69ºF

Killen's Barbecue ranked No. 2 BBQ destination in America

Kimberly Park/Killen's Barbecue Publicist
Kimberly Park/Killen's Barbecue Publicist

By Sharon Nunn - Staff

PEARLAND, Texas -- It's been featured in GQ Magazine, Texas Monthly and Houstonia Magazine; now it's on to yet another feature in Food Network. This time it was named the No. 2 barbecue destination in America for its smoked brisket.

Killen's Barbecue, situated on Broadway Street in Pearland, received a coveted top five spot from the  Food Network series titled "Top 5 Restaurants," and the continuous stream of customers and notorious long lines during lunch hours affirm such a claim.

You'd have to make a 20-minute drive south of Houston to get to the restaurant's brick and wood-accented building, and arrive as early as possible if you're making the trek. After its doors open at 11 a.m., the crowd pours into the stucco building for everything the restaurant has to offer - from bone-in pork belly and brisket to seasonal cobbler and buttermilk pie.

The owner, Ronnie Killen, said the title was an honor, but now the expectations are higher.

"Getting good reviews is great, but you have to maintain it," Killen said. "A lot of people will say they don't know what they're talking about, but it's the Food Network, and there's a reason they picked us."

And one of those reasons could be his culinary instruction. Killen graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in London, a renowned institution with graduates like Martha Stewart and Julia Child.

But if that doesn't convince you of Killen's experience, he was a finalist in the running for a position as the White House's executive chef. He also owns the Pearland favorite, Killen's Steakhouse, which also received praise from the Food Network. Killen also worked in the Omni Mandalay in Irving, Texas, and The Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California.

"It's funny because I've been a chef. Barbecue has made me into a food celebrity," Killen said. "Of all of the things that I've done, that's what I'm famous for."

Yet Killen said the product is what makes Killen's Barbecue different from other local and national barbecue restaurants.

"We purchase the best product we can buy. We make sure it's taken care of properly," Killen said. "Honoring the animal that you're cooking."

The restaurant's preparation starts the night before its doors open to the public. They put beef ribs on at 11 p.m. because they take about 10 hours to cook.

"There's only about four hours total that someone's not here," Killen said. "Most people wouldn't do that because of labor."

Every meat is cooked on a different pits, woods and with different temperatures. Because of barbecue's nature, Killen said you only have one chance.

"There's only one 16-hour period in the day. There's so many variables you have to fight," Killen said. "Wood dryness and the humidity - controlling is the wood is the main thing."

The attention to detail just may be what attracts the hundreds upon hundreds of customers Killen's Barbecue sees every day, and Killen said he has a unique experience with his barbecue place.

"We've had people wait in the rain," Killen said. "It doesn't matter how tired you are, when you see people waiting in the rain, it makes it all worthwhile. Most chefs don't get to see how people are enjoying what they're doing."