Young and Hungry

Urban Bar-B-Que Upgrades Its Smoker at Rockville Location

David Calkins, co-owner of Urban Bar-B-Que, called this afternoon to tell me that the Rockville location of the two-store chain had just installed a XLR-600 Southern Pride smoker, which is a significant improvement over the joint's previous equipment. The Southern Pride machine can handle about 600 pounds of meat on its self-basting rotisserie racks, but even more important, it cooks brisket, ribs, and chicken almost wholly by wood smoke—oak in Urban's case.

Calkins knew I'd be particularly interested in how the smoker treats Urban's briskets, given my ongoing search for real Texas barbecue. The smoke flavor of Calkins' brisket, which I had once criticized in a review, has significantly improved with the new smoker, the owner says. So has the meat's moisture content, since the new smoker melts the entire fat cap into the brisket now, spreading that rich, buttery goodness throughout the cut. Plus, Calkins is rubbing his briskets with nothing more than salt and pepper before throwing them in the smoker.

All of this, I think, bodes well for those looking for decent, Texas-style brisket in the big city, which ain't easy to find. You can bet I'll soon give the brisket a taste test; you can also bet that I will order it without sauce, since Urban will serve it up with the stuff unless otherwise requested.

The main issue Calkins has now, he says, is holding the meat once it's finished cooking. He typically pulls the brisket out of the smoker at 9 a.m., two hours before Urban opens at 11 a.m.  Holding the meat at 140 degrees can start to affect the quality of it, particularly its color and bark. As Calkins is telling me this, I suggest he consider opening in the morning, right as he's pulling the briskets out of the smoker. I know I'd be there when the doors open, I say.

"Not a bad idea," Calkins says. Then he starts rattling off a sort of barbecue version of steak and eggs—but with brisket instead of a top sirloin or some such cut. Count me in!

  • Capital Spice

    Want company?

    Sounds delicious - and I'm always on the (generally futile) lookout for good barbecue in the area.

  • Lou

    Lets see...

    You plug it in.
    It's a silver box.
    It has a heating element.
    It has knobs, gauges, and lights.

    This, my friends, is not a smoker.


  • Tim Carman

    Well, it is, and it isn't a smoker. It's not a Texas PIT smoker, which relies completely on wood for heat. The Southern Pride has a gas heating element, which brings the machine up to temperature and then allows the wood to cook the meat over the next 11-plus hours. It's really the only kind of smoker you find in cities. But these units CAN turn out decent smoky 'cue. I investigated the smokers at Hill Country in NYC, and while they are much larger than this Southern Pride unit, they do the exact same thing...they heat up with gas and then turn to smoke for cooking. Those machines turn out the best brisket you'll find in just about any urban environment. In other words, don't immediately discount these babies.

  • Mike Riggs

    Psst, Carman--need someone to help you sample the new brisket? I'm your man.

  • Tim Carman

    I'm sensing a mass brisket feast at Urban soon. Who's in?

  • Mike Riggs

    I'm in, just say when.

  • DanielK

    Ten minutes from my house. I'm in.

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