Texas Barbecue: The Salt Lick Cookbook

"The Salt Lick Cookbook" is a son’s recipe- and story-filled homage to his father’s love of barbecue and his family’s love of Texas.

| April 2013

  • Salt Lick Cookbook
    Salt Lick is an established barbecue joint in Driftwood, Texas. Serving over 600,000 customers a year it is hard to dispute that they know their meats. "The Salt Lick Cookbook" by Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts, with Jessica Dupuy, was written to share his family's story, knowledge and passion.
    Cover Courtesy University of Texas Press
  • The Pit
    This Texas barbecue pit is responsible for some of the tastiest meat in Texas. Their old fashioned recipes give homemade a new meaning. "The Salt Lick Cookbook" is an extension of the restaurant, allowing readers to experience the history and tastes surrounding this business.
    Photo By Kenny Braun
  • Roberts
    Thurman Lee Roberts and his wife Hisako Roberts.
    Photo By Kenny Braun

  • Salt Lick Cookbook
  • The Pit
  • Roberts

In Texas and throughout the South, a myriad of barbecue joints claim to have the “best barbecue,” and Salt Lick Barbecue in Driftwood, Texas is a definite contender. The Salt Lick Cookbook (University of Texas Press, 2012), by Scott Roberts and Jessica Dupuy, can show you the art of Texas barbecue. Scott Roberts, the owner of Salt Lick Barbecue, is building on the foundation of a business that was laid down by his family over 130 years ago. These excerpts show you the mouthwatering recipes that come straight from the Salt Lick. 

More from The Salt Lick Cookbook

The Salt Lick begins

In 1967, about 100 years after the first members of the family arrived in Driftwood, Thurman took a leap into the restaurant business by opening a Texas barbecue stand. He had already won local fame for his cooking for family events and at a barbecue stand he hosted at the Camp Ben McCulloch Reunions each year.

One day he called me and our ranch hand, Guadalupe Ranchel “Lupe” Alvarado, to his favorite spot on the original homestead. He looked around a bit at the trees and location of the hill at the north side of the property and marked a spot with his boot heel in the ground. He then grabbed his barbecue fork from his truck, dug his boot heel into his mark in the dirt, and extended his arm so the tip of the barbecue fork would reach the ground. Turning slowly, he drew a circle around himself, nodded his head, and said to us, “go grab some shovels, gravel, and cement. I want you to dig a 6-inch-wide, 6-inch-deep hole and fill it with concrete.” We had no idea why, but Lupe and I did what he said.

When we finished that, he had us use rocks from the ranch to build a rock wall over this concrete footing. Only when he brought down his handmade metal grate did we realize he had directed us to build an old-fashioned smoke pit. After the pit was built, we cleared all the cedar trees from the area and took down the fence along the road so that cars could drive up to it from Ranch Road 1826.

That open pit still stands today in its original location and serves as the heart-beat for the Salt Lick restaurant. At first, it was just the pit. My father would bring meat down on Thursday nights, along with a cot and a sleeping bag. He would tend to the pit as he smoked meat all night and slept under the stars. He would then sell barbecue all weekend until there was nothing left. He called the place the Salt Lick after a bed of big rocks in the field out where the parking lot is today. It was where we used to place nutrient minerals for the animals to browse.

My mother made side dishes up at the house and brought them down to sell, too. There was no electricity, no running water, no restrooms, and no place to sit. But people didn’t seem to mind. They would drive up, order some barbecue, and perch on their car hoods or tailgates to enjoy their meal.

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