Monday, August 27

Lone Star Dispatch: Israel "Pody" Campos

From the keyboard of guest blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose computer smells vaguely of brisket. 

At the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas is the tiny town of Pecos. It’s a long way from Austin both culturally and geographically, but Pecos native Israel ‘Pody’ Campos found his way back home after being laid off from the Austin police force in a wave of budget cuts. Upon returning to Pecos in 2011, he bought an empty laundromat and a couple of wood-burning smokers. Pody’s BBQ was born.

Israel "Pody" Campos. All photos by Nicholas McWhirter

Pody prepares his ribs on a standard offset smoker. The brisket smoker, on the other hand, is an odd-looking contraption, with a long pipe connecting the remote firebox with a vertical-drum smoking chamber. Israel designed a series of rotating circular shelves: a lazy Susan for meat. The results—expertly cooked beef and pork, both imbued with deep smokiness and laced with jet-black bark—kept me from questioning his design.

Pody Campos explains his Rube Goldberg-esque smoker to Daniel Vaughn, who's about to become a believer.

While the smoker is a curiosity, Pody’s most idiosyncratic feature may be his choice of wood. Once you get west of San Angelo, it’s a rarity to find a stick of anything other than mesquite. Not much else grows out here, and the shipping costs usually preclude the use of any other wood. Israel still uses mesquite on his briskets, but mixes it with a heavy dose of oak. Texas native pecan wood from several hundred miles away fuels the rib smoker, along with cherry wood, which I haven’t encountered in any other Texas BBQ joint. Pody says that using all mesquite was too harsh for his taste. Oak serves to mellow out the burn of the mesquite, while cherry provides a distinct sweetness. I also haven’t seen a side offering of green chile and cheese hominy or barbecue sauce with actual chunks of habanero, but Pody’s doesn’t just offer what’s expected. And for that, I'm grateful.

Multicultural comfort food: ribs and mac-n-cheese play nicely with cheesy green chile hominy.

You can follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.