As we prepared for our biggest tour ever this weekend, members of the Texas BBQ Posse faced their biggest controversy yet:
Should sausage count as much as brisket in determining the best barbecue joint in the state?
On our organized tours and smaller excursions over the past 4 years, members of the Posse have visited hundreds of places in search of the best smoked meats in Texas.
Now, to determine the very best – at least for this one trip — we plan to visit our 10 favorites over three days, covering nearly 700 miles. Then, we’ll rank the top 5, in order.
Call it the Super Bowl of Texas BBQ tours. One trip. One tasting. One big winner.
As Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins planned our itinerary, naturally, we wondered how to create the fairest scoring system.
Some of us, foolishly in hindsight, thought sausage should count less than brisket and pork ribs, especially since so many joints buy their sausage from someone else.
Oak Cliff sausage king Bryan Gooding
Then we heard from Posse veteran Bryan Gooding.
When Bryan talks, we listen. He’s the reigning sausage king of Oak Cliff. With the help of his spice master wife, Martha, his homemade links took first place in the Blues, Bandits and BBQ contest last October. Two years earlier, he took first place in chicken.
In the O.C., that’s serious BBQ cred.
Bryan recounted the long history of sausage making – and smoking – in Texas and appealed to its creative aspects.
“Of all the meats a pitmaster can put out, sausage is the one meat where all of the elements are actually controlled by the chef,” he wrote in an email. “A stage where the artisan element of the individual pitmaster can shine. Texture, composition, flavors, amount of smoke, length of cooking and snap are all determined by the pitmaster whether he actually produces the links by himself or has them produced elsewhere.”
In Texas, Bryan concluded, barbecue is a three-legged stool: brisket, ribs and sausage. “Let’s not cut one leg short.”
We won’t. On this trip, we’ll rate brisket, pork ribs and sausage equally. Each joint will be scored on all 3 and the overall winner will have the highest composite.
We’re not going to tell you in advance where we’re going, but after we’ve been to a joint, we will keep you posted – through Twitter, Facebook and our blog — about our progress and what we think. There will be lots of photos, too.
 Later, we’ll publish complete results on The Dallas Morning News’ iPad application, online and in the newspaper.
So, beginning Friday at about noon, you can follow us on Twitter at hashtag #top5bbq.
The tour ends Sunday afternoon.

Photos ©R.J Hinkle & Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

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