Texas-Style BBQ: What You Need to Know

Texas-Style BBQ: What You Need to Know

The timeless argument of who makes the best BBQ is something that isn’t worth discussing. Each region of the United States has its own style of barbecue, and that style is unique to its own regional cuisine and palate. Therefore, comparing KC barbecue with Carolina-style BBQ and Texas BBQ is pointless.

But the reason that Texas BBQ is the best is because of its simplicity. 

You take good quality meat, season it with kosher salt and coarse black pepper, start and tend to a fire that creates the coals that provide constant and steady temperature output, and settle in for the long wait. If you want to get fancy with it, maybe you add some garlic powder to the seasoning mix but be prepared to be chastised for it. If you want to be lazy about the diligent work required to make the best barbecue in the world, you add in a spice rub from off the shelf of whatever market you shop at. You must forfeit your Texas card in that case, though. 

Besides being the best, what makes Texas barbecue so deliciously amazing? Well, it is the total package of what ends up on the tray. While Carolina is known for its pork, and KC is known for its burnt ends, Texas is known for its holy trinity of BBQ, listed here in order of importance: brisket, sausage, and ribs.

Brisket is King

The brisket is king in Texas, and no self-respecting Texan can claim themselves a pit master without their ability to master the low and slow cook of a brisket. This is where Texas BBQ really shines. A large muscle from a cow that is so tough and dense that it can barely be used for ground beef, is lovingly slathered in a binder liquid that helps adhere the seasoning to the meat while it goes through the cooking process. That helps the seasoning stay attached until you reach the point where it has darkened and solidified due to a mixture of chemical reactions and smoke, officially transforming into what is lovingly known as the bark.

Depending on where you are in the waiting line of any great Texas BBQ spot, you may get to sample a burnt end from a brisket pulled fresh from the warmer. They are not an offering unto themselves like they are in KC, however, but more like a lucky prize for the random person who happens to be near the cutting board when a new brisket is sliced for the first time.

For brisket in Texas, the real prizes are the two cuts of brisket that you get to choose from.  There is the lean cut from the flat or the thinner section of the bifurcated brisket. While it is still moist and tasty, it tends to have less fat content so it can be a little more dry. The second choice you have is a more fatty cut from the point which is the thicker end of the brisket. There is a seam of fat that runs through the middle of the point like a horizontal plane of delectability. And when I mean fatty, I mean deliciously rendered fat that creates just the right offset of the smoky flavor and rich kick of the black pepper and salt.

The Thing About Sausage

When you have tasted your brisket and realize that you can no longer have the experience of tasting the best food ever for the first time that day, you move on to sausage. All barbecue establishments of any merit will serve up a link of beef and pork meat mix, coarsely ground, made, and smoked in Texas. The best will have a crisp bite and a juicy inside, with a deep red color that screams “eat me.” But the similarities tend to stop there.

Most BBQ joints will make their own sausage, typically from the trimmings of their briskets. Making it themselves allows them to tinker with the recipe, working tirelessly to deliver the type of sausage link that people will fly in from other countries for. The seasoning and styles of sausage are less strict in their makeup, ending up being created with a free and loose format that can vary from place to place. Many shops will add some cheese to their links. Others will add in jalapeño. All places in Texas will recognize the fact that sausage is the accouterment of the brisket, with it sometimes being served on its own with crackers or bread, but it plays an important enough role to be considered one of the three staples of Texas BBQ.

Ribs for Days

When you consider ribs as the final part of the holy trinity of Texas BBQ, what you mean are pork ribs. While Texas does love its beef ribs, also known as dino ribs, the clash of brisket and beef ribs is too strong to allow for anything else. It’s like seasoning your steak with more steak. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

That is where pork ribs come in. They are almost added to the mix as a means of cleansing the palate of the Texas BBQ connoisseur. The pork ribs are often less seasoned than brisket but still have the low and slow cooking style to make sure the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. They are a clean addition to the heaviness of brisket and sausage. Plus, it is fun to tear meat from the bone with your teeth.

While it can be argued that barbecue is uniquely delicious in every locale around the world, no one can argue that Texas doesn’t know what is best about BBQ. When it comes to beautiful simplicity, Texans, much like Conan the Barbarian, know what is best in life. The answers may differ, but the level of conviction with which they believe is the same.

In the case of Texas, it is brisket, sausage, and ribs. 

And much less violent. 

Unless you go heavy on the barbecue sauce.