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Up in smoke: Killen's barbecue pulls out of Minute Maid Park amid tales of barbecue no-no's

Caswell Killen Texas Smoke barbecue stand Minute Maid Park
Sorry, Astros fans: no more Killen's Barbecue at Texas Smoke. Julia Morales/Twitter
Ronnie Killen Killen's BBQ barbecue
One Twitter user reported that Aramark employees were handling the brisket improperly, but Killen has declined to comment.  Killen's BBQ/Facebook
Caswell Killen Texas Smoke barbecue stand Minute Maid Park
Ronnie Killen Killen's BBQ barbecue

Bad news, barbecue fans. No more skipping the line at Killen's Barbecue by getting brisket at the Minute Maid Park concession called Texas Smoke, which offered a preview of the barbecue restaurant chef/owner Ronnie Killen plans to launch with Reef chef/owner Bryan Caswell later this year.

Texas Smoke revealed (in a now deleted Facebook post) that May 18 was the last time it would supply meat to the stadium.

 "The quote on there about high standards is such a joke. Brisket was great, but pre-sliced and trimmed of bark." Those are big no-no's. 

Chef/owner Ronnie Killen declined to comment about the situation, but Minute Maid's concession vendor Aramark released a statement to the Chronicle which reads in part: "Going into this season, we both knew there were going to be challenges with this particular offering and, ultimately, we were unable to achieve the high standards we had both hoped for at the outset. Aramark  . . .  will continue to explore potential opportunities with Chef Killen.”

Back in March, chef/owner Ronnie Killen told CultureMap that he would be monitoring the stand to ensure it maintained acceptable quality levels. "As long as my name's on it, it's going to be good," he said at the time. Killen's Barbecue provided 10 fresh briskets to the stadium before each game, and Killen spent time at the stadium training employees to handle the brisket properly. 

If Aramark's statement sounds a little obtuse, Twitter user @theoshu provided a more explicit description of the likely problem. "The quote on there about high standards is such a joke. Brisket was great, but pre-sliced and trimmed of bark," he wrote. Those are big no-no's in the world of Texas barbecue, where moist, properly rendered fat is one of hallmarks of a top tier product.  

Clearly, something changed between those initial sessions and Shu's visit, which seems to have doomed the relationship.

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