Back in 1986, the Great Chefs television crew were starting their first TV series that did more than include just chefs in one city. Southwest cuisine was beginning to simmer, and we decided to add a segment of “down home cooking”, in addition to the individual Great Chefs. Barbecue was such a factor in southwestern cuisine that we could not ignore it. The Salt Lick was one of those places.
Thurman Roberts was a bridge builder in the state of Texas, but when his children reached school age, he and his wife Hisako decided to change their nomadic life of traveling. On top of their list of options was to start a barbecue restaurant on a 750-acre ranch they owned about 230 miles from Austin, and in 1967 they opened The Salt Lick. Hisako’s Hawaiian heritage inspired the sweet barbecue sauce used, which is now a secret recipe. The sauce flavors the companion potato salad and is mopped on the briskets and ribs. Tim Ader was hired in 1982 as grill master and four years later, the Great Chefs team showed up to tape them for episodes #14 and #20 of the Great Chefs of the West, as well as include them in the companion cookbook, Southwest Tastes.
Tim Ader started out by placing cardboard boxes under the grills and creating a huge fire to burn off the old barbecue sauce. He then created a fire with mesquite wood, and rubbed the briskets with a mixture of salt, black pepper and cayenne. On the first day, they were cooked for twelve hours. After an initial searing of thirty minutes to seal the meat, they were turned over a 200 degree fire every forty-five minutes, and were basted almost constantly with barbecue sauce. That night, the briskets were chilled and the next day, they were placed over an even lower part of the fire, at the back of the grill, and were cooked for four to five hours.
The Salt Lick continues to earn accolades today, in 2017.