12 Facts About Buc-Ee's Famous Brisket

Texans and regular visitors to the Lone Star State know that Buc-ee's is more than just a huge gas station — much, much more. Besides the hundred-plus gas pumps at each station, which ensure you'll rarely if ever have to wait for gas (per Texas Monthly) and huge, sparkling clean restrooms, each outlet features a supermarket-sized shopping emporium that carries everything from coolers to decorative items to food.

But while some fans of Buc-ee's love the shopping experience there so much they can make a day trip out of it (per Texas Highways), it's the food assortment that has earned the chain the most buzz. "We're not a normal gas station," Buc-ee's Operations District Manager Michael Bui told CBS 42. "We don't serve, you know, normal gas station food — we've elevated our game." Among the ways Buc-ee's sets itself apart is through one of its most popular offerings: freshly smoked beef brisket, hand-carved in house and loaded onto the chain's famous sandwiches. Here's what you need to know about this regional favorite.

Buc-ee's brisket is smoked for up to 14 hours

As we all know, the bar for most gas station food is set pretty low. Most of us would be happy grabbing a bag of chips and a soda or maybe a doughnut if it looks fresh enough. And we all know to keep our expectations in check when ordering any hot food at most stations. Buc-ee's, however, is a notable exception, and the company makes quality food a priority. According to Texas Monthly, the chain's co-owner even personally taste-tests proposed new recipes and ingredients before authorizing them for sale.

Buc-ee's brisket is a case in point. "We put a lot of love in it," Buc-ee's Operations District Manager Michael Bui told CBS 42. "These briskets are smoked for at least 12 to 14 hours. We have a smokehouse that ships it to the stores daily. [We] put a little bit a salt, a little bit of pepper, a couple other seasonings, of course, just low and slow, you know, the Texas way." As a Texas-based chain, Buc-ee's knows its customers have high standards for brisket and plenty of other places to go for a good brisket sandwich — so maintaining quality is a priority. And Buc-ee's is confident it can deliver. "I put it [the brisket] up against some of the fancy-pants barbecue that's in this part of the country," Buc-ee's culinary director Jim Mills told Texas Monthly.

Buc-ee's barbecue is managed by a competition barbecue cook

Barbecue aficionados will tell you making good-quality barbecue is no trivial matter. It takes time, knowledge, and plenty of experience to coax smoking wood and coals to the exact right temperature to cook a brisket or rack of ribs perfectly — and just as much knowledge to know when to pull the meat off at precisely the right stage of doneness. And Texas -– Buc-ee's home state — is a place that takes barbecue beyond seriously: Per Feastio, some fans are willing to wait in line for up to four hours at some of the state's top barbecue places.

For this reason, Buc-ee's knows it's critical to ensure its brisket is made right. And for this, it was essential that a proven barbecue expert take the lead. And while Buc-ee's culinary director Jim Mills is a veteran of the hotel and restaurant industry (per Texas Monthly), he wisely delegated the chain's barbecue operations to prize-winning pitmaster Randy Pauly, a former firefighter and contestant on the Food Network show "Chopped," according to The Post and Courier. Pauly, according to the Houston Chronicle, began visiting barbecue competitions with his father as a child and was named the grand champion in his first competition while still in his teens.

Buc-ee's keeps its brisket sales numbers to itself

Many large, visible businesses love to tout their numbers. McDonald's, for instance, is known for its signage boasting of the number of burgers it has sold, an unusual strategy started early in the restaurant's history, per The New York Times. And the strategy worked for McDonald's — it generated buzz and reinforced its popularity. In contrast, however, Buc-ee's keeps the exact details of its sales success close to its chest. As Buc-ee's general counsel Jeff Nadalo told The Ledger in Tennessee, the quantity of brisket sold and how the brisket is sourced are proprietary information.

This strategy seems consistent with Buc-ee's tightly controlled corporate culture. While the company's public persona is shamelessly boisterous (it draws travelers miles in advance with cheeky billboard slogans such as "Potty like a rock star," per The Ledger), the company remains privately held by its original co-founders, with no outside investors, per Texas Monthly. But while the exact number of briskets smoked and sold by Buc-ee's will probably forever remain a mystery to anyone outside the company, there are plenty of anecdotal hints. "We sell more brisket sandwiches than we do 69-cent fountain [drinks]," Buc-ee's Operations District Manager Michael Bui told CBS 42.

You'll hear an announcement whenever fresh hot brisket is brought out

While you can almost always count on finding warm, pre-wrapped brisket sandwiches at Buc-ee's, dedicated brisket fans know the thing to do is wait for a fresh batch to be brought out and sliced. And you won't have to linger around the barbecue counter (officially called the Texas Round Up) to know when it's happening. As noted by The Ledger, whenever fresh brisket is brought out, the carver calls out, in an almost musical chant, "Fresh hot brisket on the board!" And at this point, those in the know approach the board to watch the carving in action and prepare to scoop up freshly assembled sandwiches as soon as they're made.

The "fresh hot brisket" chant has itself become a signature part of the Buc-ee's experience, and numerous visitors have posted videos of carvers -– always in bright yellow cowboy hats -– chanting as they start to carve. And chances are, you won't have to wait long to hear the chant or see fresh brisket — per The Ledger, the chants ring out every few minutes.

Buc-ee's once sued its meat purveyor for unexpectedly raising its prices

Brisket is a big deal at Buc-ee's. The slow-cooked meat is not only a point of pride that sets Buc-ee's apart from other gas stations, but it's also a major draw for hungry customers and a huge part of Buc-ee's brand identity. And while Buc-ee's won't say how much brisket it goes through in a typical day (per The Ledger), it's clear it's a pretty huge quantity. And that means having a dependable supply of good-quality brisket is non-negotiable.

But Buc-ee's brisket supply chain hit a speed bump in 2016 when the company sued its brisket supplier for suddenly raising its prices, which cost Buc-ee's about $550,000, according to My San Antonio. Per the company's agreement with the supplier, Sadler's Smokehouse was required to notify Buc-ee's in writing of any change of circumstance that would necessitate a price increase, the news site reported. At that point, according to the agreement, both parties would meet at Buc-ee's headquarters to negotiate a new price. In its lawsuit, Buc-ee's alleged that it had never received any written notice or explanation for the sharp price increases.

You can also buy Buc-ee's brisket by the pound — or even a whole brisket

The Buc-ee's practice of carving its briskets in-house doesn't just ensure you get fresher sandwiches — it also offers you options you won't find at a filling station offering only grab-and-go food that was made off site. While it's a safe bet that most brisket-loving travelers passing through Buc-ee's just grab a sandwich or two, along with some of the store's other famous treats, if you really, really love brisket or need to feed a crowd, you can also buy Buc-ee's brisket by the pound, or even a whole brisket to take home and reheat, Buc-ee's pitmaster Randy Pauly told Fox 35. "We'll wrap it in foil like you made it," Pauly said.

Be warned, though, that because this option is so little known, even some Buc-ee's employees may be unaware of it. "When I went to order it, I got the deer in the headlight look," a commenter reported on Tripadvisor. Others reported being told they could only buy it in full-pound increments, while still others reported being able to buy as much or as little bulk brisket as they wanted without a problem. So if you're at Buc-ee's and want enough brisket to last a few days, it won't hurt to ask.

Buc-ee's brisket has loyal fans, but not everyone loves it

There's no such thing as a truly universally loved food. Because taste is so subjective, it's possible to put the same plate of food in front of three different people and get three completely different reactions. Somewhere in the world there are undoubtedly outliers who hate chocolate or bacon or ice cream. And Buc-ee's brisket is another example of a well-loved food that some people just don't get.

"The bbq they serve is a horrible representation of Texas. It used to be absolutely 'good,' but now it's just bad," a commenter wrote on Reddit. "It was like they had boiled the brisket to mush and then doused it in a smokey sweet BBQ sauce," another commenter wrote on the same thread. And that wasn't even the harshest of the critiques. "Bucees bbq is only good for a 5 hour drive where you are starving and you want to be disappointed after every bite," yet another commenter wrote. Still, another commenter called for some perspective. "It sounds like you're comparing Buc-ee's to Black's or Kreuz [two famous Texas barbecue restaurants] when you're supposed to be comparing it to Circle K or 7-Eleven. For what it is, it's amazing," the commenter wrote.

Want brisket for breakfast? Try a breakfast taco

When you think about it, the rules about which foods are appropriate for which meals are pretty arbitrary –- why are bacon and waffles traditionally breakfast foods, while brisket and meatballs are not? And, of course, many of us know how pointless these rules are and violate them all the time, treating ourselves to omelets or bowls of cereal for dinner and leftover pizza for breakfast.

If you're among these meal mavericks, you probably seek out places that serve breakfast all day. But finding places that serve lunch and dinner foods in the morning can be a bit harder. Even Buc-ee's, which offers hot food around the clock, limits some preparations to certain times of day — made-to-order lunch items are only available between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., for instance. Buc-ee's offers several breakfast items, too. But if you love the idea of brisket for breakfast, don't worry. You can treat yourself to a freshly made brisket breakfast taco if you show up between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m. Per Barbecue Bros, you can choose an all-brisket taco or a brisket and egg taco if you want an extra hit of creaminess and protein.

Here are your options for brisket sandwiches

If you arrive at Buc-ee's craving brisket, you won't have long to wait. A team of carvers and sandwich makers is always on hand during lunch hours, ensuring the steady stream of hot briskets coming from the kitchen are properly sliced (with just enough fat to lend a good flavor) and stuffed into sandwiches, per Fox 35. And while you can wait for a fresh brisket to be brought out, carved, and made into sandwiches, if you're pressed for time, there are almost always hot, foil-wrapped sandwiches ready to go.

So what can you expect when you open one of the sandwiches? All sandwiches are served on buns (per The Post and Courier), but you can choose between sliced and chopped brisket. The chopped version, according to The Post and Courier's reviewer, comes mixed with a generous portion of barbecue sauce and is reminiscent of a Sloppy Joe. The sliced version comes with a smaller amount of sauce, which is simply spread on the bun (the reviewer preferred the sliced version). You can also get these sandwiches in different sizes. Per This Polk Life, Buc-ee's now has an XXL brisket sandwich that offers an extra-generous portion of meat.

Buc-ee's has a strategic reason for carving its brisket in house

If you walked into Buc-ee's knowing nothing about it, the sight of a carving station in the store could be a bit jarring — as The Post and Courier points out. Who'd expect to see whole briskets and chickens being brought out and sliced in the middle of a place that sells wiper fluid? It all seems a bit surreal. And given the briskets aren't even cooked in house (per CBS 42, Buc-ee's works with a smokehouse that prepares the briskets and ships them daily to its stores), why not just have the sandwiches prepped offsite as most gas stations do? Hiring an extra team of people to prep everything onsite seems a bit inefficient and doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Still, the carving station has become one of the signature attractions at Buc-ee's, perhaps because it's so unusual for the setting. And Buc-ee's regulars relish the theater of it all, from the regular chants of "Fresh hot brisket on the board!" to the sight and sound of hot briskets being sliced and chopped, per The Ledger. And for Buc-ee's, the theater is the point. "We've been working to create an interactive, fun experience for our guests that highlights the fresh quality brisket and other barbecue that we sell," Buc-ee's general counsel Jeff Nadalo told The Post and Courier.

Plan your trip strategically if you want both brisket tacos and sandwiches

If you're a hearty eater, or an indecisive one, you know how hard it is to feel satisfied ordering just one thing -– if you do, you'll finish your meal either still hungry or with a nagging sense of FOMO. And at Buc-ee's, the dilemma for the hungry and indecisive is multitudes greater than usual because of the huge assortment of options, which includes everything from spiced nuts to pudding cups to dried fruit to eggrolls to kolaches and sandwiches (per My San Antonio). Just figuring out what your options are in the cavernous store will require several minutes of walking and a sharp short-term memory.

If you narrow your choice down to brisket, however, the choices get easier. During the early morning hours, you'll have a choice from among a couple of varieties of brisket breakfast tacos, per Barbecue Bros. During the lunch hours, you can choose between chopped or sliced brisket sandwiches, per The Post and Courier. The Barbecue Bros, however, have discovered a sweet spot when you can get the best of both worlds: Get there at the tail end of breakfast service when the carving team is transitioning between the breakfast and lunch menus — around 10:45 a.m. — and you may be able to score both a brisket breakfast taco and a brisket sandwich.

Buc-ee's brisket echoes a Southern tradition of gas station eateries

Unsuspecting first-time visitors to Buc-ee's may be surprised to see so much actual cooking going on inside its outlets, and watching carvers pull out and skillfully slice and chop whole briskets can be a novel treat for a Buc-ee's newcomer. After all, while most of us know gas stations as reliable places to grab a bottle of soda, an ice cream bar, or maybe some packaged cookies or chips, the last thing we'd think to get at most of them is a high-quality hot meal.

But according to Wide Open Eats, the idea of freshly prepared gas station meals isn't new, nor is it unique to Buc-ee's. Intentionally or not, the extensive food program at Buc-ee's echoes a much older Southern tradition of gas station cookery. Per The Bitter Southerner, gas stations in small towns in the Mississippi Delta have often served as the only commercial entities — and thus as de facto social centers — for their communities. And this has often led them to serving as restaurants as well. Many of these stations have discovered their food — typically regional specialties such as fried chicken and hot tamales — to be more profitable than their gas sales. Given that Buc-ee's is known for its low gas prices as well as its food (per Texas Monthly), it's likely the chain's famous brisket plays a similar role in its business.