Meat Church presents pulled pork tacos during Barbecue School. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Matt Pitman toasts the class with a TX Whiskey Pecan Old Fashioned at Barbecue School. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Special Guest Joe Zavala and Matt Pitman pose for a social media post. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
The king of Texas barbecue is brisket. Here is a sample from Meat Church. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Matt Pittman holds up the fully trimmed brisket, ready for the smoker. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
Pitmaster Matt Pittman of Meat Church in Waxahachie is a barbecue expert. But Pittman’s amazing barbecue cannot be had in a sit-down restaurant. No matter how early you line up in front of his store, you will leave hungry. But you should depart armed with all you’ll need to impress the neighbors at your next backyard cookout.
You see, Pittman is a competition pro and tailgating god. His Meat Church was featured on Food Network’s BBQ Pitmasters as he was launching a retail shop in Waxahachie, about 40 minutes drive from Fort Worth. The store is jam packed with Pittman’s award-winning seasoning rubs, branded merch to outfit fans from head to toe and all the barbecue paraphernalia that anyone could ever need.
Pittman retired from a finance career to go whole hog for barbecue. You might say it’s been a successful transition (understatement alert).
Pittman is a brand ambassador for Traeger Pellet Grills and Yeti coolers. But this marketing wizard really knows how to cook. Pittman teaches Barbecue Schools that always sell out, drawing everything from weekend grill warriors to burgeoning pitmasters. They travel to North Texas from all over the country and a few even travel internationally just to “gnaw on the bone” and pick Pittman’s brain, seeking his hard-learned tricks of the trade.
I recently attended one of his Barbecue Schools held at TX Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth. The events are so popular, that I had to prove my identity just to make it past the front gate.
Not Too Cool For Barbecue School
Attendees were treated to a spicy Bloody Mary and a pork and egg breakfast taco, featuring fresh beef tallow tortillas. The food primed us for the three-hour, no-holds-bar instruction. Matt Pittman allowed free-ranging questions and answers throughout.
Pitman explained everything from his preferred equipment to trimming methods, seasoning, cooking temperatures and times to perfecting the crucial long rest before slicing. All the way to slicing the end product. He ran the intense crowd through his new, savory pulled pork recipe and the all-important beef brisket ― “the king of Texas barbecue.”
When asked “When are you opening a restaurant?” (a question he gets frequently), Pittman replied, “Why would I want to do that? I’ll see you on my boat instead. There’s no way I’m opening a restaurant.”
In fact, this barbecue master is already penciling in a second retirement on his calendar.
Throughout the barbecue training, other tasty nibbles were passed out, including Pittman’s sour cream forward loaded baked potato salad and his savory Mexican pulled pork tacos.
When it was time to transition to brisket, a TX Whiskey crafted pecan old fashioned appeared for the barbecue students to sip beside some succulent slices of Meat Church brisket. Then a familiar face appeared. Pittman introduced a special guest for the remainder of the afternoon — Joe Zavala of Grand Prairie’s Zavala’s Barbecue (a Texas Monthly Top 50 barbecue joint in this year’s new rankings).
Zavala fielded questions from the crowd about his own methods and tips, while Pitman continued to whittle away, prepping his brisket for seasoning. No barbecue topic was off limits.
“We use about $750 every two weeks just on pepper,” Zavala notes. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting a slice of Zavala’s brisket you’ll understand why. Zavala prefers 12-mesh ground pepper because it clings to the meat.
While both these barbecue gurus swear by 44 Farms beef, which comes from its ranch in Cameron, Texas, they diverge on wrapping and resting techniques.
After you pull your brisket off the smoker, Zavala and Pittman say you should do what is known as a “long rest” before slicing. Preferably lasting two to three hours minimum. Yes, that’s how the pros do it. And that’s where you’re likely going wrong — why your brisket tears apart instead of slicing neatly. For the rest, Pittman wraps his brisket in butcher paper, while Zavala wraps his in foil to begin with.
Another tip of the trade is utilizing all the trimmings. These barbecue masters don’t throw away the fatty, unattractive bits and suggest you don’t either. Instead, Zavala and Pittman say you can put them in stews or chili, or make sausage or brisket burgers out of them.
In fact, one of the most popular items on Zavala’s menu is the Sloppy Juan, which utilizes those brisket trimmings to their fullest potential.
The other pro tip they both laughed about is how pitmasters get “the money shot” as they slice their brisket. The secret is beef tallow.
“A little beef tallow on the cutting board makes for those sexy slices,” Matt Pittman says.
Matt Pittman’s next session of barbecue school — set for Thursday, May 19 at TX Whiskey Ranch — is already sold out. But check back at Meat Church for news of the next barbecue school date.