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100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 5, Brisket at Killen's Barbecue

I think you can almost smell it through the photo.
I think you can almost smell it through the photo.
Photo courtesy Killen's Babecue

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

A lot has been said and written about Ronnie Killen's barbecue since it first started popping up in Pearland back in the spring of 2013.

Mai Pham wrote, "Each slice of brisket revealed itself to be oozing with juiciness ... the sight had me in near-convulsions of food ecstasy."

The Chronicle's Greg Morago called the brisket "agonizingly supple," and in Houstonia, Robb Walsh described it as "perfectly cooked" (though he seems to prefer the beef ribs). Even Yelp, that most fickle of beasts, loves Killen's meat.

So when I first checked out the new restaurant, Killen's Barbeuce, which has been selling out of barbecue nearly every day it is open, my expectations were almost impossibly high.

I'll be damned if Ronnie Killen's brisket didn't exceed them.

Killen shows off a perfect slice of brisket.
Killen shows off a perfect slice of brisket.
Photo courtesy Killen's Barbecue

To be fair, I spent much of the past three years in Missouri, where pulled pork and burnt ends totally trump brisket at nearly every barbecue joint. Pork is such the focus there that brisket tends to be dry and rubbery, unless you get the burnt ends, but there are only so many "ends" on each cut of meat.

Upon arriving back in my home state of Texas, I immediately jumped back on the brisket bandwagon, and though I occasionally do crave pulled pork, I'm not at all disappointed with the fabulous barbecue in Houston. And the barbecue at Killen's is indeed the best.

The brisket comes out of the smoker with a charred, black crust. Killen heaves it onto a cutting board and picks up a serrated knife with his gloved hands. As the teeth of the knife penetrate the blackened exterior, juice starts oozing out of the slice, first slowly, and then to the point that the cutting board, the knife and the gloves are all covered in a glistening sheen of juice and fat.

Beneath the layer of char and seasoning is a bright pink ring of meat that fades into a more subdued pink marbled with veins of whitish fat that, rather than being chewy, very literally melt in your mouth. The brisket is incredibly smoky, the flavor permeating the entire cut of meat and the juices so entirely that I always find myself, an avid fan of spicy barbecue sauce, forgetting to squirt any on my already moist brisket.

I also forget to use my knife, primarily because it isn't necessary. The brisket is so tender that it falls apart with a touch of the fork, though I usually get so excited that I forgo utensils entirely in favor of my fingers.

The excellent brisket comes all the way from Creekstone Farms in Kansas--the same folks who supply the famous Franklin Barbecue in Austin--and the meat is seasoned with salt and a pepper blend, nothing more. Then it's smoked in a custom pit just long enough to imbue it with flavor, but never so long that it dries out. Killen really has this craft down.

And yes, he knows it. It even says so on the Killen's Barbecue shirts: "Best barbecue, period." It would sound pretentious if it wasn't so true.

See the full list of favorites on the next page.

 

The list so far: No. 6: Aji de Gallina at Latin Bites No. 7: Chilorio at Pico's Mex-Mex No. 8: Pickled Butternut Squash Salad at Coltivare No. 9: Uni Chawanmushi at Kata Robata No. 10: Seafood Gumbo at Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen No. 11: Grilled Fish Masala at Himalaya Restaurant No. 12: Curry Noodle Soup at Mamak Malaysian Restaurant No. 13: Foie Gras au Torchon at Étoile Cuisine et Bar No. 14: Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs at Cafe TH No. 15: Kobe Beef at Nara No. 16: Okra With Crème Fraîche at Oxheart No. 17: Alba White Truffle Soufflé at Tony's No. 18: Phat Ass Ham Hock at Goro & Gun No. 19: Dahi Puri at Shri Balaji Bhavan No. 20: Fried Catfish and Cajun Crawfish at The Cajun Stop No. 21: Foie Gras Crème Caramel at Just Dinner No. 22: Roasted Pear Salad at Backstreet Cafe No. 23: Fluffernutters at Fluff Bake Bar No. 24: Som Tam at Vieng Thai No. 25: Chips and Queso at Fusion Taco No. 26: Spicy Miso Ramen at Soma Sushi No. 27: Kim Cheese Fries at Coreanos No. 28: Fried Cauliflower at Roost No. 29: Caesar Wedge Salad at Provisions No. 30: Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Fat Cat Creamery No. 31: Cochito con Mole Xico at Hugo's No. 32: Carnitas at Molina's Cantina No. 33: Taleggio Pizza at Dolce Vita No. 34: Chiles de Padron Asados at Caracol No. 35: Morning Thali at Pondicheri No. 36: Fried Mini Fish at House of Bowls No. 37: Trompo Tacos at Taqueria La Macro No. 38: Spicy Tamale Plate at La Mexicana No. 39: Mum's Chicken Curry At The Queen Vic Pub No. 40: Canestri alla Funghi at Paulie's No. 41: Biscuit with Marmalade and Crème Fraîche at Blacksmith No. 42: Fried Oyster Po'Boy at Goode Company Seafood No. 43: Roasted Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme

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Killen's Barbecue

3613 E Broadway
Pearland, TX 77581

281-485-2272

www.killensbarbecue.com


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