The prime representation of Texas cuisine, barbecue is all about the meat—beef (brisket and ribs), pork (sausage, ribs, and chops), and turkey, chicken, mutton, goat, or anything else a Texan can put in a barbecue smoker. The tradition originated in the Caribbean as a method to cook meat over a pit on a framework of sticks known as a barbacot, and it eventually made its way across the southern United States, where it picked up various cultural influences on the way. Even in Texas there are several different methods for barbecuing meat, and there’s plenty of debate about who does it the right way. Fortunately, everyone wins since all styles of Texas barbecue are exceptionally pleasing to the palate.
In general, the East Texas approach is aligned with African-American traditions of the South—the sauce is tomato based and somewhat sweet, and the sides (potato salad and cole slaw, in particular) are mayo based and extremely sweet. Central Texas’style ’cue is considered the ideal representative of the Lone Star State, originating in the German and Czech communities in the Austin area. Based on traditions from European meat markets, the sausage and beef are smoked and served on waxed paper along with side items inspired by the former grocery store/butcher shops where they originated—bread slices, beans, tomatoes, cheese, and jalapeños. In West Texas, some restaurants and ranches still serve their meat “cowboy style,” where an entire slab of beef is cooked over hot coals on open pits and basted with a “mop” of oil and vinegar.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition