- Where did Salt Lick
- Just after the Civil War in 1867, the Roberts family loaded their possessions onto a wagon and set out from Biloxi, Mississippi, eventually settling in Driftwood, Texas. On the trip, they barbequed meat by searing it and then slow-cooking it over coals on a pit made with rocks. An earthen berm was created to block the wind and hold in the smoke. Those original family recipes from the Southeast are the basis for what we do now.
Over the years, the recipes were “Texafied” taking on the local flavors of the land – like chili, cumin and cayenne. In 1967, one hundred years after the Roberts family settled in Driftwood, Thurman Roberts cleared an area on the family’s land and built a barbeque pit. The limestone used to make the pit was quarried from the land. (That pit is still in use today.) He would start cooking on Thursday night, sleep on a cot next to the pit, and sell the meat until it was all gone.
From those small beginnings, we now seat over 800 people and on an average Saturday we feed around 2000 people.
- What makes Salt Lick
- The barbeque sauce has no tomatoes so it won’t burn or become bitter. It does have sugar so it will easily caramelize. We sear the meat and then move it away from the hottest part of the fire to cook slowly. We finish our products over an open fire fed by live oak wood.
- What makes Salt Lick
- The Bar-B-Que sauce has no tomatoes so it won’t burn or become bitter. It does have sugar – a Southeastern tradition – so it will easily caramelize. We sear the meat and then move it away from the hottest part of the fire to cook slowly. We finish our products over an open fire fed by live oak wood.
Live oak is the most solid and heavy oak wood. It burns cleaner, more uniform, and the smoke particulates are finer. It gives a more distinct and lighter flavor and doesn’t become gritty on the meat. We don’t use mesquite because it has too much tar in it, and we feel it creates a bitter taste. When the fire flares, we throw into the flames pecan hulls soaked in water.
We put sauce on the meat four times. The high sugar and acid content causes it to caramelize on the outside. Basting and caramelizing work to hold moisture in. Sauce drips and hits the coals and the fire flares. The smoke from these flares gives the meat a unique flavor.
The first recipes for the side dishes were originated before refrigeration so they come from simple and fresh ingredients. In a normal year we cook over 750,000 pounds of brisket, 350,000 pounds of pork ribs, 200,000 pounds of sausage and more chickens than you want to count. The chicken is the only place we broke from Thurman’s tradition. He would never allow chicken on his pit.
Briskets are cooked 20-24 hours and pork ribs 2.5-3 hours. We hold to the hot-and-fast school of thought on ribs. We use high temperatures and lots of basting to keep them moist. The longer you leave them on the fire the more they dry out. They are not like a thick brisket. Sausages are smoked for 3 hours with 45 minutes on direct heat until they swell and spit juice. They are a combination of beef with pork for taste. Ribs are traditional full spare ribs.
We stop the cooking process on meats before they are finished and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours. This process increases flavor. It is similar to what you do with spaghetti sauce. The problem with doing this at home is that you have to get the temperature of the meat to 38 degrees within four hours.
- Are there other locations?
- In the last few years, Scott Roberts, Thurman’s son and current owner of The Salt Lick, has opened two quick-service restaurants. The locations in the Austin International Airport and the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City greet visitors with mouthwatering Texas fare. In 2008, the newest location opened in front of the Dell Diamond in Round Rock. Because of the restaurants’ popularity, Roberts is working on licensing agreements for other locations in California and the Mid-south.