BBQ newcomer Fox and Fire is one to keep on your radar
Andy Fox took the long road to barbecue. He’d always enjoyed the back-yard cookouts he threw with his brother, but his culinary ambitions didn’t stretch further than that—not at first. But the seeds of his business were there in his early noughties YouTube viewing habits, where he’d watch guys grilling caveman-sized steaks on Weber kettle grills.
A job in pharmaceuticals frequently landed Fox in Texas, where the local barbecue scene called. He took to the Texas method of rubbing meat with just salt and pepper and cooking it low and slow over oak. This year, after six years of planning, Fox opened a truck called Fox and Fire. Once a week, on Saturdays from 4 to 8 pm, Fox slides open the window to his barbecue truck and greets the line of hungry followers who have been looking forward to this day. They queue up in the Northland’s Callsign Brewing parking lot, where the Fox and Fire truck is permanently parked, along with Fox’s smoker (a converted five hundred-gallon propane tank) and a cord of Missouri oak.
Fox purchased his trailer in October 2019 and was slated to make his debut in March, but the coronavirus pandemic put his launch on hold. The grand opening was pushed back to July 11, and Fox prepared as much meat as his smoker could fit. Good thing: He sold out within two hours. The Saturday crowd is full of regulars, and each week, the line seems to get just a little bit longer. Fox’s ribs are in demand, and I get it: There is something about this hunky slab, with its shiny red glaze of honey and brown sugar and Fox’s own barbecue sauce, that awakens your inner philistine, calling you to bear down to the bone. I have never wished I had vampire fangs more.
Also excellent: Fox’s cubed pork belly (his answer to burnt ends) braised with brown sugar and Dr. Pepper. Pork belly is never not good, but in Fox’s capable hands, these tender bites taste like a prayer answered. There is the homemade sausage, which Fox is prodigiously proud of—it’s a pork-beef blend flavored with a balanced mix of chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, clove and habanero-cheddar cheese. The pulled pork was juicy, full of flavor and completely self-assured.
And then there is the brisket.
“Brisket was probably the most frustrating thing for me to learn, but it was the one thing I wanted to conquer,” Fox says. “The first brisket I cooked was terrible. I started keeping a notebook cataloging how I would trim the brisket. That’s a big thing: It affects how it cooks.”
Fox’s brisket is cooked at two hundred degrees for around thirteen hours. It’s done, he says, when he picks it up off the cooker and watches this hunk of meat fold over on itself. When he does finally slice into it, the tender cuts that end up on your plate are marvelous. At first, it appears more rock formation than meat. A dark, crusty ring encloses a top layer of pearly fat and brilliant red ochre lining that gives way to a tender and subdued sandstone center. Each bite is a harmony of fat, heat and smoke.