Walk me through just a bone head brisket. Perfect brisket.

Grant Pinkerton: I don’t even start considering taking them off until they’re 205. Now, I’m talking about cooking prime. So if we’re cooking choice grades, maybe a 203 to a 205 if it’s prime –

Ramsey Russell: Internal temperature.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s when you start really questioning whether it’s time to come off or not. For primes, I like 208 to 209 somewhere in there. I don’t cook select for wagyus, I’ll go even higher. But I also cook it around. I like to cook around 275, which is a lot warmer than some people figure out on the Internet.

Ramsey Russell: Cooking at 275 until it’s about 202, 205.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: Do you do the whole thing where you season it? You smoke it naked and do you wrap it and then unsmoke it? Do you wrap your briskets back here?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, we wrap them in butcher paper.

Ramsey Russell: So around 202, you wrap them.

Grant Pinkerton: I wrap mine at around 170.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Grant Pinkerton: The edge of your brisket will start to bend up just a little bit and when it starts to relax and start coming down towards the grill grate, that’s when it’s time to go. It’ll have a nice, deep, rich mahogany color. Your bark will be set. Once your bark is set, then you can wrap it. It’s kind of personal preference at that point.

Ramsey Russell: Pork ribs and chicken, by comparison to me, are too easy to make the meat pulls up, it gets done. You lift it up a little bit, you see the cracks.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Boom, it’s done. Chicken way easy, man. You just turn the leg. If it’s loose, it’s ready.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: Boy, brisket is an art form, I think.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: And I read somewhere one time, Grant, that, brisket, back in granddaddy’s day was not a choice cut of meat. It just, it wasn’t until somebody figured out how to smoke that sonic gun right. And it just, it took all.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s expensive.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: I mean, it’s a real. I mean, it’s not cheap. And this idea that barbecue is a cheap food, that notion needs to die, because, I mean, even pork prices have probably doubled in the last 5 years or whatever back.

Ramsey Russell: Everything, heck yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Beef, it’s such a hot commodity now. I mean, beef ribs, the reason beef ribs are so expensive, they used to be very cheap. The Japanese started eating beef ribs and they will pay a lot of money and so they’re importing a lot of our us raised cows beef ribs over there.

Ramsey Russell: Damn Japs.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: I think that ain’t good news. Have you ever smoked a whole ribeye?

Grant Pinkerton: Yes, a whole ribeye roll?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, I have.

Ramsey Russell: They call it prime real when you put it in the oven, but I like it smoked.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, really good. And one time we were at a cook off and some people wanted me to smoke one for them, and there was an extra and I was kind of wondering what would happen if you cooked a whole ribeye roast like you would a brisket, so taking it all the way up to 200, which is kind of a bizarre idea, but when you have a free 250 something dollar piece of meat, you can do it. So we put it on the pit. We smoked it. I took it to, like, 2000 or 1980, kind of like you would maybe with a shoulder clod. And then I sliced it and I put it on sandwich with, like, a horseradish sauce. And, man, I tell you what, I’ve made it numerous times since then.

Ramsey Russell: Pretty dang good.

Grant Pinkerton: It’s pretty dang good and it had that great barbecue flavor and had a lot of fat in there. It’s leaner than brisket is, especially the fatty into brisket. So your leftovers 2 or 3 days later might not reheat as well. But fresh, the flavor that I got out of that prime rib, cooked like a brisket, was pretty damn good.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me about the world champion in Memphis this year.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So that we won. Let’s see. I let everybody know when I walked up on stage that I have been on the stage for beef category 3 out of 4 years.

Ramsey Russell: 3 out of 4 years.

Grant Pinkerton: 2 time grand champion for it. And this year we got second place, lost by, we actually tied and lost the coin flip.

Ramsey Russell: Golly. So wow.

Grant Pinkerton: And then we were the first team ever to, from Texas to hit a top 10 call an old hog.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So I can cook the heck out of some beef, but I know how to cook a damn good hog, too.

Ramsey Russell: Smoke a smoke.

A Different Dynamic: No Clear Front-Runners, Every Team a Threat

I mean, not that they’re not good cooks and they can get calls, but really, they’re not going to compete with you on last 4 categories to win.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. And this year in Memphis, in May, they cut the teams back. It was 35, where only 35 were accepted. And when I got there, I was looking around and I mean, dude, I’ve never really been in a contest and I cook a good amount of contests. I’ve never been in a contest where any of the 35 people could actually win it. We’ll pull in some places and we’ll say, okay, this guy. Those are who you were really competing against for GC. Everybody else is out here drinking beer and whatever. I mean, not that they’re not good cooks and they can get calls, but really, they’re not going to compete with you on last 4 categories to win. And there was the first time, I said, dude, we’re all shoved in there on the bank of Tinley Park and I’m looking around, I said, man, any single one of these guys in these spaces can win and they’re all good. They’ve all won something before. This was my second year being on my own team there and taking my own team from Texas.

Ramsey Russell: When you show up to these competitions, you start from scratch?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: You bring your own meat.

Grant Pinkerton: I had somebody bring me 3 hogs out from a special farm in Mississippi, actually.

Ramsey Russell: How important is that where you get where you source your meat from to winning this thing?

Grant Pinkerton: Man, I felt like our pigs this year made a big difference.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: we used Berkshire pigs. A lot of people use Duroc, but I really liked the marbling and the PH level and the Berkshire, they’re a little longer, so our pigs aren’t quite as heavy as some of the ones we’ve cooked in the past where we can get bigger hams and shoulders. But, man, the loins, when we took them out, you could squeeze them and it was like squeezing your kitchen sink sponge. That’s how much juice came out of just the loins on it and I was the one that stayed up all night and I cooked him like that. The pig is really, like, big focus for me. I know I’m a Texas guy, but I told everybody, I said, no, I’m going to run the pits for 20 hours or whatever. I’m going to do it myself.

Ramsey Russell: That’s probably the most heated competition at the whole thing.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: In the town like Memphis. The whole hog. That’s probably like the cat daddy pride.

Grant Pinkerton: It is, for sure. I mean, it’s the heavy hitter one, all the national guys are there. I mean, if anybody’s a hog cook is going to be there and laid it, kick out a lot of – They don’t let a lot of teams in. And in the morning, when I went to cut into little piece and try to see how it was and I knew we were coming in hog because I tweaked this recipe for a year practicing hogs at my house. And when I tried it that morning, I was pretty fired up. I knew that we had something good going on in the pit and I let a couple other guys who are real big comp cooks try it, and they when you eat it, you just get quiet. And then they, everybody looks.

Ramsey Russell: Well, table gets quiet. It’s good. That’s right.

Grant Pinkerton: Everybody looks at each other like, oh, shit, man. We’ll be sitting. We say, we’ll be surprised if we don’t get or hear our name called today.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And it was pretty awesome. We went head to head. So in that competition, you go head to head with other teams.

Ramsey Russell: It don’t seem fair to let the number one place go to a coin toss. So it just don’t seem fair. It seems like –

Grant Pinkerton: Crazy right.

Ramsey Russell: All right, sorry, guys. You all got to stay over. We got to cook something else. That’s what it seems like to me.

Grant Pinkerton: It’s weird, but that’s, I say, that’s the good old boy part of it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: We went up so they have a blind box. You submit your blind box in. And then for the 3 main pork categories you have on site judging, where the judge comes to your tent and looks for our blind box, we trade it. We were on the heavy hitters table. I don’t know how we ended up there. We were probably supposed to be the sacrificial lamb because they met, they arranged the tables before. I don’t know if they’re random or not. I don’t really care. But we all traded out getting 10s, so we all beat each other up on that board. We ended up coming in 7th, which means that the 3 teams that placed ahead of me were somewhere in the top 6. So that means on my table, out of the 35 teams, at least 4 or 5 of the top 7 teams were all on one table.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, that’s a killer table right there. We’re push punching each other in the face, so and then on our on site presentation, we had to go head to head with last year’s runner up whole hog team. They’re called boars night out. And, man, we traded blows with them, too. I think everybody thought they were going to have us, but we brought it, man, we brought it good.

Ramsey Russell: How big a pig are you cooking?

Grant Pinkerton: 150 pounds.

Ramsey Russell: Do they judge you on condiment, too? Like when I cook this big old pig? Are they tasting just the pig? Are they tasting my barbecue condiment, too?

Grant Pinkerton: At that contest at Memphis in May and at an NBN contest, you have to submit a piece of ham. So you give the judges 6 pieces of ham in there. You give them 6 or 7 slices of the loin.

Ramsey Russell: Yep.

Grant Pinkerton: And you give them 7 chunks of shoulder.

Ramsey Russell: No ribs?

Grant Pinkerton: No ribs.

Ramsey Russell: No cheek.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s what they want in there, those 3 only. Each one of those proteins finishes at a different temperature. The ham finishes at a lower temperature than the shoulder. The shoulder is the highest and the loin is finishes at 1500 something degrees. The other ones finish at 1900. So a lot of the skill in cooking a hog is being able to cook 3 parts of the same hog all to a different temperature at the same time.

Ramsey Russell: How do you do that? Because that’s all sitting there on the spit. Is it the position in the oven? Distribution of the heat.

Grant Pinkerton: Well, I cook mine really low. You use things to shield the certain muscles but it’s pretty skillful and kind of technical on how you need to do it. And inevitably because if you blow your loins out, I mean, if your loins get to 1650, 1700, you’re just screwed because you cut it out, it’s dry, falls all apart. You’re just done. You might as well not even put anything in. So you got to figure out a way to keep those loins moist and we got a pretty good way to do it.

Ramsey Russell: What’d you cook in the beef championship?

Grant Pinkerton: Brisket.

Ramsey Russell: Brisket.

Grant Pinkerton: So we’ve asked –

Ramsey Russell: That’s what you’re competing, is brisket? It’s a brisket cook all.

Grant Pinkerton: I did beef ribs at Memphis and made for 2 years. And then we had, the year before last, everybody was doing beef ribs and so I felt like it was kind of flooded. I said, let’s pivot back to brisket. So we put slices in the box and we knocked it out of the park. It was amazing. I mean, they’re great slices, but I think everybody was kind of following our lead with what we were doing and then we doubled back and kind of went back to brisket. Cause usually people used to do brisket.

Ramsey Russell: You mentioned earlier one of the choice cuts that you get judged on for pork is pork shoulder. And do you all smoke shoulders here, pull pork?

Grant Pinkerton: We do.

Ramsey Russell: To me, that’s the most foolproof, for me that I can cook is a pork shoulder.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Pretty easy now.

Ramsey Russell: Put it on. Wrap it. It’s done. Put it in the Yeti cooler. Forget about it till lunchtime. Shred it apart. Pour the juice that come off of it back onto it. Enjoy.

Grant Pinkerton: When you were growing up, did you eat pork shoulders, cooked over coals?

Ramsey Russell: No.

Grant Pinkerton: Was it more of an offset set up?

Ramsey Russell: I guess it was. I didn’t grow up at cooking pork shoulders, smoking pork shoulders, you know what I’m saying? I mean, if you talk about country boiled ribs, now, where you slice them, they look kind of like ribs. We grill them things out.

Grant Pinkerton: Because my buddies from Mississippi in the Memphis area for them, pork shoulder and butts very much has that flavor of the fat dripping onto the coals and vaporizing and coming up onto it. It’s not so much a super heavy smoke as it is that actual flavor of the vaporization of the fat going into it. It’s got somewhat of a charcoal flavor. So I was wondering if you’d grew up eating that kind of barbecue.

Ramsey Russell: You told me last time I interviewed you during these cook offs, there’s like, something like a treat or a snack or an appetite or something you always kind of bring to it.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: What did you cook this year and what have you cooked in the past?

Grant Pinkerton: Let’s see, what do we eat this year? Oh, this year –

Ramsey Russell: Because I’ve got an idea for you.

Grant Pinkerton: This year, my lucky food and this is going to be kind of simple, my lucky food was strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats.

Ramsey Russell: What?

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. And I had to have something sweet because think about it, you’re shooting injections that are full of sodium and phosphate. You’re cooking all this heavy protein. You really salt in the hell out of your palate. What your body is craving at that point is fiber and sugar.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And I found that eating cereal, like, really help my palate come back to normal so that I could try my food before putting it in the box.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, I think it played a big role. I mean, do we had a killer spring in summer. I mean, we tore it up.

Ramsey Russell: Have you got any non basics on your menu here?

Grant Pinkerton: Duck and sausage, jambalaya.

Ramsey Russell: Here?

Grant Pinkerton: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’ve had that and it’s very good. We’re going to get into that in just a minute about some of the wild game because I know you. I’ve heard from the boys down at yard bird you’re an amazing wild game cook.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: I was at my buddy Will Batey’s camp down in Chambers County not too long ago and I’ve got a million dollar idea for you. They make something every morning called praline bacon. Have you ever heard of it? Praline bacon, the way they cook it, they let those bacon slices get room temperature. They take sugar and pecans and blend them up into a dust and then let room temperature bacon slices, they kind of batter it, put it in a cookie sheet for 45 minutes and let it cook. I think they put a little cinnamon in there and I was thinking, it’s dangerous good. It’s like it ain’t the kind of stuff you really need to be eating a whole bunch of. But you can’t eat just one. It’s like crack. I mean, it’s like bam. I can’t stop but, boy, I was thinking man, maybe instead of the cinnamon, some of that Texas TNT, some of that powdered jalapeno.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: You ought to try that.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, probably pretty good, little sweet man, I see –

Ramsey Russell: I bet. If I’m wondering how come somebody like yourself hadn’t come up with, like, a breakfast biscuit with that praline bacon on there?

Grant Pinkerton: Oh, yeah. It’d be really good.

Ramsey Russell: All right. You name it double R’s idea.

Grant Pinkerton: All right, we got it.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a good deal, it’s a really good deal. And have you been teal hunting at all?

Grant Pinkerton: I have. I actually was teal hunting yesterday. Got me a new dog and –

Ramsey Russell: I saw it on Instagram.

Grant Pinkerton: He’s good. I got him from a place called East Texas Retrievers. He’s a guy who’s about my age that trains a small number of dogs up in Mount Vernon, Texas. You all can find him on Instagram. Awesome dude.

Ramsey Russell: How big is he, your lab.

Grant Pinkerton: My lab right now is 67 pounds.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: I didn’t want him too big. He’s an American lab and it’s not British.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Grant Pinkerton: Got a lot of go in him. This was first duck hunt and didn’t break on one bird.

Ramsey Russell: Golly. Really?

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. He’s got a great temperament. He works really good. He’s got a great nose. He knew to go downwind and he sniffed up wind to find a couple birds that he didn’t see fall. He’s still so fresh bringing a new dog out there. I think he jumped out of the buggy and must have checked every decoy to see if it was alive or not while we were still.

Ramsey Russell: Been there done that with every dog I’ve owned. Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And so he was just thrilled to be out there. And he stayed in his hut next to me and he went on his name. I mean, he did a really great job, but it’s fun to just see him kind of coming into their own. He didn’t really want to get outside the decoys to go chase birds.

Ramsey Russell: I get it.

Grant Pinkerton: He was comfortable there. He knew that was the area he was supposed to be in. I think it was my fault that we didn’t shoot him close enough.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: But he did really great. he picked up probably 3 quarters of the birds that we had gone out there and we had another dog with us that kind of took on some of the harder retrieves. We just wanted to get him in there, get the birds in his mouth, let him have fun. he’s been through, I guess, all the started stuff and we haven’t been working on hand signals yet with him because at least Nathan’s ideas, look, that’s hard force fetch is hard. Hand signals is hard on a dog.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Before you, we start on hand signals. Let him go have fun. Let him see why he’s doing this training.

Ramsey Russell: Bill that drive.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes. And let him know what, he’s putting this work in an offseason, what the payoff is. So just take him out there, let him have fun, let him be himself keep him in line, make sure he’s being obedient and doing his job. But we’re here to build his confidence. So when he gets torn down a little bit, working on the more advanced directional stuff, he understands the why, dogs aren’t much different than us.

Ramsey Russell: How’s your teal season been over here in Texas?

Grant Pinkerton: Pretty good. Not bad.

Ramsey Russell: It’s been a weird year for me. Louisiana, God bless them, freaking through a monkey wrench and everything and opened the season a week late. So, I jumped straight from Mississippi to Texas and we’ve shot teal everywhere I’ve been. But it’s weird, it’s like I’m used to, I’m used to getting out and chipping away or shooting teal and being done by 08:30, 09:00 o’clock.

Grant Pinkerton: At the latest 09:00.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And having eaten and taken a nap by before noon.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: And it ain’t the way that we getting up early and driving out there to teal hunt, but it ain’t the way it is this year. It’s like, man, some of the places I’ve hunted the teal aren’t even really getting up in there and flying good till 08:30, 09:00 o’clock. That’s just weird. It’s just. Like what is going on with this stuff here man?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, very weird usually teal – The first 45 minutes is bang rang and then after that you’re picking off ones and 2s. First weekend at one of the leases that we hunt on killer, I mean, big wads come in early, everybody. People were done fast this weekend, very much like you just said. We experienced the same thing. I think we shot 4 early. There were 2 groups of 2, I believe it was and then we were waiting around. I thought, oh, this ain’t good. I think we’re just going to be sitting on our butt all day. But you know what we had a group of 4, group of 5, but everything. Sun was up, sun was shining, for a teal hunt it was late morning action, very late.

Ramsey Russell: What made me think about it this morning? I went off with Brent. And Brent, by the way, is the one that told me, come hunt with him a couple of days. And I said, oh, by the way, on Sunday afternoon I’m going to ride over to Pinkerton’s and do a podcast with my buddy Grant. He’s like, I’m going. I can’t never get in there. I’m going, I’m in. And I think could he heard you got, you got the reputation at the best barbecue in, certainly in Houston, but likely Texas. And anybody disagrees, prove me wrong. And but anyway, so here we are and we were out there teal hunting this morning. We had a great shoot. We broke up into 2 different blinds and we all got our limits. But it took till 09:30 ish. And anyway, one of the boys he hunts with, Mr. Wynn Carter, he said, well, I understood you’re going to interview my buddy Grant. Who is Wynn Carter? Because he was talking about now the way the stories he told me was back in the day.

The Legacy of Wynn Carter: Stories from Days Gone By

And we’d go outside and climb in the bayou behind the house and float Mr. Carter’s duck decoys down the bayou and race them.

Grant Pinkerton: Oh yeah, I mean, so when my back in the parents first moved to Houston in 80s, they joined a Bible study and they were in it, him and Mr. Wynn and his wife. And there were 6 other couples. They all became kind of fast friends and very close and fast forward a few years, I think I was 6 or 7 years old, we ended up moving into a house 2 houses down from them. And through my adolescence, most of it, they lived, they were our neighbors too. So that was back in the day before the world was how it is now. And kids left the house in the morning and you went, knocked on your friend’s door. And we’d go outside and climb in the bayou behind the house and float Mr. Carter’s duck decoys down the bayou and race them.

Ramsey Russell: Mama didn’t know where you were.

Grant Pinkerton: Exactly.

Ramsey Russell: Had known where you were since 08:00 in the morning till dark. She comes out and yells your name.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. Street lights hey, come in, check in when the streetlights turn on. It was a different time. But their son Will was one of my best friends growing up, so –

Ramsey Russell: But he’s known you since the beginning.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: Real quickly, tell that story. I think it’s amazing how you started cooking barbecue in the first place to become multiple time world champion with pork and beef. But tell that story, I think it’s just an American dream story.

Grant Pinkerton: So I started cooking just for fun in the backyard. I always had a passion for cooking when I was a little kid and I loved grilling. So my dad would be grilling in the backyard and when I was like 8 or 9 years old, I walked out. The story is and it’s true, he was cooking steaks on the outdoor grill. I walked outside and he opened the lid and it was just kind of shooting the shit with me and said, I wonder if they’re done? And I took my finger and I poked it and I said, they’re done. And he kind of looked at me like, yeah, bullshit. And he says, oh, you really think they’re done? I said, yeah, they’re done. Take them off. So he took them off kind of in, I’ll show you. We went inside, he cut it and he’s like, I’ll be damned. They were perfect. And so the next time we were cooking, he’s like, Grant, you just tell me when you think they’re done and we’ll pull them off, and they were good again. And I just always had this fascination with meat and fire, and just cooking meat just made sense to me. And so I asked when a few years later grilling only takes, like, 15 minutes, so I wanted to spend all day playing with fire in the backyard as a kid. So I asked for a barbecue pit. My dad got me one and he’d take me to the butcher shop sometimes on the weekends, and I’d buy something and we’d go smoke it. And I always tell people, the first brisket I ever made was amazing and the next 50 were horrible because I kept over complicating it. When like we were talking about earlier with brisket. I think it’s user error most of the time, just making things more complicated than they need to be. Then I got into high school and took and participated and I played football and I did a Ag class, learned how to weld. And I was an FFA kid. I started raising animals because I liked the meat science portion. And every year, we’d take one of the hogs that I’d raise and have it slaughtered and I’d do a pig roast at my house. Which is looking back on it, that’s very advanced. And I cook it over open spit. So it’s a 200 something pound hog over an open spit. That’s like a very advanced barbecue. For a 6, 17 year old to be pulling off retroactively, that’s pretty impressive. And then I went to the University of Texas at Austin. I joined a fraternity, cooked for them, spent more time at people’s ranches than I did actually in class. Cooked around out there as well. And when I graduated and moved back to Houston, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I was working at a gym and I was cooking barbecue for fun on the weekends, living at my parents house and I was taking it up to this gym, and a good family friend of ours owned the gym. And after eating it a few times, he said, Grant, man, you’ve got a real skill for cooking this stuff. And he was a middle aged black guy. He liked eating barbecue. And he had some friends that were on rodeo committees and had rode horses, and they were barbecue guys. And he said, look, I’m going to invite them over. You cook some barbecue and let them taste it. I’m not going to tell them you made it and you just see what they say. Because I had I wasn’t very confident in myself at that point. I was just a kid in the backyard of his parents house. So he brings these, all these guys in and they’re trying the barbecue and they’re, like, eating it up and Sid, man, where’d you get this barbecue? This is the best I had. You got to tell me where it’s from. And he lets them go on and on, and they’re talking about it and talking about each item. And then he said, all right, I’ll tell you where I got it. Grant cooked all that and one of them turned to me and says, man, I know you got some brother in you. And I started laughing and he’s like, that’s some damn good barbecue, dude. And I said, I appreciate it. And so, Sid turned to me, he’s like, man, I told you, what you do is good. You don’t have any debt. You don’t have a girlfriend. You live at your parents house. Now’s the time to take a chance.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And that weekend, I bought a pit, 25 year old trailer pit off of the Liberty County agriculture class. I had my first pop up 6 days later.

Ramsey Russell: Pop up?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Made about 1800 bucks in the parking lot of that gym.

Ramsey Russell: How old are you?

Grant Pinkerton: 23.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And I remember distinctly looking at the cash in my hand thinking, man, I could make money doing something I really love to do.

Ramsey Russell: You used the social media for these pop up.

Grant Pinkerton: That was it. Yep. I knew my target demographic. They were people who were like me. I wanted to go after a younger demographic, people who are about to start families, because I believe that barbecue is familial. And you eat at the same place. you get in a groove. That’s the barbecue you expect. That’s a barbecue your kids grow up on and you end up. And they end up going back to the same spot. So if you want to cultivate a great following in a loyal customer base, you need to get young families and people who are just about to start families.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s my secret sauce right there.

Ramsey Russell: That’s your secret sauce and now look at you. How many locations do you have now?

Grant Pinkerton: We have 2 at the moment.

Ramsey Russell: Where here?

Grant Pinkerton: Houston and in San Antonio?

Ramsey Russell: Here and in San Antonio?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Houston and San Antonio.

Ramsey Russell: Is the market out in San Antonio as big as Houston?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. San Antonio is actually the second largest convention city in America.

Ramsey Russell: I did not know that.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes. I mean, there it is. It is a great place to have a restaurant. Ours is downtown and about a very unique location. It’s in a place at park that’s next to the Riverwalk down there in the middle of downtown. It’s about an acre and a quarter. And the restaurant is built in the park. So skyscrapers all around. This big built build, nice building is built in there. Huge green space and lawn out front. It’s really cool spot.

Ramsey Russell: Do you smoke ducks?

Grant Pinkerton: Do I smoke ducks? Not a lot, but I do. But I have.

Ramsey Russell: What’s your favorite way to cook duck? Because we’re both duck hunters, we talked to a bunch of duck hunters. I know their mouth water listening all this good barbecue. But let’s talk about a little bit about ducks.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. I mean, honestly, my absolute favorite recipe for eating ducks is a duck taco recipe that I have.

Ramsey Russell: Can you give it up?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, man, I’d love to and I’m actually fixing to go down and cook it for a bunch of guys this weekend. I love street tacos.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah, me too.

Grant Pinkerton: Things that I love are, I love poblano peppers, I love caramelized onions. So I get a corn. I like corn and flour tortilla. If you’ve never had the opportunity to eat, that’s one that’s mixed. It’s not just corn, it’s not just flour. It’s a mixed. It is a fantastic combination.

Ramsey Russell: Never heard of such a thing.

Grant Pinkerton: So I take one of those tortillas and I’ll take my duck breasts. And I have a rub. I call it everything rub. And it’s fantastic, honestly.

Ramsey Russell: You bake it.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, we sell it.

Ramsey Russell: We sell it here, everything rub. Okay.

Grant Pinkerton: We use it on certain items here and it’s actually, it was a secret to me kicking ass on the comp trail this last spring.

Ramsey Russell: You use it on, that’d be something for good for me to use on my ribs and my briskets and stuff like that. Everything –

Grant Pinkerton: Absolutely. I use it as a base layer on almost everything I cook.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Grant Pinkerton: It’s phenomenal I put that on there. I get a really hot fire of mesquite and I sear the duck breasts on either side. Hickory will work kind of, but I want a little bit of wood flavor on there and I can just get it rolling hot. I sear the duck breasts off on either side, I cut them thin. I put a layer of caramelized onions and poblanos over the top. Then I take candied jalapenos and I dice them into almost like a really fine, almost like a relish. And I put that on top. Crispy, thick cut, crumbled bacon, almost like lardons. I’ll take just the fat and cut that off and fry it because the duck, wild game duck breast is very lean.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Grant Pinkerton: So having a mouth texture of eating something and having it liquefy on top of that and adding fat into this taco is really nice touch. And then we top it with cotija cheese and some thin strips, super thin strips of avocado.

Ramsey Russell: Golly.

Grant Pinkerton: And it’s phenomenal.

Ramsey Russell: It sounds good.

Grant Pinkerton: I made it last year for an event at the Yeti store here in Houston. It was with gunner kennels and, man, people went crazy over it. It’s just one of my favorite, it’s not too hard, caramelizing up some onions and peppers is easy. Cooking the duck breast takes a few moments. It’s really easy way to prepare.

Ramsey Russell: You’re cooking, though. You’re cooking that meat medium rare.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Okay, got it. Because ducks got to be that way.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. And if it gets medium, you’re okay. It’s in a taco, you’re okay.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ve got that recipe memorialized. I promise you, I’m going to try that. That sounds appealing. And I’ve heard it done, I’ve heard of street tacos made taking duck legs and cooking them con feet with duck fat in a crock pot and then pulling apart.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: And then brown, but it doesn’t have that smoky flavor. And I think that’s what would really set it apart.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes, and I don’t know if you’ve, I’m sure you’ve eaten Mississippi pot roast, right?

Ramsey Russell: Of course, yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: I love that with duck meat and I actually make it with snow geese.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Grant Pinkerton: And that’s pretty good.

Ramsey Russell: I make it with any kind of red meat that’s ever walked or flown.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. It’s delicious and I actually add some to mine. So I’m sorry if it’s not traditional, but, like, I think some really cooked down mushrooms go really great.

Ramsey Russell: They do.

Grant Pinkerton: And so I put those in there. I put some shallot, not too much, just some. I like a little celery in there. Just kind of add some depth. I’ve even put some, a little bit of okra in there. If you’re an okra eater, it’s good.

Ramsey Russell: Why not? And then I’m an okra eater.

Grant Pinkerton: I’ll serve it over rice or I’ll put it over mashed potatoes and I’ll take beef tallow from the brisket trimmings here. And I’ll put some, because it calls for butter, right?

Ramsey Russell: Well, yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Well, I’ll substitute that butter for beef tallow. And that is freaking fire, it is so good.

Ramsey Russell: For those you all listening that wonder what Mississippi pot roast recipe is, it’s pretty dang simple. And I’m going to tell you how I cook it is put meat in a crock pot. I’ve used Canada goose breast, I’ve used snow goose breasts, I’ve used ducks, I’ve used beef, I’ve used venison and put it in a crock pot and I add a stick or two of butter. And I had 2 packs of ranch and it calls for, like, a 6 or 7 pepperoni, peppers plus juice. Now, I put the whole jar in and then a beef or chicken broth, cover it up, turn it on, boom, walk away, forget about it. Serve it over grits. That’s how I like it, over grits.

Grant Pinkerton: Okay.

Ramsey Russell: I grew up eating pot roast over grits, not rice.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: I just, I like it.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, we’re like the teal here, man. We eat a lot of rice over in east Texas, southeast Texas.

Ramsey Russell: I get it. Well, that’s a big deal out here. Still, it’s crazy how you go, surprisingly, just a short distance outside of Houston, you’re as country as country is in Texas.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Houston’s a really unique city, it’s very, it’s got a lot going on in it. It’s a huge city, but it has a very blue collar vibe to it. And it has a lot of outdoorsmen that live here. It’s got very much a spirit of Texas, not so much in the, like, cowboy way, but in kind of the Gulf Coast way.

Ramsey Russell: But I think Texas, throughout Texas has got a spirit.

Grant Pinkerton: For sure.

Ramsey Russell: Every, like the guy we hunted with this morning that the people I’ve been hunting with every day I’ve been in, ever been in the state of Texas, it’s just as independents can do full steam ahead. Boom, a kid that goes and buys a used smoker and starts having pop ups, is that, that’s a Texas spirit.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: It really is. How long did it take you to become a pit master? You told me one time you’ve had employees to say, well, I’m a pit master. You ain’t a pit master, less you can get through this night without calling me.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: How long did it take you to become a pit master?

Grant Pinkerton: Oh, man.

Ramsey Russell: 10 years, 15?

Grant Pinkerton: Quicker than that. I said, barbecue makes sense to me, I think about it from a scientific and art standpoint, but like you, I don’t know, I’d say. I mean, from the beginning of cooking, yeah. When I was 12 to 23, yeah, sure.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. How old are you now?

Grant Pinkerton: 34.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. Still a young man.

Grant Pinkerton: I got to think about it.

Ramsey Russell: Where are you going? Where are you going next with this thing?

Grant Pinkerton: The barbecue?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What’s next?

Grant Pinkerton: I feel I’m always one of these people. If somebody puts a good, good deal in front of me, I’m going to take it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And I believe in being prepared to take the next right step, whenever the situation arrives, be prepared. So that’s how you end up getting lucky. People think you’re lucky, but actually you’re just ready to roll when somebody gave you the opportunity.

Ramsey Russell: When’s the last time you did a pop up? Have you ever thought about doing it just for shits and giggles? Get back to your roots.

Grant Pinkerton: I did think of –

Ramsey Russell: Go to the outskirts, go an hour away from downtown Houston and have a pop up. Just –

Grant Pinkerton: I thought it would be kind of funny. Well kind of, we people will have me fly to other parts of the country to cook.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. And do –

Ramsey Russell: Come on.

Grant Pinkerton: We’re in New York City in April.

Ramsey Russell: New York City?

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: Central Park.

Grant Pinkerton: No, in a big place over in Queens.

Ramsey Russell: Come on.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. And I mean, I’ve been flown to Boston, I’ve been flown quite a few places.

Ramsey Russell: They have what you needed in New York City?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, they –

Ramsey Russell: Boston to set this thing up right?

Grant Pinkerton: They did. I mean –

Ramsey Russell: I just can’t imagine.

Grant Pinkerton: I just need a smoker and you can find them. It’s a problem is they don’t know how to use them. Not that they don’t have them.

Ramsey Russell: They want the real touch of barbecue, they want the leaderboard items you talked about.

Grant Pinkerton: Exactly. Yeah, I did beef ribs in New York City the first time I went and I did burn ends at the time I went this time. So in a sense, those are pop ups. I think it would be really funny one day if I just bought, like, a 500 to 1000sqft store front in New York City and then flew barbecue up there from here once a month and just watch people go bananas for getting actual –

Ramsey Russell: That would blow it up.

Grant Pinkerton: Exactly. That’s kind of how people are up there, right. Scarcity, demand people be waiting down the street for a week, waiting to get the barbecue, the brisket, be $120 a pound.

Ramsey Russell: Sounds like a Seinfeld episode.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, it’s not Kenny Rogers chicken. It’s Grant Pinkerton’s brisket.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, man. Do you think you might really do something like that?

Grant Pinkerton: I don’t know. If I have enough money at some point, then I’ll like to fool around and do stuff like that.

Ramsey Russell: For those listening that, like, myself had never found religion with beef ribs, smoked beef ribs. I had to text you and get it and I copied it into notes so I don’t forget. Run me through cooking those ribs real quick.

Grant Pinkerton: The beef ribs?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I see. I do it verbatim, what you said, dude.

The Role of Beef Tallow: Facilitating Shrink-Wrapping

Then I’ll wrap them, maybe a little beef tallow on the paper just to get it shrink wrapping around quicker, but not necessary and then I’ll finish them around 2100.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So what I do is, some guys will take the membrane off the back, I leave them on. There’s a lot of fat in there, it shields your meat. It keeps a lot of the moisture in. I’ll leave it on there. Here, we’ll do a layer of everything, rub, and then either the grain champion beef rub. But very important is to really coat that thing in cracked pepper like, every picture I’ve ever gotten from somebody, the first time they seasoned it, after I told them a lot, they’ll send me a picture, is this enough? And I’m like, no, 3 times that. I’m like, it needs to be covered in black pepper. It will not make it over peppered, the fat and the oils coming out of it, it works really well. And that’s going to give you your bark. Then I like to put it on. I like to cook my beef ribs. Actually, at each store, we cook them different. At this store, they cook at a low temperature, which is fine. They cook for a really long time, at the San Antonio store and you’ll learn something from this, where they go on the pit is actually on a top shelf and it’s about 3150, 3250, so those will get to 02:08, 02:10 very fast. 2 and a half hours, 3 hours. Your internal temperature is technically where you’d want it to be, but they’re still be stiff as a board, because there’s so much connective tissue and fat in there that needs to break down to make them tilt tender. So for those, I tell people, you just go until you can put your finger through it. So even though it says it’s ready in 3 hours, those take about 5 and a half, 6, then they’re good. I’ll wrap it after about 2 and a half when they get real dark. And here we’ll cook them to about 1800 internal temperature. Then I’ll wrap them, maybe a little beef tallow on the paper just to get it shrink wrapping around quicker, but not necessary and then I’ll finish them around 2100, I want it high. There’s a lot of fat and connective tissue in there. It’s probably not going to fall apart, but keep going, nobody wants a chewy beef rib.

Ramsey Russell: No.

Grant Pinkerton: And I tell people a lot, like at least most of the guys probably listen to this podcast, they have a little area over their pec that is soft. Your man boob, that’s what it really should feel like when you go to press the side of your brisket or your beef rib.

Ramsey Russell: Oh really. When I cook it, like you say cook it, when it’s done and I pull it out of that wrapping paper, I can literally take my pocket knife and cut the back of the rib and get that membrane and then just one little slice down one end of that rib, it stick, I cut it and I got this succulent chunk of meat and I don’t cook one, I cook 5, because I like leftovers and I hide them in my refrigerator. Cause I got 2 grown sons that come by the house and raid the fridge.

Grant Pinkerton: I’m sure.

Ramsey Russell: When I’m not around, I like to roll it up, meat sandwiches with it later. I’ll eat it all week long.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: Best cut of beef in the world is a beef rib.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: And now you all know how to cook them. Well, I tell you what, we’ve been sitting here about an hour and the line is out the door and all these tables outside are all of a sudden filled up, which tells me all the air condition’s filled up. Is this a normal, is this normal?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, I mean, this is normal for a weekend day. And I mean, at lunch during the week, the line goes out the door. I mean, I was even, lines actually not too bad right now. I mean, there’s days where it wraps around the building.

Ramsey Russell: Come on.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: What about Father’s Day?

Grant Pinkerton: Father’s Day is the biggest day in barbecue. And it’s a good thing I’m a father now. I’m never going to be disappointed on Father’s Day because the register runs hot and the line will go down the front of the building, down all the way down the side, through the parking lot and around the neighbor’s house that lives behind the restaurant and it’ll be like that till we’re sold out.

Ramsey Russell: You are kidding.

Grant Pinkerton: That’s 100. God’s honest truth.

Ramsey Russell: If I’m in town and I’m often not that time of year. Do you know what our Father’s Day tradition is at home? And it has been for 20 years? Dad cooks. If I’m home for my birthday, guess what our tradition is? Dad cooks.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. That’s funny.

Ramsey Russell: And I kind of own that, I kind of like it. I wouldn’t have it any other way from, I’m trying to say.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t want my kids out there grouchy and crying to get some great barbecue out. I’d rather cook for them.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. A lot of dads barbecue on Father’s day. And they get, here it gets really busy if it rains, because 4 July, Father’s Day, any of those big barbecue holidays, if it rains, they’re coming here to get their barbecue because they’re not going to stand outside in the rain all day and do it.

Ramsey Russell: Now, speaking of Father’s Day, I came through last year, always come through here. Stopped and got me a few ribs. And you weren’t around, you couldn’t meet, because you became a father this year.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: What’s up with that?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, I had my daughter last December.

Ramsey Russell: How’s that going?

Grant Pinkerton: Amazing, man.

Ramsey Russell: What’s it like? I mean, can you imagine what life was like before you had kids?

Grant Pinkerton: No. A lot of people talk about that before in the lead up to having your kid. Oh, you’ll never figure out how you didn’t have them, but it’s been the greatest thing in my life. I wake up every day with a purpose and I think that a lot of people could use a lesson on living for somebody else and not for themselves. And having a child brings that immediately to the forefront.

Ramsey Russell: How old is she?

Grant Pinkerton: 9 months old.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, you just getting started.

Grant Pinkerton: Oh, I’m already wrapped around, I’m screwed, man. I tell people I’m just toast and she’s, I told my wife the other day, I was at the deer camp cleaning feeders and I told her when I laid down, I said, I just, I see her in, in my head when I close my eyes. I’ve never had that experience with anybody in my life.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And I said, it’s an awesome thing to love something that much.

Ramsey Russell: How old will she be before she gets exposed to Pinkerton Barbecue, smoking? The meat, that relationship with meat and smoke and fire you were talking about?

Grant Pinkerton: Well, she’s already there. We took her to her first cooking cook off when she was maybe just around 2 months old. No, shy of 2 months, she was 6 weeks old. She came in her little carrier and sat in my trailer with me as I cooked and we have to wake up really early and start doing that kind of thing. My wife brought her out and I just immediately had this, like, shot of energy when she came in the trailer and was cooing and stuff. And we came and we walked twice in that contest. And then she’s already been to 2 world championships and cooked with me in 2 world championships and at a big cooking contest in New Orleans that we actually hit first place whole hog in. And so she’s my lucky charm and we got her lots of outfits that have barbecue puns on them and Pinkerton’s Barbecue onesies and she’s ready to go, here in Texas, they have something called kids queue and these kids win, like, thousands of dollars each weekend competing against each other, cooking pork chops.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And they start when they’re, like, 4 or 5 years old. There’s 2 divisions. There’s a younger division, an older division. I said, I can’t wait till she’s smoking kids in that.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: But that’ll be fun.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. If she wants to.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, exactly. She might want to be a ballerina.

Ramsey Russell: I’m going to tell you what, when we started having kids, everybody talked about the terrible 2s, that 2 and 3 and 4 was my favorite age of all time. That was absolutely my favorite era.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. They get to be little humans,

Ramsey Russell: The terrible teens is what they ought to call it.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. That’s why I’m more scared of the teens than I am of 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me your drastic change of subject. Lay out your chicken fried snow goose recipe for me.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So this one must have heard through the grapevine that it was part of.

Ramsey Russell: I heard through the grapevine and you didn’t just come out and tell me, so I had to ask you.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, it’s not secret anymore. We’re about to debut it now. People, they do a lot of, everybody chicken fries stuff. But I’m here to tell you and everybody knows that there’s bad chicken fried. I mean, it’s not all good. It’s easy, it’s kind of like pizza, even bad chicken fried is good.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: But really great chicken fried is really dang good.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Grant Pinkerton: So I hunt a lot of geese, I love goose hunting. We go with a bunch of guys from around here and kind of pal around on the weekdays and chase the birds and so they never want the birds. So I started taking all these and the 2 things that I made out of them were goose boudin and this chicken fried goose recipe. So I’ll come home, I’ll breast all these birds out and I take a big, like, gallon container of water, big plastic containers, fill it with cold water, stick it in the fridge 3 days, bleed it out. You can change the water out once, twice. You can get as anal as you want. Don’t put salt in there, don’t put sugar in there, just straight cold water. So we’re just pulling any excess blood out of the breast of these snow geese. Next, I take it out, I drain that water. I take buttermilk, like most people do, full fat buttermilk or Bulgarian buttermilk is also good.

Ramsey Russell: That’s the fattest of the fat.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. And it’s also got, like, a lot more of the enzymes in it. Leave it in there for 2 days. Then I take that out and I jacquard, tenderize it, which is the tenderizer that has little needles that come down. And I cut it into strips, the breast into strips before I do that. And then I will stick it back into the buttermilk for one day and you can also do it before the buttermilk process. You can jacquard tenderize, but it’s a little more, it’s got so much liquid on it, kind of is really messy. So stick it back in, then I take them out and I’ll either fry them that day or they’re perfect, they’re ready to go. And I vacuum seal them in whatever your family unit size is 6 quote unquote filets or whatever and throw them in the freezer. When I bread, I bread with my everything rub flour, cracked peppercorn and a little cayenne pepper.

Ramsey Russell: And double batter it.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes. And I want that –

Ramsey Russell: So you season it and put it in flour. Then put it in an egg wash and then dredge it again.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. I put it in buttermilk.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And I start, I used to do it egg wash. But I like the way the buttermilk came out better and then I let it sit for a while. I never salt the meat before I put the breading on because that pulls liquid out. The liquid acts as a moisture barrier between your breading and your meat. That’s when your meat, your breading starts falling off the meat. If you want your breading to adhere to it, in my experience, is better to not salt anything, try to get all the moisture off of it and then lay that layer of breading on top.

Ramsey Russell: Well, we found for anything we’re chicken frying is double batter it. And I use milk and just whole milk and egg, but I’ve done it with buttermilk too. And then let it sit.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: Forget about it. Put it in the refrigerator overnight, lay it out on a cookie sheet and let it set for at least half an hour. But tomorrow is a good time to let it set too. And that’s the only way I can get that crust, that flour to bind.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, really bind hard to it and then I serve mine with a rosemary peppercorn gravy. So I’ll take –

Ramsey Russell: That’s what we’re talking about.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. You take bacon fat, render it down. You have your, start that as your base. I’ve tried it with beef tallow, but I liked it with the bacon base better and one of thing in that oil, I’ll take the peppercorns and I’ll fry them in the oil because that heating process actually releases the oil in the pepper and then we’ll start making our gravy base. And then we’ll come back and we’ll add the salt and maybe a little everything rub. And then chopped rosemary goes in and then I’ll let that sit. And I put that over the top of it and that combination between the gaming it, because it gives you enough meat flavor that it can stand up to the heavy gravy and the breading but it’s not off puttingly gamey. It’s just a really wonderful way to eat it.

Ramsey Russell: Sounds like a holiday recipe.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. My family, we’ve been, every year, we have Thanksgiving on Thursday, we hunt Wednesday. Thursday we have our Thanksgiving. And then Friday traditionally is when we eat wild game in my house and so for years, since I was a little kid, we’ve always been frying, it’s been chicken fried goose. We shoot a Christmas, I mean, a Thanksgiving goose and it gets served on Friday and so I just kind of improved on that recipe over the years and ended up with that one and it was amazing.

Ramsey Russell: What is your go to camp breakfast? I mean, I’m just curious. I know a lot of what we talk about is lunch and dinner. I mean, how do you kick day off if you’re at camp and you’re cooking or do you like for brunch, whatever, what is your specialty?

Grant Pinkerton: I’m not a huge breakfast guy because I don’t really love cooking breakfast. It’s usually a mess, right. But if my wife makes it, I love eating breakfast but kind of tradition for me is I actually will take cold goose boudin.

Ramsey Russell: Hell, yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And we will wrap it up cold, take it to the blind and eat it with pickles in the morning.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: And it’s really good.

Ramsey Russell: And you make your own boudin?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, I’ve made it, it is a lot of work. And I finally got a guy here in town that will make it and it is very good.

Ramsey Russell: Is it goose meat, goose livers?

Grant Pinkerton: Meat.

Ramsey Russell: Meat.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, grind it up and mix it in with a –

Ramsey Russell: Cause a lot of traditional boudin has liver in it. Yeah, I do, like, 4 grasp.

Grant Pinkerton: We use the pork liver in there.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: So it’s pork liver and goose meat.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: It’s killer, man and I take it out there and it’s a great thing to pass out. Everybody be eating on it and it’s hearty and it kind of sticks with you and that’s kind of become, like, a cult favorite among, I guess, dudes that I hunt with all along southeast Texas. Grant’s goose, boudin.

Ramsey Russell: You’re a young man. You’ve been smoking barbecue, mastered smoking meat, won championships and everything else. You own a very successful, very crowded right now and you ain’t lying. I mean, I’m looking around these tables loaded with pork barbecue ribs. A lot of folks eating pork ribs right now. Do you still like to eat barbecue? Cause I’ve heard about the guy that worked for, gets the job working at Baskin Robbins or something, just go apeshit on eating ice cream and then he never eats ice cream again. But do you like barbecue?

Grant Pinkerton: I’ve always been a person, I tell people this a lot, I like cooking barbecue more than I like eating it. But that’s not to say I don’t like eating barbecue, I’m very particular about what I want to eat and I’m not going to eat a bad barbecue meal, if I go in somewhere and it doesn’t look good.

Ramsey Russell: So you do eat other people’s barbecue? Really?

Grant Pinkerton: That’s actually my favorite to eat, yeah. I mean, I love eating my own and sometimes it’s hilarious, I won’t eat here for 2 months and I’ll come back and I’ll eat kind of what my standard orders are, one of my standard orders here.

Ramsey Russell: Which is what?

Grant Pinkerton: Well, I like a fatty sliced beef sandwich with a little bit of my original sauce, pickles and just sometimes an onion. But I got to have potato salad on the side. I’m not eating barbecue if I don’t have potato salad.

Ramsey Russell: What kind of potato salad?

Grant Pinkerton: I like –

Ramsey Russell: Because you got 2 kinds of potato salads here.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. Well –

Ramsey Russell: Would you like that old southern –

Grant Pinkerton: We have one, the other one you eat is a jalapeno cheese rice.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, okay.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So our traditional potato salad is –

Ramsey Russell: What I call southern potato salad.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. It’s got mustard and mayo in it. It’s nice and creamy, but it’s got a mustard kick, got eggs, has the green onion very traditional. A lot of celery salt in it, got a good bite. Got some vinegar, got that vinegar twang.

Ramsey Russell: Did you invent that yourself or would you get that, pick that up from a grandmother or your mother?

Grant Pinkerton: No, that’s my potato salad recipe and it’s got a lot of black pepper in it too.

Ramsey Russell: Do you have any family recipes, kind of incorporated with your –

Grant Pinkerton: The jalapeno cheese rice is a family recipe. So when I was growing up and I was eating, cooking barbecue, my mom would always say, oh, well, we’re going to cook a pan of jalapeno cheese rice if we’re going to have barbecue tonight. And that came from a recipe, came from a friend of hers, I believe it was and then I like green onions. So we’re going to open the restaurant and I was starting to do barbecue, I mean, before the restaurant, I said, okay, we’re going to take your jalapeno cheese rice recipe. I’m adding green onions, we’re adding more jalapeno to it. So that’s how that ended up on the menu. Duck sausage, jambalaya is mine but really, the potato salad was a kind of an accident because I made it. It was really good, it was fine. My grandma loved potato salad, I went to make it at her house and she didn’t shut the top of the pepper container and I went and dumped pepper to taste and ended up dumping the pepper container in there, scooped as much out as I could, and I said, well, we don’t have the stuff to make this again. So I just mixed in all the pepper in there. And then when I went to eat it, I’m like, holy shit, this is even better than it was before. So that’s why there’s heavy pepper in our potato salad and it goes really good with the barbecue.

Ramsey Russell: It goes good. I’ve cooked the same potato salad since I moved out home and there’s my mother’s and I guess her mother’s before her and it was just mustard and mayo to taste and sweet pickle relish. And sometimes I’ll put that jalapeno candy, that candied jalapeno. Cajun candy, whatever they call it, just to kick it up a notch. Why not? Tell me about this dove hunt you going on?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. So I’m leaving here in a few days, we’re going to go down south of Padre island and go shoot some dove right on the border. There’s a group around here called El Capitan Hunting Club.

Ramsey Russell: El Capitan. Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I wonder if that was them.

Grant Pinkerton: And I’m friends with a couple of guys that are on them, I mean, they hunted at Oyster Bayou –

Ramsey Russell: They do, yeah, the Pilots club.

Grant Pinkerton: With Gene And so I’ve gotten to know them, and they like my barbecue.

Ramsey Russell: I guess they do.

Grant Pinkerton: Some of the guys over there, they started a dove hunt down in south Texas called Paloma Blanca or something like that and a lot of the guys from, like, I think gunner kennels maybe go down there. And the hunt, 24/7 guys are down there. A bunch of those lifestyle brands, the turtle box audio guys, just a lot of, well, one a lot of brands from Texas, the duck camp dudes. Anyway, they all go down there. So I was at an event at Yeti store cooking for them a year ago for Gunner and Yeti, doing a wild game kind of dinner and bar slash barbecue and after they ate my food, they’re like, oh, well, I guess you don’t just do barbecue. That’s pretty dang good. And so I got an invitation to go down and cook a Friday night for the guys in the field and myself. I’m going to hunt and I’m be shooting birds from the barbecue pit, which isn’t abnormal for me. On Friday night down there.

Ramsey Russell: You’ve done that before.

Grant Pinkerton: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: What are you going to cook?

Grant Pinkerton: We’re going to do the duck tacos.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Grant Pinkerton: I’m bringing goose boot in.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Going to do duck and sausage jambalaya.

Ramsey Russell: How do you cook dove?

Grant Pinkerton: Dove, man. It’s traditional to do it with the jalapeno and the cream cheese.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: And that’s good for me, but sometimes if I have a whole bunch and I have them left over, I’ll give them to one of the ladies here at the restaurant and have them do tamales.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: They are really good.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

Grant Pinkerton: And then I’ll save them for around Christmas time.

Ramsey Russell: You all serve hot tamales here?

Grant Pinkerton: No, but the ladies who work in the back know how to make them.

Ramsey Russell: I bet they do.

Grant Pinkerton: So I get a little extra pocket change going to make, as they say, the jefe tamales.

Ramsey Russell: Will the line be out the door like it is now, just until you sell out? Is that what will happen?

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, it’ll be like that probably for the rest of the day and then the restaurant will get a day to relax on Monday.

Ramsey Russell: Off on Mondays.

Grant Pinkerton: Guys will be here cooking for Tuesday because the brisket, it’s a long cook, so they put everything on. They’ll put everything on for Tuesday, tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.

Ramsey Russell: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.

Grant Pinkerton: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: I’m ready to go eat some barbecue.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. There you go, came to the right place.

Ramsey Russell: Hey, Grant, tell everybody how they, first off, where are you located in downtown Houston? Because if I was going to give somebody direct, I just say google it. But you’re off a 288 on the way to Dallas from Houston, right? I’m close to big time all the big buildings.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah. I mean, we are almost downtown. So we’re just one exit north on a 45 out of downtown and if you’re flying into Houston and you’re getting an Uber or getting in a car and coming downtown, where the last, we’re going to be off the last exit before you get into downtown. So we’re actually on the way. If you fly into the airport here, you’re on the way.

Ramsey Russell: And what’s your website name? What I’ll do, do you all sell anything besides seasoning?

Grant Pinkerton: We sell seasonings, we sell sauces. Actually, our sauce, our original sauce here was voted number 2 sauce on the planet by the American royal this year.

Ramsey Russell: You’re kidding.

Grant Pinkerton: Was second place in the contest. Got me a big check for that one, it’s darn good, but number 2 sauce on the planet right here.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Grant Pinkerton: Yep. And it’s got mustard in there and it’s got some tang to it. It’s really great, almost like a barbecue Heinz-57.

Ramsey Russell: Kind of a vinegary.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Grant Pinkerton: Not super thin and we sell some merchandise on there, but, man, a lot of guys use, order a lot of our stuff. If you order it now.

Ramsey Russell: Do you all ship meat and stuff? Do you all do that?

Grant Pinkerton: We don’t ship them. A lot of places do, but they don’t do it legally.

Ramsey Russell: I see.

Grant Pinkerton: And we got a big enough operation going here that I’m always kind of like we would like to. And that’s something that, if I ever open a future location, we will dedicate space in there to comply with all the FDA, USDA stuff for vacuum sealing and shipping across state lines.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what you have to do, isn’t it?

Grant Pinkerton: If you want to do it right.

Ramsey Russell: Gets busy with USDA. Well, heck, you got clients flying in from LA and cleaning you out.

Grant Pinkerton: Right.

Ramsey Russell: Is that the only place people fly in from?

Grant Pinkerton: That’s another, that’s a place that I knew that was that –

Ramsey Russell: I don’t pass through Houston without stopping by here.

Grant Pinkerton: Oh, we have people coming over.

Ramsey Russell: I hate Houston and I’m ain’t going to lie to you, I hate Houston. Just because I don’t, I’m comfortable, a small town and get lost every time I’m in this town. No matter what the lady on the radio yelling at me to turn left and right, I get lost.

Grant Pinkerton: We got good food here, though.

Ramsey Russell: You got good food, you got great food. And how can everybody connect with your Grant online? Social media.

Grant Pinkerton: Yeah, social media. My personal social media is G Pinks. And our restaurant is PinkertonsBBQ on all social media platforms.

Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. Call my man Pinkerton and don’t come through Houston without stopping by and getting what I swear to God is the best barbecue in the state of Texas, certainly in Houston. You don’t believe me? Prove me wrong, I’m just saying. See you next time.

[End of Audio]

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