Each of the four iconic barbecue regions—Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina—serve a different style of barbecue.
Typically, Memphis, St. Louis, and Kansas City are all about the ribs. In North Carolina, pulled pork dominates the menu, and Texans love brisket. Of course, you’ll also find chicken, turkey, and sausage along the way.
Some of the biggest differences in cooking methods involves the type of wood such as oak or hickory, and direct or indirect heat. Then, there is the wet versus dry debate because some pit masters baste their meat while it is cooking and others use a dry rib.
And of course, an entire book could be written on barbecue sausages alone. Vinegar-based sauce is preferred in the Southeast, while the Midwest and Western regions like a tangier, spicy tomato-based sauce.
Texas Barbecue Belt
In Texas, beef tends to be the best seller on the menu, especially brisket.
The wood-smoking traditions of the Lone Star State’s distinct barbecue styles vary by regions:
- Central Texas “meat market” style, in which spice-rubbed meat is cooked over indirect heat from pecan or heavy post oak wood, a method that originated in the butcher shops of German and Czech immigrants.
- Hill Country and West Texas “cowboy style,” which involves direct heat cooking over mesquite coals and uses goat and mutton as well as beef and pork.
- East Texas style, essentially the hickory-smoked, sauce-coated barbecue with which most Americans are familiar.
- South Texas barbacoa, in which whole beef heads are traditionally cooked in pits dug into the earth.
The barbecue is typically served with plenty of thick sauce (either slathered on the meat or on the side for dipping or both), and then sides of coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans, and fat slices of white bread.
If you want to sink your teeth into excellent brisket, then head to Lockhart, the official Barbecue Capital of Texas. The small town is home to four major barbecue restaurants: Black’s Barbecue, which has been owned by the same family since 1932; Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que; Smitty’s Market; and Kreuz Market (pronounced Krites). Black’s is known for their giant beef ribs.
If you keep heading south on Highway 183, the City Market in Luling is just 15 miles away. Admired as one of the best barbecue places in Texas, City Market offers brisket, sausage links, and pork ribs. They also offer pinto beans and a homemade mustard-based sauce which is out-of-this-world.
Every five years or so (since 1997) Texas Monthly magazine dispatches a team of trained eaters to travel around Texas incognito, ingesting huge amounts of barbecue. Their goal is to visit as many of the state’s approximately two thousand barbecue joints as possible in order to come up with a list of the fifty best. At each joint, the eaters sample at least three meats, a couple of sides, and a dessert. In areas of high barbecue density, they may visit as many as nine places in a day.
Immediately after each visit, the eaters fill out a detailed score sheet. The final score considers intangibles like setting, service, and history, but mainly it is based on the meat. The brisket score counts the most.
Eighteen places from the 2008 top fifty made it onto the 2013 list including Kreuz Market in Lockhart and City Market in Luling. Smitty’s Market made the 2008 list while Black’s Barbecue was selected in 2013.
Other repeat winners include:
- Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (Austin)
- Austin’s BBQ and Catering (Eagle Lake)
- McMillan’s Bar-B-Q (Fannin)
- Cousin’s Bar-B-Q (Fort Worth)
- City Meat Market (Giddings)
- Virgie’s Bar-B-Que (Houston)
- Buzzie’s Bar-B-Q (Kerrville)
- Snow’s BBQ (Lexington)
- Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (Llano)
- Whup’s Boomerang Bar-B-Que (Marlin)
- Hashknife on the Chisholm (Peadenville)
- Cowpoke’s (Pearsall)
- Opie’s Barbecue (Spicewood)
- Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor)
- Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue (Tyler)
The best barbecue joint in the state on the 2013 list is Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Rounding out the rest of the Top 4, in alphabetical order: Louie Mueller Barbecue, in Taylor; Pecan Lodge, in Dallas; and Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington.
Texas Spoken Friendly
You don’t need no teeth to eat my beef.
—from Legends of Texas BBQ