The act of grilling is truly ritualistic. Mastering your grill requires real dedication and the acceptance that a grill can be an unforgiving appliance. Grill and barbecue enthusiasts dedicate years to practicing and perfecting this particular food preparation. And that’s just to nail the basics. Only a select few of burgeoning grill masters will take the leap to Texas barbecue.
Barbecue, not the general term that is so often applied to the act of grilling meat or veggies, is effectively a national pastime. Many cultures have slow-cooked, smoked, and open-flame food preparation techniques. The modern American notion of barbecue can be directly traced to traditional Mexican, Caribbean, African, and Native American techniques with an emphasis on long, slow cooking times and smoking. All of these influences can be seen in Texas barbecue.
What is Texas Barbecue?
Texas barbecue pitmasters smoke meat over indirect heat for a long time with slow, careful consideration. Beef is the preferred protein, owing to the state’s history of cattle ranching. The slow-smoking process has been used by indigenous folk for centuries, and the immigration of German and Czech settlers brought with them European meat smoking, particularly sausage.
Since Texas is such a large state, different sub-styles of Texas barbecue have sprouted. Central Texas barbecue is usually considered to be the standard for the state, and gets the most love for its smoked brisket. South Texas has more of a focus on barbacoa (the etymological route for barbecue), east Texas often uses more chopped beef, and west Texas pitmasters prepare their meat over direct heat, which is more similar to classic American grilling techniques.
What Makes Texas Barbecue Different?
The United States is home to many different barbecue traditions, and Texas is just one of them. Kansas City, the Carolinas, and Memphis are all famous for barbecue styles, though you’ll find regional variances throughout the South. One of the main differences between them all are the sauces and rubs. In Kansas City you’ll find a wide variety of meats in a thick and sweet barbecue sauce. Memphis-style barbecue primarily uses pork, especially pork ribs, that are prepared either “dry” (rubs, salts, and other seasonings) or “wet” (covered in tomato- and vinegar-based barbecue sauces). The Carolinas are also predominately pork-focused and home to the pulled pork sandwich and pork shoulder. Different regions in North and South Carolina use varying sauces and vinegars, but the use of pork is the region’s defining characteristic.
Everything You Need To Make Your Own Texas BBQ
Meat: Butcher Box/Porter Road
The most important thing in any Texas Barbecue is, of course, the meat. Shop from your local butcher, as they’ll be able to direct you to the best cuts. Since Texas barbecue is all about beef, make sure you’re loading up on brisket and beef ribs. Pork ribs, pulled pork, and sausage are also often served at a Texas barbecue. If you don’t have a high quality butcher near you, we’d recommend trying some online meat delivery options. Butcher Box and Porter Road comes highly rated and is well-regarded for curated sourcing.
Smoker: Traeger Pro 575
Your backyard charcoal grill just won’t cut it for a true Texas barbecue. In a pinch, you might be able to convert your grill into a serviceable smoker. But if you want the full barbecue experience, you’ll want to invest in a dedicated smoker. If you’re looking for one that can pull double duty, the PK Grill & Smoker is a solid bet (as would any of Traeger’s many fine smokers). The Traeger Pro 575 with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity is precise, consistent, and versatile, so you can smoke a variety of meats at the same time. Plus, thanks to its wireless connection, the Traeger Pro 575 can be controlled remotely so you can manage temperature and time settings right from your phone.
Meat Thermometer: ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Meat Thermometer
A meat thermometer makes the whole cooking experience much more seamless. And if you’re taking your Texas barbecue seriously, you should opt for a wireless one. The ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Meat Thermometer can calibrate for different types of meat and covers a range of up to 300 feet so you can still get accurate readings while away from your smoker.
Knives: 8” Brad Leone Signature Series Chinese Santoku Cleaver
Your kitchen really only needs three knives. However, if you’re working with a lot of meat, you’re going to need to get yourself a serious cleaver. The 8” Brad Leone Signature Chinese Santoku Cleaver from Lamson will get you through just about any Texas barbecue with ease.
Rubs: Spiceology Ultimate Rub Collection
When it comes to Texas barbecue, you want to let the meat do the talking. That means you’re not going to drown your brisket, ribs, or sausage in any thick and heavy sauces. Instead, you’ll want to opt for some flavorful, complementary dry rubs. Pitmasters often opt for simple rubs like salt, pepper, garlic, and maybe a few spicier options. But, if you want an all-in-one set, it’s hard to argue with the Ultimate Rub Collection from Spiceology. This variety pack will let you experiment with a range of flavors for your next Texas barbecue.