A Chat With Pecan Lodge Founder Justin Fourton

The pit master talks Texas barbecue and gives us some cooking tips.

As the owners of a catering business, Justin and Diane Fourton opened a barbecue stand at the Dallas Farmers Market in 2010, and long lines to sample their fare soon followed them. The Fourtons were forced to close the stand in 2013 because of new market ownership, though, so they decided to dig deeply into their savings well and open their own restaurant in Deep Ellum. A wise investment that would become: Since opening in 2014, Pecan Lodge consistently has been voted among the top three barbecue spots in the Dallas area.

Pecan Lodge’s beef brisket, smoked for up to 18 hours in an offset pit, draws many of the raves, but other menu items prove popular, too. Some members of your party aren't hankering for barbecue, you say? Direct them to the menu’s Southern fried chicken, which also has gotten its fair share of reviewers’ attention. Want something different than traditional ’cue? Try Diane’s invention, the "Hot Mess," a mixture of shredded brisket, cheese, bacon, chipotle sour cream and green onions, all atop a 20-ounce sweet potato.

The menu at Pecan Lodge is a combination of cooking styles and family recipes from both of the Fourtons’ grandparents; the spot’s name comes from Justin’s grandfather’s ranch near Abilene.

Pecan Lodge

We recently asked Justin about his cooking style and how to prepare the beloved Texas brisket. Here's what he had to say:

How long do you smoke your brisket, and what other cooking tips might you give to someone who’s a novice at smoking brisket? What about cooking times or tips for someone who’s a novice at smoking both ribs and sausage links?

Our brisket cooks for 15 to 18 hours, depending on their size and how many briskets we’re cooking on the pit at the same time. The cooking time for someone using a backyard pit will be faster, likely in the 10- to 12-hour time frame. Regardless of what someone is cooking—brisket, ribs, sausage, etc.—the main thing is to be patient and not try to rush the cooking process. Be sure to leave plenty of time for your food [to] cook: It’s better to have it finish a little early and keep it warm in the oven or a cooler than to take it off too soon. If you plan to eat at 6 p.m., try to time your cooking to finish around 4 or 5 p.m. The extra resting time will actually help improve the quality of large cuts like brisket and pork butts.

Why do many customers crave burnt ends?

Burnt ends are a special cut of meat that is highly marbled, extra smoky and glazed with our barbecue sauce. They are only available in limited quantities and usually sell out fast.

What makes Texas barbecue different or more special than other types of barbecue, such as Carolina or Kansas City style?

Texas barbecue is unique from other regions of the country in its emphasis on beef, as opposed to pork. While you can find barbecue sauce in most Texas barbecue joints, it’s typically viewed as being optional—whereas, in other parts of the country, the sauce is one of the signature items of a place.

The Dallas Observer says yours is "Dallas' bar-none best brisket." What do you think sets your brisket apart from the competition? Have the traditions handed down from your grandparents been the chief factor?

I think our focus on quality and authenticity is what sets ours apart. Using traditional-style pits that don’t rely on a thermostat to control the temperature, but on an actual pit master monitoring the fire and making adjustments, is critical. The cooking environment changes daily with the weather and a dozen other factors that just can’t be accounted for in a commercialized pit.

Pecan Lodge, 2702 Main St., Dallas, 214.748.8900, www.pecanlodge.com

Pecan Lodge