THE PITMASTER SERIES: Grant Pinkerton of Pinkerton's BBQ in Houston, TX
At just 28 years old, Grant Pinkerton is one of the youngest most successful pitmasters in the Texas BBQ scene. A lifelong Houstonian, he opened his joint in the Heights and keeps it full of hungry patrons, with long lines every day at lunch. It’s a lot to handle, but he’s got a simple hack that makes things a bit easier—he lives right above his restaurant.
"I just live a normal person's life with meat perpetually smoking in the back."
S&D: What’s it like living right upstairs?
GRANT: It’s a 24/7 job. We’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but even days off aren't really days off; that’s when we take care of maintenance and receive deliveries, and other things. Really, I just live a normal person’s life with meat perpetually smoking in the back. It’s like hosting a dinner party every day. It’s a lifestyle, and I love what I do. It’s perfect.
S&D: What got you started making BBQ professionally?
GRANT: I started messing with meat when I was very young, and at 12 years old I graduated from grilling to smoking. I grew up doing FFA (Future Farmers of America), so as a kid I was learning about raising animals, building pits, and animal science. Back in the day, there were no great places to get BBQ in Houston, so I made my own. I started selling it to friends, then started doing catering gigs, and eventually was making more money from that than my regular job.
S&D: Your “secret” is your blend of post oak and mesquite woods. What’s up with that?
GRANT: We start smoking with mesquite, and end with post oak. There’s a sweet spot when we switch it out, which varies on the meat. I got into mesquite from eating at my favorite BBQ place, which is out in Junction, Texas. Blending the two allows the meat not to become too smoky.
S&D: You’re a lifelong Houstonian, only ever having lived briefly in Austin. How’s Houston changed since your childhood?
GRANT: Back then it seemed like there was nothing to do in Houston. Now, the food scene here has exploded. Job opportunities here have pulled a lot of young people, and it’s become a cultural hotbed. The general population is just starting to learn that, but Houstonians understand that this is a cool city. Houston has one of the best food scenes in the country.
S&D: What would your death row meal be?
GRANT: Riccotta gnocci from Coltivare; potatoes au gratin from Papas Steakhouse; and for dessert, my mom’s banana cake. And cheese is my favorite food.