Before they opened their first smokehouse in Amman four years ago, Jordanian restaurateurs Ahmed Hijazi and Ghaith Saadeldin were so obsessed with serving the perfect smoked brisket that they built their own smoker from the ground up.
“There’s a science to smoking that we have been trying to perfect since we opened,” says Hijazi, whose The Pit-House of Barbecue just opened its first franchise in Dubai.
The process of smoking meat dates back to how primitive men preserved the spoils of their hunt. The Pit has developed its own technique to serve the perfect briskets that, according to Hijazi, "melt in your mouth".
Perfecting their own smoker would soon pay off for the entrepreneurs, whose business began as a tiny shack at a back alley in Amman in 2018, selling slow-cooked meat primarily to friends and neighbours.
“After a year and a half or so, the business was going so well, they decided to expand into more of a dine-in experience,” Ahmad Al Dada, the restaurant's managing partner in the UAE, tells The National.
“They decided to take a bigger space — around 200 square metres — at the centre of the city where there is higher traffic in Abdoun Al Shamali, one of the busiest districts in the Jordanian capital, which would become their flagship restaurant."
In 2019, The Pit sold its first franchise in Erbil, Iraq, and has since bolstered plans to launch the brand across the region, with plans to take it to other Gulf countries after the UAE outpost in City Walk.
While smoked briskets are its speciality, The Pit also serves short ribs, as well as burgers and sandwiches.
But before the smoking even starts, close attention is paid to sourcing their meat, vetting suppliers and making sure they only get premium cuts.
“We have multiple sources; we don’t stick to one specific source. We get our meat mainly from the US, Australia and New Zealand — depending on the cut of meat,“ Al Dada explains.
Once you get the perfect meat, then comes the cooking by the smokehouse’s pit masters, who are artisans in their own right — led by head chef Khaled El Shaweesh, who is also responsible for training the other staff as the restaurant prepares for its GCC expansion.
The pit masters don’t just follow a set recipe, says Al Dada, instead they “feel” them. Different meats are treated in various ways. For example, chicken is smoked for at least four hours, while full briskets can take up to 22 hours in the smoker.
Hijazi says he was specifically frustrated about the quality of beef bacon from the US, which he says often feels chewy and “the fibres don’t melt, which is weird”.
This frustration led the brand to roll out its own smoked deli selection, which is also available in the UAE.
Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating areas, a juice bar and an open kitchen offering a view of their prized custom-built smoker, The Pit-House of Barbecue in Dubai can seat up to 120 guests in total.
Hijazi and Al Dada are hoping the restaurant's popularity with expats in Jordan, who make up 40 per cent of its customer base, will help them make a splash in multicultural UAE.