Celebrate National Brisket Day with BBQ tips and top El Paso restaurants

In celebration of National Brisket Day, barbecue lovers have an excuse to order the tender, savory cut of meat. Often considered the “king of barbecue,” brisket is celebrated every year on May 28.

The mere thought of mouthwatering brisket may prompt a visit to a favorite barbecue spot, but for those feeling brave enough to cook brisket at home, an attorney who’s mastered the art of smoking the meat has some tips.

Justin Underwood often turns up the heat in the courtroom, but he’s also been known to smoke a good brisket or two.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” Underwood said. “I burnt a lot of things over the years.”

Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.
Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.

Over the past decade, Underwood has transformed his backyard hobby into a booming business. In addition to practicing law, he’s the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, exclusively serving barbecue at catering and pop–up events.

His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.

“There’s all kinds of rubs, but primarily I just use salt, pepper and a little garlic,” he said. “Then you smoke it on low heat.”

It’s not an easy process. For years, Underwood smoked up inedible briskets for his family, he said with a laugh, but he’s found the sweet spot for ultimate tenderness: 220 degrees for about 6 to 7 hours.

Another trick is adding beef broth, he said.

“We live in El Paso and so obviously it’s very dry here,” Underwood said. “You have to keep the meat moist because it’s a drying process.”

He also suggested that aspiring pitmasters never cook by time but by touch. The brisket should have an internal temperature of 200 degrees, and inserted toothpicks should come out clean.  Also, allowing the meat to rest is just as important as the smoking process.

Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.
Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.

“I put it in one of my big coolers and leave it from 90 minutes to three or four hours,” Underwood said. “When the air is closed off, they will start reabsorbing some juice they’ve sweated out.”

Underwood finds his labor of love therapeutic, and cooking for friends, family and sometimes crowds brings him joy.

“At the end of the day, when you make barbecue, it doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said. “We are all sitting down to enjoy the same thing. It brings people together and that’s what makes it the most fun and rewarding.”

Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.
Justin Underwood is the pitmaster for JBU BBQ, which exclusively serves barbecue at catering and pop–up events. His specialty is Texas brisket, sprinkled with simple spices and cooked over post oak, grown primarily in the southern part of the state.

If you still prefer to dine out, here are some local barbeque spots offering up tasty brisket:

Desert Oak Barbecue

11411 Gateway Blvd. W.

Sunday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

3589 Rich Beem Blvd., Suite 101

Monday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday:  11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Hallelujah! BBQ

130 N Cotton St.

Wednesday through Sunday: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Award winning beef brisket is prepared with a slice of cornbread and a side of green Chile Mac and cheese at barbecue restaurant Hallelujah BBQ at 130-A N. Cotton.
Award winning beef brisket is prepared with a slice of cornbread and a side of green Chile Mac and cheese at barbecue restaurant Hallelujah BBQ at 130-A N. Cotton.

Johnny’s Pit Barbecue

4768 Doniphan Drive

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Rib Hut

2612 N. Mesa St.

Sunday through Tuesday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

12302 Montana Ave., Suite 901-903

Sunday through Tuesday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Shooter’s Smokin’ BBQ

1591 Main St. #18, San Elizario, Texas

Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. to midnight; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Smokey’s Pit Stop and Saloon

9100 Viscount Blvd.

Monday through Sunday: 10:30 to 2 a.m.

Tony’s the Pit BBQ

1700 Myrtle Ave.

Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: National Brisket Day: El Paso's best BBQ restaurants revealed