Texas Barbecue is unlike any other food culture. Find out what makes it so with our signature guide to Texas BBQ style and get some ideas for your next backyard smoked brisket, ribs or pulled pork.
Texas is known for everything being big. And I don’t just mean grilling. Whether it’s buildings, cars, or food, Texans do great things. Even the state is big. And we congratulate you for that.
But when they grill, they really sting. Few would argue that the Lone Star State is among a handful of states that actually know how to grill well.
While Tennessee, the Carolinas, Missouri, and Georgia all offer unique methods we love, Texas has its own special flair that is second to none.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what exactly Texas BBQ entails, the different styles in the state, and the best art of enjoying it. Let’s get into that!
What is Texas barbecue?
Texas BBQ is unique in that it covers different grilling styles that differ from region to region within the state. Central, South, West, and East Texas have different approaches to preparing and preparing meat. However, if a food IS listed as “Texas style,” that usually means it was cooked to the core style of grilling.
The Central Texas style consists of large chunks of meat, such as brisket, that are seasoned only with salt and black pepper and then cooked and cooked over indirect heat. Hickory and Pole Oak are popular woods for grilling.
Brisket is the star of the show. While the cooking style favors pork ribs, beef ribs, and pulled pork, they are often served as an accompaniment to beef .
No Texas combo plate is complete without brisket, so any grill master worth their salt should be able to serve up a solid plate of meat.
Different types of Texas BBQ
Texas-style grilling varies from region to region, and in fact there are four distinct styles between East, Central, South, and West Texas. When we talk about “Texas Barbecue” in general, we’re usually referring to the main varieties, but the other styles have a lot to offer as well.
Low and slow cooked meat that often reaches a consistency that falls off the bone. It is often characterized by sweet tomato and walnut wood-based sauces.
Things are often streamlined using only salt and black pepper for seasoning, sometimes ignoring the sauce altogether. The meat is smoked over mesquite, pecan, or oak.
In other approaches, modern-style cooking is done over direct heat, like grilling. Often referred to as ” cowboy style “, mesquite wood is used to give it a very distinct and unique flavor.
Characterized by thick sauces layered over the meat to keep it moist long after cooking. The southern style is similar to barbecue, a Mexican style used for beef, lamb and goat.
Brisket is the star of the show when it comes to Texas barbecue. One could argue that this stems from the state’s heritage in cattle raising, but it could simply be because beef brisket is large. Brisket is an iconic cut of meat and there aren’t many states that do it better.
The chest piece can be divided into two main sections. One is the “area” and the other is the “point”. Lace is much thicker than flat, so it’s generally a better skirt cut. However, many restaurants or barbecues offer both, some even cook together.
Beef ribs differ from pork ribs in their intense flavor and size. It’s also no surprise that they’re a staple in Texas. Each rib is big enough to turn a Flintstones head. If you’re also looking for a great show, beef ribs will do the job.
Plated ribs are the ideal cut you’ll want to get, but the bad news is very few butchers or restaurants sell them. Luckily, ribs are a good alternative. They’re not that big, but they’re great when served individually and still have plenty of meat inside.
So, true to tradition, these beef ribs are seasoned only with black pepper and kosher salt.
BBQ pork ribs
Forget BBQ sauce, Texas ribs are made with just salt and pepper. When choosing your meat, you should want a roast with good marbling for maximum flavor.
As with any other rib recipe, whenever YOU remove the membrane and trim off any excess fat hanging off the ends.
Cooked over indirect heat to around 250°F, it should be ready in no more than 2 hours. Check out our Texas Baby Back Ribs recipe for more info .
Other Texas BBQ traditions
Texas Barbecue is much more than just light spices and excellent cuts of meat. Here are some other key characteristics of the state’s great BBQ culture.
The sauce is to accompany
Texas is all about meat, so you won’t find layers of BBQ sauce cooking over your ribs or briskets. They believe the flesh should speak all the time, and who are we to disagree? Sauce is best served as a side dish.
Cooking with firewood
Pit masters are keen on doing things the old-fashioned way, and there is no tradition more sacred than cooking over a wood fire. The most common types of wood you will see are oak, hickory, and mesquite.
Low and slow
Barbecue smoking is best done low and slow, and there aren’t many other styles of grilling that do it the way Texan does. Pitmasters often cook their breasts over low heat overnight, sometimes for up to 20 hours.
Salt and pepper
We all love a good BBQ seasoning, but Texas style keeps things simple. Rather than loading their dressings with herbs and spices, it’s common for their condiments to include an even blend of black pepper and coarse Kosher salt. This is how the natural juice from beef and pork comes out best and you get delicious, tender meat.
Is Texas BBQ wet or dry?
Texas BBQ only uses dry seasonings, specifically salt and black pepper. Avoid wet ingredients like vinegar, oil, or BBQ sauce.