Okay folks… we ABSOLUTELY LOVE The Pit! Setup by a real Texan, so passionate about bringing PROPER smoked meat to Berlin that he converted two huge gas tanks into a smoker himself, we spoke to owner Adam Ramirez about how he gets his smoked meat so juicy, the differences of authentic Texas BBQ and his exciting second location that just opened up on Skalitzer Strasse!
Smoking meat is a big time commitment. What is the process to smoke a brisket the way you do?
If we abstract away all of the logistics of getting the right brisket over to Berlin, the steps are as follows
– We trim the brisket so that we don’t leave to much fat on. Fat is good, but there is a line where there’s too much fat.
-We rub the brisket with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Depending on how moist the outside of the cut is (if the rub will stick on its own or not), we’ll sometimes add a layer of mustard to keep the rub on the meat. The flavor of the mustard disappears by the time the brisket is done cooking.
-After the brisket is rubbed, and the fire is up to temp (around 115C), we load the briskets onto the smoker. We place them so that there is enough airflow between the briskets, to ensure even heat and smoke distribution. Since the fatty end can take more heat that the leaner end, we also place them so that the fattier ends are facing the fire.
-During the 14-18 hours it takes to cook the brisket, we are doing a few things
- Maintaining the hand fed fire. This is the main factor that ensures smokiness, moisture, and finishing the cook on time. Depending on the situation, we may place smaller or larger logs, closer or further away from the firebox/cooking chamber opening. The variables that affect the fire & temperature seem endless. It’s everything from ambient temperature, humidity, wind, rain, log moisture, log size, airflow/oxygen within the firebox, damper opening on the smokestack etc. etc.
- At regular intervals, spritzing the briskets to help with bark formation
- Having a few beers
-Toward the end of the cook we start checking the briskets for doneness. It’s very rare that all the briskets are done at the same time. Normally the smaller ones come off first, followed by the bigger ones.
-The briskets rest for a few hours, and are then ready to be served.
Your smoker is also pretty impressive! What’s his name?
He’s a self-built smoker, from 2 recycled gas tanks. We did the whole smoker on our own, from stripping the paint, ridding of the leftover gas in the tanks, measuring smokestack size & firebox openings, and then welding it all together. It was a first for me, but it won’t be a last.
We feel your BBQ meat is the best we’ve EVER tried! When smoking meat for so long, does the quality of beef/pork and seasoning has as much importance, as if does with say BBQ grilling?
You’re too kind!
Quality does affect the end result. Maybe not the way you think though. Most people base their meat choice based on color of the meat, amount of fat, price, origin, organic/conventional, breed etc.
What we look for in meat, when we want to do a long cook are the following:
-Diet of the animal
Fat content helps ensure the meat will stay moist.
Diet will ensure that the meat doesn’t end up tasting like grass in the end.
What do you currently offer smoked at the pit?
We have 5 meats on the menu at the moment:
Texas Smoked Brisket – All natural beef. Smoked up to 18 hours and seasoned only with sea salt & black pepper
Pork Belly – Regional Meat. Smoked 10-12 hours. Seasoned with “The Pit” pork rub
Turkey Breast – Regional Meat. Smoked 4 hours. Seasoned with sea salt & black pepper
Pork Shoulder – Regional Meat. Smoked 12-14 hours. Seasoned with “The Pit” pork rub
Beef Short Rib – All natural beef. Smoked 8 hours. Seasoned with sea salt & black pepper.
You’ve just opened up your second location on Skalitzer Strasse where The Dudes used to be – what’s different about this spot?
We’ve tried to make this location a bit closer to how a BBQ experience would be in the US.
I specifically wanted the “counter style” ordering. People should see the meat. You should see what the brisket looks like. You should order by the pound (100g).
The smells, sights, and tastes should all be in front of you, before you even hold your tray.
Smoking meat varies from state to state – what defines a Texan BBQ vs any other?
Texan generally means beef. Of course there are exceptions, but just generally speaking.
Brisket is the main cut in Texas. It’s also called “the king” of BBQ, since it’s the hardest cut to smoke consistently, due to all the variables it brings with it.
Sauce is also not a centerpiece in TX BBQ. We have it, of course, and it’s usually thinner and spicier than other states’ sauces.
What mistakes do other BBQ restaurants in Germany tend to do that Texans would frown upon?
From the places I’ve tried so far in Germany, not one is actually smoking their meat with only wood for the entire duration of the cook.
Convenience is very attractive when it takes 18 hours to smoke a brisket, but I believe that the end result outweighs convenience.
What were the biggest in challenges in taking The Pit from a pop-up & street food stall to a restaurant set-up ?
What’s your favourite meat to put in the smoker and why?
Turkey Legs. So much fun to eat, and they turn out really juicy and tender.
After that comes burgers. Grind up your own meat, and smoke it for an hour or so. It comes out with a great flavor. You can even smoke it shorter, and then finish off over an open fire for a mix of smokiness and char.
How do you feel the casual-dining restaurant scene in Berlin is changing?
The restaurant scene is forcing people that live in Berlin to reconsider the way that they eat. Maybe not for expats, but for locals I find this is true.
Namely, what food is available around them, how much more money they will have to spend than they are used to, and what quality they are eating.
Of course these changes have all been very gradual, but if you accelerate the last 10ish years, I think those are the key takeaways.
Where do you like to eat, drink and relax in Berlin?
At home. After running around the city all day, meeting at various restaurants & cafes, I’m most happy to enjoy my dinner at home.
Complete the following sentence “For me, Berlin is…”
Now my home.
We absolutely adore the meat you can enjoy by Adam and if you love meat yourself, you simply have to go and visit The Pit to try his absolutely stunning brisket and other smoked meats… like seriously… go… right now!