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Questions on Texas BBQ? [moved from Dallas/Ft. Worth board]

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I know there are many threads on BBQ here. But I want some in depth information on
Texas BBQ. What is Texas BBQ? What makes it Texas Q? How does it differ? What do
you look for when you eat BBQ? Or what makes you decide to try one place over another?
Are sides important? Does desert matter? What kind of smoke are you looking for in BBQ?
What do you want to see in a joint.....the smokers...the pits? Do you look for a wood pile and
the types of wood that might be used? Besides brisket....what other meats are important in
a BBQ place?
I am not writing a paper of any kind or opening a restaurant.....just struggling to understand Texas BBQ and what folks like and why.
Thank you in advance for all responses. I appreciate all Chowhound's :)

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  1. Texas BBQ is about beef and predomintely smokey brisket even though hot sausage links are expected and beef ribs or burnt ends are commonly on the menu. It should be seasoned very simply, usually just salt and a lot of black pepper, but some places use a rib or even a pork shoulder rub with chili powder, garlic, cumin and other spices. It should be cooked a long time(12-16 hours) over a low heat to tenderize and render the fat from what is a tough and fatty cut of cow. Tx BBQ at its essense are about beef and heavy on the smoke.

    Post oak is the common wood and its not unusual to use a little bit of misquite but all misqute is overwhelming and bitter.

    Sauce is always served on the side and many places don't offer sauce because they want you to taste the flavor of the beef and smoke and not a sweet sauce. The places that do offer sauce there is commonly a vinegary thin hot sauce.

    Sides are usually bbq beans, potato salad, pickles and cole slaw. Desserts are not very important but peach cobbler or pecan pie are common.

    A good Tx BBQ place should be very simple and even a joint. The meat is commonly served sliced to order by the weight on butcher paper. If you see printed menus, carpet on the floor, waitresses or a wine list keep driving because the food probably isn't very good, although there are exceptions such as the Salt Lick in the Austin area.

    When I think of Tx BBQ I think of Smittys market Lockhart Tx and Louie Muellers in Taylor.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Kelli2006

        Not exactly. I live in Texas, and the vinegary stuff is usually reserved for pork dishes and is often referred to as something that is NOT Texas barbecue, but Carolina style.

        Brisket is popular, as are sausages both hot and not hot, I agree. More mesquite than oak in my local joints, and yes it can be bitter. Sauce is usually a tomato based sauce offered in hot and sweet (really, just not hot) and is served on the side. Bread is usually a slice of white Mrs. Bairds.

        Ribs, not baby backs, are usually available, as is chicken and turkey. Pulled pork is a special item, not a standard. You need to be as far east as Arkansas to find a lot of pork.

        Smitty's and Salt Lick are famous joints, but most places use plates and cafeteria trays. Nothing wrong with utensils. If I recall, Smitty's didn't even have sides, just pickles, that sort of thing. Some places offer chili-flavored pinto beans, some barbecue flavored beans. All have potato salad and flat green beans. Cobbler, of course, and banana pudding are standard desserts.

      2. all I remember is beef ribs, because I love them. They were TDF. Beef ribs, butcher paper, and white bread and it was heaven.

        1. This is going to vary depending on the region of Texas (e.g. East Texas is far different chow). What I'm giving you is the Central Texas version.
          Barbecue here is largely centered around the meat, notably beef brisket, spare ribs, and sausage, though prime rib, mutton, clod, and to a lesser extent beef ribs sometimes make an appearance. Sides are generally not the star of the show, but will usually include beans, potato salad, and cole slaw. Some will add things like creamed corn or macaroni salad, but that's unusual. A tomato based sauce is often provided, but drowning your meat in sauce is not encouraged in Texas.
          The two things you want to note on your brisket are the bark (ie, the crust) and the smoke ring, which is a pink ring around the outside of your slice. If you don't see these, you know that someone tried to take a shortcut. With sausage, you want the pop that a real casing gives you, and the somewhat coarse grind of the meat that results in fat dripping down your chin. Meats are generally smoked over post oak, and anyone who touts mesquite as their prime smoking wood is not to be trusted.
          In most places in Central Texas, you're going to find your meat and your sides in two different places. First, you'll get your meat, usually by the pound, then you'll leave the pit area and go to where the sides are prepared. Condiments usually include pickles and onions, but can sometimes also include jalapenos and hunks of cheddar cheese.
          Sides are obviously eaten with a spoon or spork, but eating meat with your hands is generally encouraged, though not obligatory. If you'd prefer a sandwich, you'll likely have to make one yourself with the complimentary white bread provided.
          To answer your main question, Texas 'cue differs in that it comes from a ranchers' perspective. Meats are cooked very simply, served very simply, and eaten with the least amount of effort for the greatest caloric benefit.
          I know you're a little bit north, but can you make it out to Lexington one Saturday morning? If so, hit up Snow's (right down the street from the cattle auction), and all questions will be answered.

          3 Replies
          1. re: gilintx

            Great Reply.....loved it. I had honestly not thought about it from the ranchers/cowboy view.

            1. re: BeckJ

              Cowboys, cattle, railroads and stockyards also played a big role in KC BBQ.
              Mix the beef shipped up from Texas with the Hickory from the Southeast
              Add Henry Perry, the Bryant Brothers, and a spicy rub and you've pretty much got the essence of KC que.The sauce is just for your fries. :)

              1. re: bbqboy

                I agree sauce is for fries :):)

          2. It's mentioned in passing, but any good BBQ joint will serve your brisket with a slice of light bread (white sandwich bread like Mrs. Bairds).

            1. Texas BBQ is the only style of BBQ where sausage is a featured meat. Since I love sausage more than brisket or pulled pork, I am disappointed to find that sausage is hard to find in BBQ joints outside Texas, even ones that are purportedly "Texas-style".

              1 Reply
              1. re: aynrandgirl

                This has been very interesting. I like the reply's. It has given me a view I hadn't contemplated as of yet. Also I really like sausage and your right trying to find it outside of Texas is hard. I dislike California and the Tri Tip version of BBQ. I don't get it and find it to be tough and not to MY LIKING. Which is also to say travel to Oregon and TRY to order BBQ and you get smoked Tri Tip as well. BUT if you ask they will tell you it is Brisket. Again if done correctly it is not bad....just not my taste. And some of the places along California and Oregon do say TRUE TEXAS BBQ.