You stand in line and the smells fill your nose. The barbecue looks amazing. You find your table and sit down with a beautiful spread in front of you. And then, you watch your buddies eat. Because you, you have a strict religious dietary restriction.
That’s the dilemma for a Jewish pit master from Brooklyn. So Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor for Texas Monthly, teamed up with famed Austin pit master Aaron Franklin to figure out how to give a religious Brooklynite the real deal.
“We put together this idea when we were up in New York,” Vaughn says. “Aaron Franklin and I judged this competition called the Brisket King of New York. The winner was Sruli Eidelman.”
Eidelman, who goes by Izzy, owns a kosher barbecue joint in New York called Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse, which serves up specialties like beef ribs and pastrami brisket.
“We got to talking with him after the competition, and he said he’d been to Texas for a few barbecue trips. But he had never eaten Texas barbecue,” Vaughn says.
“There really aren’t any kosher barbecue joints in Texas,” Vaughn says. “So he would come to these barbecue places. He would come with friends, and they would order food. He would inspect it and smell it, and, you know, pull it apart, and observe it essentially. And then have to watch his friends eat it. I asked him why do you keep doing this to yourself.”
The plan to have a kosher barbecue for Eidelman in Texas came together long before Franklin’s pit caught on fire, shutting down the restaurant for the foreseeable future. It just happened to be scheduled to occur a couple of weeks after the fire happened. After news of the fire broke, Eidelman assumed that the whole thing was going to be off, but Franklin followed through, according to Vaughn.
“In order to do that, we needed to get some kosher barbecue equipment,” Vaughn says. “Your talking about any equipment – knives, cutting boards, a smoker – as long as they have not touched anything non-kosher, otherwise known as treif, then they are still OK.”
Lucky for Eidelman, Franklin is currently rolling out a line of backyard smokers. He had a few test models that hadn’t been used yet, according to Vaughn, so they fired one up.
“Izzy brought some kosher briskets down from New York with him, and we would basically just sit in the backyard of Franklin Barbecue and cook them the Franklin way,” Vaughn says.
With some slight modifications, that is. The koshering process necessitates salting the meat to extract all of the blood possible from it, according to Vaughn.
“That salt is like a dry brine,” he says. “So kosher meat is always a little bit saltier.”
The kosher meat Eidelman brought from New York was also a different kind of beef than what is typically used at Franklin Barbecue, according to Vaughn.
Ultimately, the alterations, logistics, and time – each brisket cooked for 12 hours – were worth it, according to Vaughn.
“When we unwrapped them, it had that same smell, it had that beautiful crust, it had the right look,” he says.
And when Eidelman finally took a bite?
“He closed his eyes,” Vaughn says, “and there was just like this reverence of, ‘oh, man, this is really what it’s like.’”
Written by Kate Groetzinger.