Drive through any town in Texas and you’ll likely smell the aroma of beef and pork being slow cooked and you’ll likely see a trail of delicious smoke coming from behind many restaurants. Some of these places may not even look like restaurants from the outside, but on the inside you’ll find families gathered around a bucket of peanuts (throwing the shells on the floor of course) and then indulging in a big plate of ribs or brisket with sides of bread, potato salad and pinto beans. It’s a family tradition for many in the state of Texas and something we simply can’t get enough of.
Due to the fact that Texas is such a large state, there’s a diverse culture and heritage from part of the state to another, which means there are also several different types of Texas BBQ. From West Texas to East Texas and then down South, you’ll find that each type of barbecue varies depending on the historical and cultural influences in each area.
West Texas barbecue is typically cooked cowboy style using mesquite. As you drive into West Texas, one of the first things you notice is that the trees get shorter, thicker and fewer and further in between. West Texas isn’t quite the desert, but the summers are a dry heat and combine that with the wild wind, you get short trees that have a lean to them. The meat out here is cooked right over the flame and has a somewhat bitter taste from the mesquite wood.
Head South from West Texas and you’ll find barbecue that has been influenced by the Hispanics. The sauces are often thick, like molasses and the meat very moist. This style is from the Mexican barbacoa tradition and when traditionally prepared, it’s cooked in the ground with maguey leaves covering it.
Head to the central part of the state, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and you’ll find rubbed meats that are cooked with pecan and oak wood. The meat is not cooked over the fire directly, but rather smoked. Europeans, such as the Germans and Czechs, moved into Central Texas in the mid 19th century and brought with them the concept of smoking leftover meat to preserve and the process continued to evolve over the years until specialized smoked meats became a delicacy and tradition. If sauce is available, it’s often on the side.
Finally, head East down I-30 out of Dallas and in about an hour you’ll find yourself in East Texas where the meat is cooked until it falls off the bone
over hickory wood and marinated in a sweet barbecue sauce with a tomato influence.
These are just the different textures and flavors you’ll find throughout the state of Texas. In addition to flavors, you’ll find that in East Texas the meat is often chopped, while in Central Texas it is sliced. In West Texas, you’ll find both. Beef and pork are the predominate types of meat used, but in the South you’ll also find goat and lamb barbecue.
One thing is for sure though; no matter where you go in Texas, you’ll find barbecue that’s finger lickin’ good.