When Anthony Frazier took a bite of his brisket sandwich from Embers Barbecue on Jan. 10, he briefly compared it to barbecue he’s tried from Kentucky and Tennessee before coming to a simple conclusion.
“It’s perfect,” said Frazier. “Once you have Texas barbecue, it’s not the same.”
Frazier is just one of many consumers who are behind a boom in popularity for barbecue, specifically, Texas-style barbecue as the delicacy is credited for helping push a strong demand for beef consumption in the U.S.
“One of the ongoing trends in the last year or so in beef markets has been growing demand for beef by consumers, both in the U.S. and our export markets,” said David Anderson, livestock economist with Texas A&M AgriLife. “Featured prime-grade briskets is one of those trends that’s helping support cattle prices and increasing beef production. Ribs and sausage are pork items, so we’re going through a time with record pork production, too.”
Anderson was making a presentation for the annual Texas Barbecue Town Hall when he noticed all the trends branching from Texas barbecue. The U.S. cattle inventory was at 31.7 million for 2018, a 1.6 percent increase from 2017. Because the popular style of food gives cooks a chance to be a bit creative, Anderson said it’s become a staple for consumers.
“There are people who do barbecue where it’s not your run-of-the-mill meal, and they’re really gifted at it,” said Anderson. “For some consumers, it’s buying something that isn’t your routine, but what someone made who’s really great at it and brings this handcrafted idea that you can’t get anywhere else.”
The trend is unlikely to slow down, as Anderson said there is more than enough room to grow for barbecue restaurants.
“There seem to be more restaurants opening, whether it’s food trucks or a physical places,” said Anderson. “We have more room in the market and I don’t think we’ve come to the end of us consumers wanting to buy barbecue either.”
The same can seemingly be said about Embers Barbecue. Andrew and Jewel Hill opened their restaurant in Levelland and, while they had regulars, business wasn’t where they had hoped it would be. They have now transitioned to Lubbock, where they have a pop-up at 11 a.m. Thursdays at the Charles Adams Studio Project, and have already developed a loyal customer base at that downtown location.
“People treated us great in Levelland, but this is much more what we envisioned from the get-go,” said Jewel. “We’re not on a main street, but people know we’re here and they’re coming up out of the blue.”
There is a lot of careful detail that goes into the food at Embers, from the homemade sauce, pickles and onions to USDA Prime choice meat selections like brisket. Andrew Hill then handles everything with care as he will cook for up to 12 hours just to be sure the food hits the gold standard for Texas barbecue.
“There’s no magic in that barbecue pit, it’s what you put into it,” said Andrew. “It’s all very technical, making sure it’s positioned and trimmed and then wrapped in a certain way so you get the perfect black crust on the brisket but it stays super juicy inside.”
Since starting their pop-ups in Lubbock, more opportunities have arisen for Embers Barbecue. There are partnership offers and a continued time serving at the CASP, but mostly they are glad to see people who love the bold flavors of good barbecue.
“There’s a beauty in having a brick-and-mortar, but there’s also a beauty in our eyes of getting people to line up for barbecue when all you have is a pit,” said Andrew. “Then you know you got something going, and that’s why this craft movement in Texas blew up. The people cooking it realize all these little details, and now the people eating it realize it, too.”