Best of the Valley Taste Test: Beef Brisket with Scott Pasmore

Editorial StaffJuly 7, 2021
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3TV morning anchor Scott Pasmore grew up eating barbecue in America’s putative barbecue capital, Kansas City. Thus, we’ve entrusted him with perhaps our most important BOV taste test yet: barbecue brisket. As ’cuedom’s most agonizing and labor-intensive dish – pitmasters typically smoke the tough pectoral cut for 12-plus-hours before it achieves that divine, fork-tender ratio of bark, fat and meat – brisket is the main event of any barbecue competition. The question of who smokes the Valley’s best specimen has kept many-an-enthusiast up at night. We collected eight contenders and asked the venerable Valley TV personality to make the hard choices.

When & Where: Wednesday, June 9, at the PHOENIX office. The tasting began at 12:34 p.m.
The Rules: Eight sliced briskets from locally owned barbecue joints around the Valley, collected just before the blind tasting to ensure freshness.

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No. 1
JL Smokehouse
“Hmm, cuts easy, and tastes pretty good,” Pasmore says, admiring the silky texture of this thin-sliced South Phoenix offering from pitmaster James Lewis. jlsmokehouse.com

No. 2
Texas BBQ House
Though eye-pleasing and generously barked, it leaves Pasmore wanting. “Not cutting as easy, and a little more plain… not as smoky.” texasbbqhouseaz.com

Quarterfinal Winner
JL Smokehouse
Fuller smokiness and more umami give JL the nod over its South Phoenix neighbor. “This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Pasmore digresses.

No. 3
Jalapeño Buck’s
“It looks… different,” Pasmore says, noting the dull color and “slick of melted fat” entombing this thinly sliced brisket from Mesa. Also: bland, day-old taste. jalapenobucks.com

No. 4
Caldwell County BBQ
Though cut thick, the Gilbert smokehouse’s brisket offers little resistance to Pasmore’s fork. “Smoky, really tender and nicely marbled with fat.” caldwellcountybbq.com

Quarterfinal Winner
Caldwell County BBQ
“The best one so far,” Pasmore says, noting the Caldwell brisket’s smoke ring and healthy color.

No. 5
Eric’s Family Barbecue
Visual first impression: not great. “It looks like roast beef.” But to its credit, the West Valley brisket tastes better than its looks or tough texture suggest. ericsfamilybbq.com

No. 6
NakedQ
“Cuts easy, very tender,” Pasmore says of the North Phoenix brisket, noting how the two briskets “look like different species.” nakedq.com

Quarterfinal Winner
NakedQ
An easy choice for the TV man, though Pasmore liked the peppery taste of the Eric’s brisket.

No. 7
Little Miss BBQ
“Not as easy to cut,” Pasmore grunts, exerting his thumb while cutting the paperback-thick brisket. Then: “Wow, that is good. Actually tender when you chew it.” littlemissbbq.com

No. 8
Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse
“I can actually smell this one,” Pasmore says, admiring the smoky aroma, dark bark and overall agreeability of the barbecue tavern’s brisket. bootleggerssmokehouse.com

Quarterfinal Winner
Little Miss BBQ
Unfortunately for Bootleggers, it drew the day’s toughest first-round matchup in Scott Holmes’ mythical brisket, and Pasmore – tasting blind, mind you – is impressed. “It’s nice and peppery, too. Just delicious.”

Semifinal Winner
Caldwell County BBQ
Pitmaster Jimmy Perez’s beautifully caramelized brisket holds tough through the second round, while JL suffers by comparison: “Not my favorite anymore. The flavor isn’t there.”

Semifinal Winner
Little Miss BBQ
Likening the NakedQ brisket to a tri-tip, Pasmore opts for the “more marbled, buttery” Little Miss offering, with its beguiling pink smoke rings. Victory seems assured.

Champion!
Caldwell County BBQ
In a stunning upset, Pasmore – visibly torn – opts for the “ridiculous” Caldwell County brisket, which he deems slightly more sweet and succulent. “You can literally chew it with your tongue.” Informed of his decision, Pasmore is unrepentant. “They’re both fall-apart tender and wonderful. No losers here.”

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