Quick Recipes and Easy

What Exactly is “Texas Style Barbeque”?

No matter how you spell it, barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ, when the vast majority of folks reckon of barbecue, they reckon of firing up their backyard grill until red hot and slapping down a steak or pork chops, searing it to get some nice grill marks and voila!

This is perfect for a quick dinner after working a full day, but right Texas style barbecue goes beyond the average barbecue fare of steaks and drumsticks to make an art form that instills a flavor and tenderness on less well loved or more hard cuts that will never be achieved using the standard grilling method. It is not something that you just do on a whim or when in a rush to eat. It takes patience and lots of trial and error to perfect the flavors and technique. But, once you do, cooking up a perfect brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, or just about any other cut of meat, becomes second nature.

There are a number of keys to Texas ‘que – the first being the seasoning, or dry rub. Depending on the cut of meat you choose, select a dry rub that accentuates and accompanies the meat. I’m partial to the dry rubs from Caroline’s Rub, but feel free to use your favorite. Depending on the pit master, they will sometimes mix the dry rub with mustard to make a paste that will thoroughly coat the meat, help in the tenderization, and add a tremendous amount of flavor without heavy mustard overtones. I like to do this on larger cuts of meat like briskets and shoulders.

Once seasoned, the next key to achieving that right ‘que flavor is temperature and indirect heat. In Texas, the rule is low and slow. The lower the better, so you will usually see the pit somewhere in the 200 – 250 degree F range. This low temperature allows the meat to cook to a well-done state without losing its moisture or becoming tough and inedible. In fact, when it comes to cuts like shoulders and brisket, well done is the only way to serve them as the collagen and tough connective tissues don’t really break down and allow the meat to become tender until they reach higher internal temperatures. This is where the patience comes in – because of the low temps involved, it will take far longer for your meat to achieve the desired internal temperatures you require, and the internal temp of the meat may plateau for long periods, which can be completely frustrating. It is not uncommon for me to spend 15 – 20 hours tending to the pit when cooking a large brisket.

Now that you have the temperature right, the next step is smoke from hardwoods. Texans tend to use mesquite and pecan woods, and while mesquite wood has a definitive taste, pecan resembles a less-strongly flavored hickory. So feel free to substitute with some hickory wood which may be more readily available in your area. It will certainly take some time and experimentation with your pit and the quantity of wood you use to achieve the flavor you are really seeking, but eating all that fantastic smoked food as part of the process is a honest trade-off!

One thing that raises a lot of controversy among the “grill-arazzi” is the smoke-ring. The smoke-ring is a reddish colored ring that naturally develops around the internal edge of the meat as a result of the nitrites and chemicals that naturally occur in the smoking process. While most championship barbecue competitions do not consider the ring as part of their judging as it does more for aesthetics than flavoring, the die-hard smokers will argue that the larger the ring, the better the penetration of the smoke into the meat.

While a well loved thing to do when grilling, adding barbecue sauce when cooking Texas style does not mean slathering it on during cooking. Texans view the sauce as a compliment to fantastic barbecue, so more often than not, the finished meat product is served with the sauce on the side. If the barbecue is done right, I find the sauce just gets in the way!

I hope these tips have helped clear up some of the confusion, and if you do have the opportunity to try preparing your own Texas style barbecue, I certainly recommend it. It is a fantastic way to kill a bone idle summer day, drink a few brews, and make a few friends…believe me, when your neighbors smell the waft of smoke in the air, you won’t be able to beat them off with a stick!

Joe Johnson is a proud Texan and a founding partner and chief pit-master with carolinesrub.com Caroline’s Rub, where he is in charge of product promotion and development for their line of gourmet dry rubs, smoked salt, and Texas chili seasoning.

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