FOOD, SCHMOOD – WHAT ABOUT BARBECUE?
While Austinites certainly have an appreciation for all things
edible, they’re obsessive about barbecue. That’s because in Texas,
beef is king. And its rulers and subjects are mostly located right
here in Central Texas.
In fact, the brisket, a cut that is the cornerstone of the Texas tradition, owes its status to the long cattle drives of that bygone era
– and to the creative culinary genius of multiple Texas
barbecue masters. Considered tough and
almost worthless in the beginning, it’s
what was left over after the so-called
prime cuts had been taken. Other
meat staples in a true Texas
barbecue include sausage
(normally made from beef)
and pork ribs, an import
from the Midwest.
Texas barbecue can
even be broken down
by region. In west
Texas, the meat is
cooked using direct
heat with mesquite
wood, an approach also
seen in Arizona and New
Mexico. In eastern Texas,
beef is often slow-cooked
over hickory after marinating
in a tomato sauce. And here in
Central Texas, meat is often dry-rubbed
with spices and cooked using indirect heat
over either oak, pecan or mesquite. The South
Texas style features thick sauces, normally with a molasses base.
WHO NEEDS A PLATE? ORDER UP!
When it comes to ordering barbecue, Texans have their own style
there, too. Most places serve beef ribs, brisket, chicken and pork ribs
by the pound, or by the link for sausage, and forgo plates – instead
choosing to serve meats on plain white butcher paper.
Typical side dishes and drinks here in the Lone Star state include
pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, creamed corn, pickles, onions,
jalapenos, cold beer, iced tea, lemonade – and, of course, plenty of
slices of plain white bread.
As for the sauce, it’s generally an optional thing – and some Central
YOU SAY TOMATO…
Texas barbecue institutions don’t offer sauce at all. That’s because the
emphasis is on the meat, not necessarily the sauce. Roll it up in a slice
of white bread, add pickles, onions and maybe some coleslaw on top,
and it’s like heaven on earth.
According to the National Barbecue Association, the three
essential elements of barbecue are good meat; the process of
slow cooking at a low temperature; and the fuel used for heat
and flavor. This is not the backyard style barbecue where
Mom or Dad fires up the gas or charcoal grill.
At its heart, barbecue is slow cooking,
using cuts of meat that, in the past,
were considered inferior – until
super slow cooking for hours
at a time turned them into
something worth savoring
The native peoples of the
Caribbean, who used a
combination of low heat,
wood smoke and sun to
preserve their meat, first
practiced what we know
as barbecue at the time
Columbus discovered the
New World. Known first
as “barbacoa,” it made its
way to the mainland where it
diversified, both in location and
Now? It’s an art form – and it varies from
state to state, region to region, and neighbor
to neighbor. From the pulled pork of the Carolinas to
the heavy sauciness of Kansas City to the sweetness of Memphis,
barbecue – and the way it’s cooked – is a varied culinary tradition
whose rules are based mainly on location and what Grandpa did. Pork
or pork sausage are a barbecue stalwart, especially in the southeastern
United States. And it’s not surprising to find very expensive smokers
cooking up brisket, sausage, ham, turkey and more, for a crowd at a
University of Texas tailgate party (and at every other college football
game in Texas).
ROAD TRIP: NO FORKS NECESSARY
Clearly, the best way to experience this mouth-watering culinary
experience is to take a road trip and try it all. Because we’re famous
for this stuff, especially here in Central Texas – and those who live
here know all too well what a gift it is to experience it when the
craving strikes. And it will. Over and over again.