Feature

BBQ |
December 6, 2016

Big City Barbecue

A couple years ago, I wrote about how barbecue around the country was starting to look the same. There was a certain aesthetic that permeated the upstart barbecue joints in Texas, the rest of the U.S., and even the international scene. At the time I was a little…

BBQ |
November 8, 2016

Snow’s Queen

This story about the amazing Tootsie Tomanetz originally ran in our October issue. We’re posting it here in its entirety along with a collection of photos from Wyatt McSpadden. He was assigned with capturing the essence of Tootsie for the story, which he did masterfully, but we could only run so…

BBQ |
September 22, 2016

BBQ Anatomy 101: Gooseneck

Meat terminology is a strange thing. Think about it. Knuckle, clod, and even brisket are odd names for beef cuts. But none sound quite as funny as the gooseneck. It doesn’t come from the neck (it frankly doesn’t even sound like it comes from a steer), and no, it isn’t…

BBQ |
September 8, 2016

Sonny Bryan’s 24/7

The headlights from a Chrysler 300 beamed through the window and into the historic dining room of Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse in Dallas. It was after midnight, and the driver was waiting for his seemingly inebriated (or maybe balance-impaired) passenger to get back with a couple chopped brisket sandwiches. I had just ordered ribs…

BBQ |
August 23, 2016

The New Carolina Barbecue

Barbecue in the Carolinas means pork, but it’s not just any pile of pulled pig that’s revered in eastern North Carolina. Whole hogs cooked over wood fill the legendary pit houses in this part of the state. It’s the traditional route, but it’s harder to execute than pork shoulders, which are…

BBQ |
August 8, 2016

A Eulogy for the Barbecue Joint

Barbecue joints aren’t simply born. It takes time to develop into one. A barbecue joint is a worn-in stool at a counter smoothed over by time. It’s a soot-stained ceiling, a broken-in barbecue pit, a menu with prices scratched out, and a bigger smile when you use cash. A barbecue joint evokes…

BBQ |
June 29, 2016

BBQ Anatomy 101: Bone-In Brisket

At the meat markets of yesteryear, a boneless brisket would have been a special order. If beef was arriving as a half carcass, there would be no need for the butcher to remove the bones before selling or smoking the cut; doing so would have meant more work for less money. The…

BBQ |
June 21, 2016

Kalua Pig: The Barbacoa of Hawaii

The world’s oldest barbecue tradition is cooking meat in underground pits. It’s a method so old, that our ancestors cooked mammoths in underground pits some 29,000 years ago. In modern day Texas, meat cooked in subterranean pits is most often referred to as barbacoa, like the barbacoa de cabeza that…

BBQ |
May 25, 2016

Now We’re Cooking With Brisket Fat

Established barbecue families are easy to romanticize, but Mike Smolik is a realist. He’s the latest to carry on the 88-year-old Smolik barbecue legacy, but he’s not letting family traditions dictate his every move. A big, new barbecue hall out along the interstate in Mathis was a bold step, and plenty has been changing in the…

BBQ |
May 18, 2016

Memphis Dismay

“It needs more dust,” I said. Tuffy Stone, whose Cool Smoke barbecue team is one of most prolific in the country, was about to close a styrofoam box full of pork shoulder that was bound for the judge’s table. Our team, most of which I’d first met the day prior, surrounded…

BBQ |
May 10, 2016

Corpus Christi Fray

Joe Cotten’s Barbecue was once the pride of Corpus Christi, or Robstown, to be more specific. Founded in 1947, the joint’s mesquite-smoked barbecue and their tomatoey sauce helped define the local style of smoked meats. The joint was legendary, and legends are hard to replace. Since it tragically…

BBQ |
April 6, 2016

Hot-and-Fast Brisket

Bodacious Bar-B-Que in Longview was the first stop on a barbecue road trip, and founder/owner/pitmaster Roland Lindsey, a barbecue veteran forty years my senior, boasted: “I can cook a brisket in three hours.” I called his bluff. I walked out the door promising to loop back through Longview on my way…

BBQ |
March 8, 2016

The Emergence of Kosher Barbecue

Cooking barbecue like the masters is something plenty of us aspire to do. Thousands of videos and cookbooks have been published on the matter, but the best way to know the quality you’re aiming for is to experience it firsthand. Take a bite of a beef rib in Taylor or snap into…

BBQ |
February 16, 2016

The Transformation of Southside Market

Southside Market in Elgin opened its doors in 1886, making it Texas’s oldest barbecue joint. Predictably, it has transformed considerably in its 130-year history. The original ownership, location, menu—even the famous sausage recipe—have all changed over that time. But this is not a story about eroding traditions. Southside Market stands as…

BBQ |
February 9, 2016

The Legend of Southside Market

Origin stories are often hard to trace. And those of century-old restaurants—especially ones where ownership has changed hands a few times—are particularly difficult to pinpoint. People’s institutional memory literally dies off, and unless someone is fervidly passionate about keeping records (which, when a place is struggling to stay afloat in the notoriously fickle restaurant…

BBQ |
February 3, 2016

The Science of the Smoke Ring

Let me drop a hard truth-bomb on you: as an indicator of well-cooked barbecue, the smoke ring is useless. Narcissus was less attached to his reflection than some barbecue cooks and critics are to that thin red line along the perimeter of smoked meats, but as with that Greek myth, worship of…

BBQ |
January 13, 2016

Spareribs for Texas

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,…

BBQ |
December 8, 2015

In the Land of Links

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…

BBQ |
December 1, 2015

The Many Briskets of Texas

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…

BBQ |
November 24, 2015

The Best Turkey in Texas

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…

BBQ |
November 19, 2015

The Boucherie

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,…

BBQ |
November 3, 2015

Grease Balls of Southeast Texas

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…

BBQ |
October 20, 2015

John Lewis Jr.’s BBQ Roots

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…

BBQ |
October 13, 2015

Where Has All the Hill Country Barbecue Gone?

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…

BBQ |
October 6, 2015

The Modern Marvel of Kuby’s Sausage House

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…

BBQ |
September 30, 2015

Barbecue Uniformity

“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…

BBQ |
September 22, 2015

Smoke Gets in Your Food

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…

BBQ |
September 15, 2015

Smoking With Mesquite

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…

BBQ |
September 8, 2015

Barbecue For Colbert

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 |
September 1, 2015

BBQ Anatomy 101: Lamb

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,…

BBQ |
August 25, 2015

Liquid Smoke

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…

BBQ |
August 11, 2015

Pour Some Sugar (and Salt and Pepper) on Meat

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…

BBQ |
July 14, 2015

The Growth of Texas BBQ

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 |
July 8, 2015

BBQ Anatomy 101: Beef Head

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…

BBQ |
June 30, 2015

Barbecue Fallacy: The Grandfather Clause

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…

BBQ |
June 23, 2015

Sauce Sells

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…

BBQ |
June 9, 2015

Sixty Minute Ribs

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…

BBQ |
June 2, 2015

California’s Native Barbecue

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 |
May 26, 2015

BBQ Anatomy 101: Beef Plate

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…

BBQ |
May 20, 2015

Low and Fast

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…

BBQ |
May 12, 2015

The History of Texas Pastrami

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…

BBQ |
May 6, 2015

A Sausage Evolution

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…

BBQ |
April 28, 2015

The Soul of Texas BBQ

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,…

BBQ |
April 21, 2015

Try the Smoked Chicken

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 |
April 14, 2015

BBQ in Far West Texas? I’ll Paso

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…

BBQ |
April 7, 2015

A Brisket Tour in Southeast Texas

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…

BBQ |
March 31, 2015

Scrubbing Out Austin’s BBQ Growth?

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)…