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BBQ |
February 21, 2014

Maybe We Should Celebrate the Chopped Beef Sandwich

Ah, the chopped brisket sandwich: it’s as ubiquitous to Texas barbecue joints as pump jacks are to the Permian Basin. They’re so commonplace and ordinary, I’ve even criticized them in the past as something far inferior to a thick slice of smoked brisket. But meat on a bun was once…

BBQ |
February 14, 2014

Texas’s Best BBQ Sandwiches

At Prause Meat Market in La Grange, there is a green paper sign right next to the barbecue counter. It reads “Sorry We Do NOT Make Sandwiches.” It’s a reminder to customers that this is a meat market where meat—smoked or raw—is sold by the pound. If you want a…

BBQ |
February 7, 2014

The Antebellum Chef in Texas

Michael Twitty was cold, and his pig wasn’t much warmer. He was six hours into an eight hour cook, and the February winds were whipping across the top of the hill at the French Legation in Austin. A makeshift pit about the size…

BBQ |
January 31, 2014

The Best Method for Reheating Barbecue

The barbecue you eat can’t always be fresh. Maybe grandma sent you a brisket in a care package. Sometimes you might even have some leftover ribs. So, what is the best method to reheat it? While eating around the state I know that even in the hands of a microwave…

BBQ |
January 24, 2014

The History of Smoked Brisket

What you know about the history of smoked brisket in Texas is probably wrong. People have been eating brisket since the first pits were dug in the earth, but only by a sort of default: it was standard practice to cook whole animals for the big community celebrations, which means…

BBQ |
January 17, 2014

What I Learned at Brisket Camp

The director of Foodways Texas, Marvin Bendele, asked me to come and lead a couple of panel discussions at the organization’s annual Camp Brisket, held last weekend at the Rosenthal Meat Center on Texas A&M’s campus. And even though I was presented…

BBQ |
January 10, 2014

Fargo’s Pit Unveiled

Alan Caldwell, the pitmaster at Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan, has been making great barbecue for fourteen years. And for all of those fourteen years, he has denied people access to his pit room. When he denied my first request to take a look at his pit, in 2010, he…

BBQ |
January 3, 2014

BBQ Anatomy 101: Pork Shoulder

A quarter century ago Isaac Tigrett brought the Southern-style pulled pork sandwich to Texas. The Hard Rock Café founder from Jackson, Tennessee, opened a Dallas location in 1986, and in the following year the Dallas Morning News wrote that he “has trotted the pig into steer territory, offering the…

BBQ |
December 20, 2013

Where Did “BBQ” Come From?

The title may be misleading. I’m not looking to trace back the origins of when humans began cooking meat over fire, but rather when the term “BBQ” came into use. The myths about the origins of the word barbecue are many, so let’s dispense with a few of those first.

BBQ |
December 13, 2013

Cabrito in South Texas

For most people, cabrito, or goat meat, might not elicit great food memories. The dish is often dismissed as stringy or “gamey,” and because so few places serve it, most aren’t sure what to expect when they order it. Of course, nearly every major city around the state has a…

BBQ |
December 9, 2013

Brisket > Chili

That barbecue is not Texas’s state dish is a travesty. Paul Burka first made the argument decades ago in his scathing article “I Still Hate Chili” claiming that “never has the legislature so abandoned its sworn duty to enhance the public welfare as when it certified chili as the…

BBQ |
December 6, 2013

Breaking Down Brisket

Brisket is our favorite cut for barbecue here in Texas, and it’s also pretty popular elsewhere, as evidenced by the sheer number of brisket recipes one can find on a shelf of barbecue cookbooks or can pull up using a Google search (searching “how to smoke a brisket”…

BBQ |
November 22, 2013

The Evolution of Fat in Barbecue

Not everyone vilifies fat.  Heritage hog varieties rich with layers of fat are gaining in popularity, leaf lard is now a chic ingredient to pie crust, and noted author Michael Ruhlman just published The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat. No longer do we value…

BBQ |
November 15, 2013

No Country for Old Luddites

So, you call yourself a barbecue traditionalist. You eschew modern innovations in the world of barbecue, like using charcoal to start your fires, and you certainly don’t believe there’s any room on American menus for “nouveau” barbecue, whatever the hell that means. To you, good sir or madam, I commend…

BBQ |
November 8, 2013

Cattle Driving for BBQ

I cursed the Dallas traffic as I tried to get out of town on a rainy Tuesday morning. Secluded fields and old river crossings were my destination, and I was eager to leave the city behind me. I wanted to find the best barbecue along North Texas’s historic cattle trails.

BBQ |
October 31, 2013

A New Menu Item

In this age of barbecue’s expansion and experimentation we see cuts of meat enter the smoker that have never previously been even figments of barbecue culture. But, there’s one protein that has gone largely ignored in real life, but has a rich history in art and film – human flesh.

BBQ |
October 25, 2013

Everybody Line Up

“Line are overrated.” This is the conclusion of economist Tyler Cowen in a recent article where he shared some of his principles for finding good restaurants. For Cowen, standing in line is a conformist activity, and the presence of a line is a not a good indicator of the…

BBQ |
October 18, 2013

Finding Common Ground

Texas is a beef barbecue state; in North Carolina they prefer pork. This isn’t news to most of you, but it may surprise some Texans to hear that people outside of the state our signature smoked brisket doesn’t meet the very definition of barbecue. A plate of…

BBQ |
October 11, 2013

There Is Bad Barbecue

Regular readers know that I review a barbecue joint every week. I highlight places that have an interesting story, or that serve one particularly good barbecue item, and when I can, I review new joints. As I travel around the state I usually have a few targets on…

BBQ |
October 4, 2013

Barbecue on the Big Screen

There’s a scene toward the end of Smokey and the Bandit where a truck driver has just purposely torn the door off of Buford T. Justice’s already roof-less car with the bumper of his big rig. Sheriff Justice goes off on a tirade directed at the disappearing rig that ends…

BBQ |
September 27, 2013

Feasting On PDX

Feast Portland, an enormous four day culinary event, was held this past weekend in Portland, Oregon. The main purpose of the event was to highlight the bounty of culinary talent in the area and to showcase food producers from the Northwest. The organizers certainly met their goal.

BBQ |
September 20, 2013

Fast Food BBQ

If Alanis Morissette re-wrote her hit song “Ironic” today, she might include a line about buying an Arby’s smoked brisket sandwich in the middle of Texas, a state with just shy of two thousand barbecue joints that serve sandwiches stuffed with smoked meat. It’s like putting one of those Wonder…

BBQ |
September 13, 2013

What IS Barbecue?

“Barbecue isn’t supposed to taste like smoke. Real barbecue is cooked in a traditional open pit, not in a smoker.” You may expect to hear these words from a North Carolina barbecue zealot who believes that cooking a whole hog over direct heat is the only permissible definition of barbecue.

BBQ |
September 6, 2013

Barbecue with a Free Side of…

Free beer. There isn’t much that sounds more enticing when you’re standing in a long line in the hot sun waiting for the perfect beef rib. It’s just one of the gratis items that barbecue joints across the state are offering alongside their smoked meat. In Louisiana that little something…

BBQ |
August 30, 2013

BBQ Anatomy 101: Pork Ribs

The Texas Trinity combo plate—beef, ribs, and sausage—is probably the most commonly served dish at Texas barbecue joints, and usually, the beef brisket gets all the glory. But we should shine a little more light on pork ribs, which are often a joint’s better tasting meat (it’s difficult to perfectly…

BBQ |
August 23, 2013

Take a Ride With Me to Tennessee

It was pouring outside for the third day in a row. “We’re not in Texas anymore,” I thought to myself, despite the fact that sitting before me was a plate of sliced brisket, hot links, potato salad, and pinto beans. I was south of Nashville at Martin’s Bar-B-Que…

BBQ |
August 16, 2013

Nineteenth Century Texas Barbecue

As is true throughout the South, the public barbecue was commonplace in Texas long before there were any restaurants serving commercial barbecue. As soon as a little town had enough population to consume a whole steer, the fourth of July celebrations at the center of town or the political rallies…

BBQ |
August 9, 2013

Highway BBQ

If you’ve spent any time on the interstates of Texas, then you’ve probably had a similar thought – Is that barbecue worth exiting for? You see a billboard, a collection of restaurant logos on a blue board, or a sign for BBQ right along the access road. Instincts would tell…

BBQ |
August 2, 2013

Pecan Lodge Frustrated at Farmers Market

Last Saturday, business was booming at Pecan Lodge in Shed #2 at the Dallas Farmers Market. I was eating tamales from La Popular, another vendor at the market, and it was great to see such vibrancy in at Shed #2. Just a few years ago, when Pecan Lodge opened,…

BBQ |
July 26, 2013

BBQ Anatomy 101: The Other Kind of Back Ribs

Last week, after I wrote about beef short ribs, I got a few responses from folks who said they flat out didn’t like beef ribs. After pressing them a bit more, I found that some of them had only eaten beef back ribs instead of the giant beef short ribs I…

BBQ |
July 19, 2013

You May Love Beef Short Ribs, But Pitmasters Don’t

Customers love beef ribs. When a pitmaster plunks down a big, thick fatty rib on a plate, cameras are whipped out to document this ultimate carnivore trophy that is the succulent symbol of the Texas obsession with beef. While beef backs ribs have been found in joints from Fort Worth…

BBQ |
July 17, 2013

Which Hatfield’s Is the Real McCoy?

In the business world, verbal partnerships are notoriously fraught with discord, and Kenny Hatfield, the pitmaster at Hatfield’s BBQ and Blackjacks Beer Garden in Rockport, Texas, recently learned this firsthand. Earlier this year, just six months after opening the restaurant with two friends, he was celebrating the news that his…

BBQ |
July 5, 2013

How to Slice a Brisket

When I’m watching a brisket being sliced, a few things make me shudder, like the aggressive purr of an electric knife, the whine of a deli slicer, and, the worst offense, watching the fat cap being discarded (but we’ll save that for another column). I’ll concede that there are several ways…

BBQ |
June 28, 2013

BBQ Anatomy 101: The Slaughter

For three days this week I was a student at Beef 101, an intensive course taught by the Texas A&M University meat science staff, led by Dr. Davey Griffin, Dr. Jeff Savell, and Ray Riley. The class covers everything about cattle, from the time…

BBQ |
June 21, 2013

Competitions and Convocations

Two weeks ago I was bathed in hickory smoke in the middle of New York City. For two days the streets surrounding Madison Square Park in Manhattan were taken over by pitmasters who had been invited to cook at the annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Eighteen barbecue joints from…

BBQ |
June 14, 2013

In Defense of Gassers

For one night last week, Franklin Barbecue was transported from Austin to New York. Texas Monthly brought Aaron Franklin and his kitchen manager, Braun Hughes, to cook a little barbecue in the pit of Hill Country Barbecue Market in Manhattan. Tickets for the event sold out in less than a…

BBQ |
June 7, 2013

The Importance of Wrapping Brisket

There are plenty of ways to screw up a brisket, but when you get it right it’s a beautiful thing. If you’re smoking it at home, it’s not a terribly difficult process. Start by purchasing the right grade, then trim it properly, season it with your favorite rub, and…

BBQ |
May 31, 2013

BBQ Anatomy 101: Know Your Brisket

IF YOU’RE EATING BRISKET in Texas, chances are that your favorite pitmaster is ordering Item No. 120: a beef brisket, deckle-off, boneless. The number corresponds to the cut of meat defined by the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications, or IMPS. No. 120 is “boneless,” meaning that ribs one through four have been…

BBQ |
May 30, 2013

Barbecue Nonsense, Texas Style

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of responses to the TMBBQ Top 50 list. Last week we heard an especially erudite reply to the list from Frederick Coye Heard at the University of Texas. Today, we bring you a counter-argument to our declaration of barbecue supremacy…

BBQ |
May 24, 2013

You Are What You Eat

Editor’s Note: What’s almost as much fun as the TMBBQ Top 50? Reading responses to the TMBBQ Top 50. And we don’t just mean the tweets and comments (though by all means, keep firing). In what we hope will be the first in a series, here is an especially erudite…

BBQ |
May 17, 2013

The Mount Everest of Barbecue

IN OTHER PARTS OF the country, the goal of barbecue is to make something delicious in a reasonable amount of time with the greatest chance of success. In those places the pig is the chosen animal. We Texans cook pig ourselves, having found that spareribs make an excellent hors d’oeuvre,…

BBQ |
May 15, 2013

Texas vs. the South

TEXAS BARBECUE IS NOT Southern barbecue because Texas is not the South. Okay, it is the South, but it’s the extraterritorial South, the afterthought South, that inelegant cartographic appendage you see on the map of the old Confederacy. It’s an unavoidable fact that Texas, against the ardent wishes…

BBQ |
May 15, 2013

The Barbecue Editor Disputes a Tar Heel

The following is a correspondence between Daniel Vaughn and John Shelton Reed. Reed lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is the co-author, with his wife, Dale Volberg Reed, of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue. Vaughn is the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly and the author of Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through…

BBQ |
May 15, 2013

Consider the Pit

THE TERM “PIT” ORIGINATED back in the days when that’s just what it was—a pit in the ground, with wood coals inside and a grill made of wood or metal. Most people cooking with direct heat nowadays use an above-ground fire, but the method is essentially unchanged. It works well for…

BBQ |
May 15, 2013

Who Does BBQ Better? Kansas City or Texas?

The following is the transcript of a conversation between Gregory Curtis and Calvin Trillin. Curtis, who was born in Texas and raised partly in Kansas City, was the editor of Texas Monthly from 1981 to 2000. Trillin, a native of Kansas City, is a staff writer at the New Yorker, and…

BBQ |
March 20, 2013

NYC Food Critic Moonlights as Satirical Publicist

Robert Sietsema, the Village Voice‘s food critic, is a cheerleader. Back in January he, along with nearly every other New York food writer, wrote a piece rah-rah’ing the New York barbecue scene. Maybe penning a promotional article about local barbecue is required for admission to the New York BBQ…

BBQ |
April 1, 2011

Smoked Brisket

THE DISH Why do we love brisket above all other barbecued meats? Is it because of its resonant beefy flavor, its exterior as shiny as black patent leather, its rivulets of fat moistening every mouthful and staining the eater’s shirt? Yes. The very nature of brisket is to…

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March 1, 1991

The Greek Way

Are good times and fun pranks giving way to racial slurs and ritualized violence? An inside look at UT’s fraternity row.