Feature

Spareribs for Texas

Jan 13, 2016 By Daniel Vaughn

Memphis has the baby back rib. Chicago has rib tips. St. Louis even has a style of ribs named after its fair city. But spareribs are what you’ll get in Texas when “ribs” alone are listed on the menu. For the most part, we find baby backs too dainty, Chicago-style too wanting,…

In the Land of Links

Dec 8, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Hitting the barbecue trail in Texas is something of a weekend sport. Plenty of people create their own routes, but one of the more official itineraries—the Texas Barbecue Trail, which takes you from Taylor to Elgin, Lockhart, and finally through Luling—is enormously popular. As the name suggests it’s a great…

The Many Briskets of Texas

Dec 1, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Not all briskets are created equal. That much is obvious to anyone who’s had a great one—or a bad one. Those experiences are easy to contrast, but what about when it’s not a question of good or bad? When it’s a matter of simply being different? I was struck by the variety…

The Best Turkey in Texas

Nov 24, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Smoked turkey is now so common that nearly every grocery store deli case in the country carries at least one variety (and more often, many more than one). We now take this protein option for granted, but smoked turkey doesn’t have the same long history as beef and pork barbecue do in this…

The Boucherie

Nov 19, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

It was an hour after the gunshot and parts of the hog—which was being rapidly dismantled—were being passed and carried in every direction. Hams hit the smoker; shoulders were tossed in pots of boiling water; fatback was diced; stomach and intestines were getting a good rinse before they became casings for sausage and boudin,…

Grease Balls of Southeast Texas

Nov 3, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

This feature was originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of Gravy, the quarterly magazine from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Patillo’s Bar-B-Q in Beaumont, Texas, is the fourth-oldest barbecue joint in the state. You’ve probably never heard of it. Its founder, Jack Pat(t)illo, is believed to be a direct…

John Lewis Jr.’s BBQ Roots

Oct 20, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Rummaging through your family genealogy can be dicey. The history could be upsetting (just ask Ben Affleck), but you also might be able to confirm some royal bloodlines. And for Austin’s John Lewis Jr., what he and his father discovered was even more rewarding than any monarch. The man who built…

Where Has All the Hill Country Barbecue Gone?

Oct 13, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

It’s not extinct, but the Hill Country style of barbecue certainly belongs on the endangered list. Sometimes called the West Texas style, this method of cooking directly over coals–once pervasive–is seen less frequently. Compounding the problem, it appears fewer and fewer people are bothering to learn or carry on the…

The Modern Marvel of Kuby’s Sausage House

Oct 6, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

When we marvel at the endurance of family-run barbecue joints in Texas, it becomes noteworthy when one hangs on for four—hell, even three—generations. So if someone deciding to make a living in the same way as their great-grandfather is pretty rare, but in the middle of Dallas, there is a business that’s…

Barbecue Uniformity

Sep 30, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

“Barbecue is the closest thing we have in the United States to Europe’s wines or cheeses; drive a hundred miles and the barbecue changes.” Barbecue historian John Shelton Reed wrote the above line just over a decade ago for an essay printed in the food writing collection Cornbread Nation 2, and in…

Smoke Gets in Your Food

Sep 22, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Just when it appeared we had hit peak bacon—last week’s introduction of Sizzl, Oscar Meyer’s dating app for bacon lovers, could be pinpointed as the moment things jumped the shark—Chris Shepherd, the chef at Underbelly in Houston, found a way to improve the most popular ingredient of the past five…

Smoking With Mesquite

Sep 15, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Before the phrase “mesquite-grilled” became a common descriptor on hoity-toity menus of restaurants trying to prove their Texas bona fides, and before backyard cooks bought mesquite chips by the pound to add an “authentic smokehouse” flavor to their meat, the mesquite was a scraggly tree that people in the Southwest considered…

Barbecue For Colbert

Sep 8, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Tonight is a big moment in late-night network television. After nine years as anchor of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert will assume hosting duties for The Late Show on CBS, a gig held by David Letterman since its inception in 1993. You might be thinking, yes, that’s cool,…

BBQ Anatomy 101: Lamb

Sep 1, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Last Father’s Day, I spent the morning watching the men of Millheim Harmonie Verein Hall baste and flip barbecue on large open pits. There were beef clods, pork shoulders, and whole mutton. That last one is something you don’t often see on barbecue joint menus in Texas, whole or not,…

Liquid Smoke

Aug 25, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

In 2009, the late meat and barbecue loving Josh Ozersky wrote: “Liquid smoke is one of the most revolting substances known to man, and anathema to any real cook.” In certain circles, using the substitute is worse than deceptive—it’s flat out cheating. Even the most hard-headed, hogmatic North Carolinian would agree…

Pour Some Sugar (and Salt and Pepper) on Meat

Aug 11, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Sprinkle it on, rub it in, or shake it over the meat. It doesn’t really matter how you apply it, if it’s seasoning for barbecue, it’s called a rub. To really examine meat the almost inseparable relationship between meat and rub,  you have to back a few millenia. For thousands of years, salt…

How Southern Barbecue got to Texas

Aug 4, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

This past Fourth of July weekend, Michael Twitty detailed the often-forgot influence of enslaved Africans on barbecue in the U.S. in his article in The Guardian. “At best, our ancestors are seen as mindless cooking machines who prepared the meat under strict white supervision, if at all; at worst, barbecue…

King of Barbecue

Jul 23, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Walter Jetton, the self-appointed “King of Barbecue” in the fifties and sixties, was a restaurateur and a mega-caterer. He cooked for presidents and heads of state, and his most significant claim to fame (a good one, at that) is being LBJ’s pitmaster of choice. This clout gave him a prominent platform to serve as…

The Growth of Texas BBQ

Jul 14, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Because eating barbecue is my job, I am often asked if I fear running out of new joints to review. The answer is no. Texas is a big place with a big appetite for barbecue, a demand that draws new pitmasters to open new restaurants all the time. In fact, my problem is almost…

BBQ Anatomy 101: Beef Head

Jul 8, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Before there was Texas, one form of Texas barbecue was cemented in the culture of the Rio Grande Valley. How so? The answers lies in a hole in the ground. We’re talking about barbacoa de cabeza en pozo—beef heads cooked with wood coals in subterranean pits. Beef barbacoa can be…

Barbecue Fallacy: The Grandfather Clause

Jun 30, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

It’s hard to find a city of consequential size in the country that hasn’t seen a new barbecue joint open recently. The craft is more popular than ever, and restaurateurs are taking note. With this boom comes an increased awareness that great barbecue demands the type of smoke that only…

Sauce Sells

Jun 23, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Times have never been better for small-batch Texas barbecue sauces. Six months ago, Texas-based grocery store H-E-B debuted a new line of barbecue sauces in their stores, featuring bottles from the state’s most popular barbecue joints, including Louie Mueller Barbecue, Fargo’s BBQ, Terry Black’s Barbecue, and Hays County BBQ. The…

Juneteenth and Barbecue

Jun 16, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

This Friday will mark the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, a celebration of Emancipation Day in Texas. It was on June 19, 1865, that Major General Gordon Granger assumed his position as the appointed military governor of Texas after landing in Galveston the day prior. Five General Orders were announced and…

Sixty Minute Ribs

Jun 9, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

It was 10:00am and I wanted ribs for lunch. A good rack of pork ribs takes anywhere from four to six hours in a smoker. The low-and-slow method is pretty foolproof for making them tender and juicy, but I figured I could get the job done quicker. A lot quicker. The…

California’s Native Barbecue

Jun 2, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

California is known for a lot of things—sunshine, wine, earthquakes—but its barbecue scene isn’t one of them. Which isn’t to say they don’t have it at all. There are, of course, the smattering of “Texas-style” and “Louisville-style” and all the other ex-patriate homages to various barbecue iterations. But California has…

BBQ Anatomy 101: Beef Plate

May 26, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Before brisket dominated Texas barbecue, meat markets served a vast variety of smoked beef cuts. The old-school meat markets of Central Texas would smoke anything left in the case too long, most often cuts from the forequarter, like shoulder clod or beef chuck. In the Dallas area during the forties and…

Low and Fast

May 20, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

When it comes time to fire up the smoker on Memorial Day . . . wait, let’s consider you, the average cook. You probably don’t own a smoker; you probably just own a grill. And perhaps those new summer issues of the glossy food magazines have convinced you that you can turn it into a…

The History of Texas Pastrami

May 12, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Pastrami is to New York City like smoked brisket is to Lockhart, Texas: they are the signature smoked meats of their respective cities, and both lay claim to being the originator. Black’s BBQ has said in the past that they were the first to put brisket on the menu in Texas. They were…

A Sausage Evolution

May 6, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Sausage. It’s one of the signatures of our state’s barbecue style, but the time intensive process of grinding, stuffing, and smoking sausage fell out of favor when barbecue left the meat market. With the rise of commercial sausage makers, many barbecue joints were (and are) happy to purchase their sausage…

The Soul of Texas BBQ

Apr 28, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

With the rise of review sites like Yelp and the ascent of food blogging, restaurants are scrutinized more than ever. Traditional restaurateurs have long understood the power of a negative review, but concern with the critics was rarely something that barbecue joints worried themselves with. But the barbecue zeitgeist—which I recognize that I,…

Try the Smoked Chicken

Apr 21, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

We love our beef in Texas, and historically, the rest of the nation did too. According to numbers from the USDA, beef and pork battled for protein supremacy until about 1950, when beef took a clear lead for the next six decades. Today, with falling beef consumption and the surging popularity…

BBQ in Far West Texas? I’ll Paso

Apr 14, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

On January 18, 1910, a newspaper advertisement for Watson’s Grocery included “Smoked Brisket Beef” for thirty cents per pound. It’s the earliest advertisement for smoked brisket that I have found in Texas, and it was in El Paso. With such a long history of smoking briskets you’d think they would…

A Brisket Tour in Southeast Texas

Apr 7, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Bad brisket is nothing new on the barbecue trail, but there are some days when you just can’t catch a break—or, as was the case for me recently, two consecutive days where I searched high and low for a good slice of smoked beef in Beaumont and Southeast Texas. It began…

Scrubbing Out Austin’s BBQ Growth?

Mar 31, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

If you live on the outskirts of Austin, your suburb might be the new target for barbecue joints looking to open in Travis County. That is if prospective restaurateurs see a new resolution from the Austin City Council as too onerous. It requires that barbecue smokers (and other wood-fired cooking devices)…

Testing the Limits of Barbecue Science

Mar 24, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Barbecue pulls at a traditionalist’s heart strings like few other cuisines, but it is no stranger to innovation. An offset smoker filled with brisket bathed on oak smoke has only been common across the state for about fifty years, but introducing science into a cooking process so reliant on…

Central Texas BBQ Road Trips

Mar 18, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

There’s hardly a better way to discover a slice of Texas, so to speak, than with a barbecue road trip—especially one that takes you outside of the city borders. In Central Texas, Austin is undeniably the area’s greatest barbecue city, and its proximity to some of the state’s  greatest smoked meats make…

The Year of Alabama Barbecue

Mar 3, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

If you follow barbecue news (and I’m going to assume you do if you read TMBBQ.com), you’re going to hear a lot more about barbecue in Alabama in the coming months. Or at least that’s the goal of the Alabama Tourism Department, which launched its Year of Alabama Barbecue campaign last…

A Barbecue Man in a Quiche Town

Feb 24, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Barbecue’s reputation in the culinary world has turned a corner. Last week the nominations for the New York based James Beard Foundation’s annual awards were announced, and a pitmaster was among the names that were otherwise a roll call of haute cuisine. Under the heading “Best Chef: Southwest”…

The History of the Pig Stands

Feb 18, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Brisket may dominate barbecue menus in Texas today, but nearly a century ago, a Dallas institution built its mighty restaurant empire on a simple Tennessee-style barbecued-pork sandwich: the “Pig Sandwich.” Perhaps some already know that I’m referring to the signature item served at the Pig Stand, a Dallas-based chain that formed…

The Best Banana Pudding List

Feb 10, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

No matter how much barbecue I’ve consumed (typically five times the recommended daily allowance), it always feels like there’s room left for something sweet.  A bowl of peach cobbler or a slice of buttermilk pie offer comfort, but their recipes don’t really vary much from one end of the state…

Highway BBQ: Part Four

Feb 3, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

If you’ve spent any time on the interstates of Texas, you’ve probably seen barbecue restaurants advertised on numerous billboards, blue service signs, or obnoxiously huge structures situated along the access road. Who among hasn’t seen one of those logos and thought, is the food worth stopping for? If a place needs that…

I’d Tell You, But…

Jan 27, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Last week, seasoned pitmasters and aspiring barbecue cooks descended on tiny Murphysboro, Illinois, for the fourth annual Whole Hog Extravaganza and Brisket Bonanza. The students had paid good money to learn the secrets of the professionals, and the teachers weren’t shy about sharing their recipes for porchetta, whole hog, beef…

Inauguration Barbecue

Jan 20, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Later today, after the inauguration of Greg Abbott as the forty-eighth governor of Texas, 17,000 hungry ticket holders clamoring for food will line up for lunch on the Capitol grounds in Austin. Forty-five minutes later, they’ll all have a full plate of barbecue. At least that’s what mega-caterer Eddie Deen has…

Houston Wright, a Butcher

Jan 13, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

Houston Wright cut meat, made sausage, and cooked barbecue at Kreuz Market in Lockhart for sixty years. He was tying sausage there before the brick building that housed the market (and is now home to Smitty’s Market) was built in 1924. He was deaf and mute by then—former Kreuz Market…

The End of Cheap Beef

Jan 6, 2015 By Daniel Vaughn

That beef is more expensive than it was a year ago is no surprise, and this trend doesn’t look to be easing up anytime soon. As David Anderson, a Texas A&M professor of ag economics, told a room full of barbecue joint owners last month at the university’s first-ever Barbecue Town Hall,…

The Hardeman Family’s Barbecue Legacy

Dec 16, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

In a Dallas city directory from 1948, there is a listing for Hardeman’s Barbecue. In fact there were two at the time, both of which were located in what was known as Freedman’s Town. It was a segregated African-American neighborhood just north of downtown in what is now…

The Rise of All-Natural Beef

Dec 12, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

In 1877 an ad in the Brenham Weekly Banner touted that “Mr. Fritz Fisher … now announces that he is prepared to serve his customers with fine, fat, stall fed beef.” Today, the Texas Panhandle is home to plenty of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s, but this may have…

All About the Sauce

Dec 2, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

Conventional wisdom holds that traditional Texas barbecue doesn’t need to be sauced. That Texans have an aversion to the stuff. Case in point? A recent primer on national barbecue styles in America on Eater noted that “while the rest of the nation is busy making barbecue sauces, many places in…

Texas Treasures

Nov 26, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

The popularity of Texas barbecue—and specifically Texas-style smoked brisket—has launched a frenzy of new activity. New joints pop up all the time, and relatively new pitmasters are hailed as masters of craft. Many of these places and people are deserving of considerable attention and high praise, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what…

Totally Smoked in the Golden State

Nov 18, 2014 By Daniel Vaughn

Texas seems to export our barbecue styles as far and wide as our natural gas. Earlier this year I noted how often the aesthetic of meat on butcher paper, a decidedly Texas design is imitated on both coasts (and a few places in between). But as anyone who has…