Regional BBQ: Texas
~Chef Perry Perkins~
Each region of the US share similarities in what they call BBQ, as well as differences...sometimes very minor differences, but they all have something to teach us about that wonderful pastime of smoking and grilling meat.
For time, let’s head on down to...
Yes, we've all heard it...usually from someone with a star on his buckle, and whiskey on his breath...EVERTHING'S bigger in Texas!
When it comes to BBQ, though, it's more than just sun-baked bravado. There's no place like the Lone Star State to find the widest variety of meats, and woods, and cooking methods.
From the Caddo Indians grilling venison over coals 10,000 years ago, to Spanish shepherds roasting spit roasted lamn in the 1600's, leading up to Mexican barbacoa through the last 400 years, and the massive cattle-drives of the 1800's, following the civil war....there was BBQ in Texas long before there was a Texas.
And, if you want to argue about BBQ (or most anything), there is no better place on the planet to start a fight, than in the land of the Old West.
Rub or no rub? Sauce or no sauce? Low and slow, or searing flames...you'll find it all in Texas, and just as sure, you'll find hordes on hungry Texans, willing to make it their Alamo.
But it's all called BBQ.
One thing that most Texan's will agree on, is that BBQ is BEEF (a nod to their cattle-centric beginnings).
In the Southern area of the state, this means Barbacoa.
This dish, handed down from the cattle-driving Mexican vaqueros, was traditionally made from the whole roasted head of beef or goats (I've done it, it's awesome), wrapped in banana leaves, braised in an underground pit with a variety of vegetables, peppers, herbs, and spices.
After many, many hours of slow roasting, the broth, or consommé, is served in small bowls to whet the appetite, before the meat is shredded and served with warm, fresh tortillas and any number of toppings.
Best. Tacos. Ever.
Then, of course, there's brisket, which no self-respecting Texan wouldn't expect to find on any plate of BBQ.
I've made many, many slow-smoked briskets in my roasting boxes and when you get it right...there's nothing better.
This chest muscle, packed with tough-as- tires collagen, needs a long cook with very low heat (225F- ish) to transform that hard tissue into soft, unctuous gelatin.
And when I say slow, we're talkin' up to 20 hours for each brisket. Once rested and sliced, you can order from the leaner "flat" the fattier "point", or your favorite combination of the two, by the pound. (Get both, you're hungry...you've probably been staning in line for a LONG time.)
Oak or hickory are the smoking woods of choice.
For spices or rubs, Lone Star pit-masters will sneer at much beyond a handful of coarse salt and black pepper, though they may still sneak in a dash of red pepper or garlic powder when you're not looking.
Even Aaron Franklin, of Franklin's Barbecue, the king of Texas brisket, has mentioned in passing, that as much as he loves his brisket, if he had to pick a favorite it would be beef ribs. Decadent, succulent, and loaded with flavor from a nearly perfect ration of meat to fat to gelatin, I share his highnesses opinion, that it might be the best bit of BBQ on the steer.
Like brisket, beef ribs are a low and slow process, they are also VERY hard to mess up. You have to really overcook beef ribs to dry them out. It’s a great place to make your bones. (See what I did there?)
Some joints will have them, some won't (don't argue), but those that do will probably be a tomato-based sauce, served on the side, almost as an afterthought. Some longhorns will go so far as to tell you that putting sauce in a brisket is like pouring ketchup on great steak (another thing they take very seriously.)
HOW THEY SERVE IT
Pork back ribs, turkey legs, Flintstone-esque beef ribs, and spicy homemade sausage all find there way to the plate in most any Texas BBQ joint, but they are all still only sides to the beef.
Condiments are typically a serve-yourself station of white onions, pickles, and cheap white bread (known as "Texas napkins").
Whatever form of cow you order, and whatever you heap alongside it, in Texas…you won’t leave hungry.
Next time…we’ll take a taste of Kansas City!
As a third-generation chef, Perry P. Perkins focuses his love of cooking on barbeque, traditional southern fare, and fresh Northwest cuisine.
Perry runs the non-profit organization, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program, which teaches nutrition, shopping, and hands on cooking classes for at risk youth.
His cookbooks include La Caja China Cooking, La Caja China World, La Caja China Party, and the NEW “La Caja China Grill.”
You can follow the rest of Chef Perry’s cooking adventures at ChefPerryPerkins.com