|A father & son wait on their order at Gonzales Food Market. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
(Note: This item was written as a guest post for the blog at FoodyDirect, a Posse advertiser, and is being republished here.)
As the popularity of Texas-style smoked meat spreads across the country, one of the great philosophical questions of our time is emerging. What makes Texas barbecue different from other barbecue?
The answers are many and can lead to intense debates: Beef vs. pork. Dry rubs vs. sauce. Wood vs. charcoal. Indirect heat vs. direct. Austin vs. Memphis or Kansas City or Carolina.
At the Posse, obviously, we’re partial to Texas-style, though we occasionally stray. A pulled pork sandwich sprinkled lightly with vinegar sauce and topped with coleslaw. Yum. Chicken coated with an Alabama white sauce. Tasty and memorable.
Because this is such an important question, I asked some Posse members for help in answering.
“Texans use more pepper, less sauce and fewer utensils, that's why God gave us hands,” explained Phil Lamb, an attorney when he isn’t on barbecue road trips.
R.J. Hinkle, a photographer, ranked his differences:
#1. Smoke -- doesn't matter whether you use mesquite, pecan or oak.
#2. It's all about the meat, not the sauce.
#3. Brisket, brisket, brisket.
While pork ribs and sausage are also in the Texas barbecue pantheon, brisket is king.
On the Posse, we didn’t know what good brisket was until we ate at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington in 2009. There, sitting outside on a beautiful autumn morning, we got our first taste of what that big cut of beef can be when it’s perfectly cooked.
“Magic tingle,” Bryan Norton, a friend of the Posse and blogger, calls the experience. “It’s that magic combination of pepper, salt, perfectly rendered fat, and of course brisket that literally travels through your body.”
I haven’t seen a better description anywhere.
This being Texas, there is some bravado mixed with our opinions. Lamb contends that no one else takes barbecue as seriously as the great Texas pit masters and their customers. Hinkle calls it “a Texas thang” that outsiders wouldn’t understand.
Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins compares the barbecue fanaticism in the state to a “cult-like religion,” and cautions to never forget the Texas swagger.
“As a native Texan who left the state at age 19 for a couple of decades and then came back, I've seen it from both sides,” he said. “Texans will stop at nothing to be the best or they'll die trying.
“If this means spending 15 hours or more tending your smoker to cook the perfect brisket, then that's the price you pay for being the best. . . The great Texas pit masters won't settle for second best.”
The swagger, Wilkins said, extends to amateur cooks, too. Ask them where to get the best barbecue and they’ll say, “my backyard.”
Despite the bravado, the wisest advice we’ve heard about barbecue and its many styles came from Nick Pencis, owner of Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler.
"Everybody's favorite barbecue is what they grew up with,” he said.
That’s certainly true for my nephew, Jesse Hart, who moved to Texas a few years ago and loves it here. But his loyalty remains to Kansas City barbecue, where he grew up.
Jesse, a salesman, has some serious Texas barbecue credentials. He was among the first to eat at Franklin Barbecue in Austin when it was still a small trailer operation.
He went with us to Snow’s on that trip in 2009 and caused quite a stir at the table. Before taking a bite, he liberally sprinkled sauce on his brisket.
"Whoa," Wilkins told him. Real Texas barbecue doesn't need sauce.
I asked Jesse recently if his view of sauce had changed.
“Have to have the sauce,” he texted me.
“I think the sauce is just a personal favorite not just with barbecue but with most foods I eat.”
We’ll keep working on Jess.
|Our first visit to Snow's BBQ in Lexington in 2009 was a life changing experience. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|