Everyone has their own definition of barbecue and everyone likes their barbecue cooked a certain way with or without sauce. No matter what people like, cooking Texas barbecue takes skill and time to master.
Luke Baio of Don’s BBQ in Sherman and Marcus Pride of Magic Smoke spend every day cooking Texas barbecue.
It’s all about the legacy
Don’s BBQ’s original location at 21852 Highway 377 North in Whitesboro was started by Don and Dalton Stone.
Luke Baio and Gary Morrison recently opened a Sherman location of the barbecue restaurant. Located at 219 North Travis in Sherman, Don’s BBQ has been in Grayson County for more than 40 years.
“People will argue that what makes barbecue, barbecue is the brisket, the ribs or the barbecue sauce,” Baio said. “I say that it is about the barbecue sauce. Any place you go to will have its own barbecue sauce. The food will taste different as well. Our barbecue is centered around our 40-year-old barbecue recipe. We also have been smoking it the same way for 40 years. That is just part of Texas.”
What makes Texas barbecue different from barbecue in other places, Baio said, is the amount of barbecue Texans eat.
“We could say the same about tacos,” he said. “In Texas, it is all about the barbecue and the tacos. In Grayson County alone, there are 16 barbecue restaurants and trucks. I have had Memphis barbecue and it’s not comparable to what is here. It is a culture thing. It’s part of the lifestyle here.”
Don’s BBQ sells 10 different smoked types of meat and cooks their meats in a pecan wood firebox.
“People also love it because it has been around so long,” Baio said. “We do our brisket differently than any other place around here. We do not season our brisket. We let the wood season it when we smoke it. Most of our briskets are pretty lean. It is a two-thirds. It’s less fat and more meat. When we first opened up, we were selling 21 pounds of brisket a day. We just couldn’t keep up.”
Baio said they smoke their pork butts for 16 hours and Don’s Sherman location sold more than 25 pounds of pulled pork on the Fourth of July.
“It took us nine months to open this location,” he said. “People were just waiting for it. We had people coming from Dallas, and Van Alstyne wanting to eat this barbecue. Don created that legacy in this area.”
Baio’s favorite meal from here is pulled pork. While the brisket and ribs are also good at Don’s BBQ, he said that he eats the pulled pork every day.
“The look of the food is a big deal,” Baio said. “Cutting the meat is important too. You can cut meat a certain way and make it look bad. If you cut it with the meat, it would shred. Even ribs, cutting them is like artwork. The flavor does a lot too. When you cook them timing is so important. I always tell people that cooking ribs is the hardest thing that you can do. If you pull them too early, they will be tight and too chewy. But, if you pull them too late, they will come out dry and tough. You have to get them in the middle.”
A tip that Baio likes to share with barbecue cookers is to pull the meat when it is a little shy of being done.
“The bone is at 200 degrees too and so it will continue to cook the inside of the meat,” he said.
At Don’s BBQ, customer favorites are first brisket then the pork ribs and third is the pulled pork.
“We sell 50 pounds of brisket a day,” Baio said. “We have chopped beef. There are only one or two other barbecue places in this area that have chopped beef. It is shredded beef. When people think about chopped beef, they think about chopped brisket with no barbecue sauce. This is shredded beef with barbecue sauce. It is best with quick sandwiches and for people on the go.”
Another customer favorite, Baio said is the stuffed pepper, a bell pepper stuffed with brisket and cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.
“I encourage people to give us a try,” he said. “See if you like it. If you don’t, we understand and if you do, that is great.”
It comes down to passion
Marcus Pride is the co-owner of Magic Smoke Bar-B-Que, a food truck that can be seen at many festivals around Grayson County. Pride said barbecue is all about the gathering where people share it.
“To me barbecue is a family gathering,” Pride said. “It is the top of the line food gathering for family and friends. It is like if I say, ‘I’m going to the club, everyone knows what I mean.’ It’s the same way with barbecue. It is good fellowship where people get to mix and mingle. There is good food. Barbecue to me is just good old, down-home cooking.”
Pride said while he does not know a lot about barbecue from Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis, while traveling around the United States he has been told that Texas is different.
“No matter what, you will get different people that like different things,” Pride said. “When they get their food and taste it, it should all make sense to them. I think Magic Smoke is popular because people appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. I cook from my heart. I cook from my soul.”
Magic Smoke customers generally start off tasting the food truck’s brisket, Pride said.
“Then they taste the ribs,” he said. “We have added the loaded baked potato and brisket nachos. That is really popular. That is great for anyone aged 5 up til 75 years old. My customers come back and say that they want to try something else. Not to say that they did not like the first thing, they just want to try something else. By the third or the fourth time, they say that they cannot decide because they like everything.”
Pride sometimes marinates his meats for up to 36 hours.
“I marinate my meat with Magic seasoning that I can concocted myself,” Pride said. “I know it is right because of the way that it smells to me. No matter the seasoning that is in there, if you smell the food and it smells good then that’s how you know that you want it. If the season does not smell good, then, in my mind, it will not smell good on the meat.”
Pride advises those that are trying to jump into the Texas barbecue scene to take their time.
“If they are not asking for more, then you know that they did not like it,” Pride said. “Try your neighbors and then get out there. Be able to accept constructive criticism. At the end of the day, your name is on this product. Not only are you satisfied, but your family and friends are satisfied.”
Pride got the motivation to start cooking from his dad.
“My dad used to say, ‘That women will not always be around. You better learn how to cook,’” he said. “I decided to cook. At the end of the day, I have a dream to have a big location where Texoma can sit down and dine. I know with me starting off small, if I put out a product that people look forward to, I can get there. I do not want to stop just because these people here or there like it. I put my heart and soul into this. I would be hurt for someone to not like this product or not look forward to it. I want my barbecue to be a part of people’s conversations.”
Pride got the motivation to turn cooking into a business from his grandfather.
“It is my determination to have everyone satisfied,” he said. “Before my grandfather passed, he said, ‘I can’t do it anymore. It’s your turn.’ I decided to keep it in the family and cook. If I have the motivation of my grandfather. I just have to keep going. You will see one day.”