Texas Monthly magazine recently ignited a barbecue war when they released a list of the 50 Best BBQ Joints in the World—and all of them were in Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas, including their belief in their barbecue supremacy. This guide will help you try the best of what the Lone Star State has to offer so that you can judge for yourself which destination has the best ‘cue.
Texas-style barbecue differs significantly from the popular definition. In Texas, barbecue isn’t cooked on a grill, but rather it’s smoked for a long time over low heat. To use sauce is blasphemy and some pitmasters season their meat with only salt and pepper, though most use a dry rub with a variety of spices. Most importantly, Texas BBQ is all about beef.
The quality of the brisket is the measure of a pitmaster’s skill. In Austin, Texas, Franklin BBQ has attracted nationwide attention for their brisket and people will line up for hours in the hopes that they can grab some before they sell out for the day. If you want to avoid the lines without sacrificing quality, La Barbecue just a few miles south of Franklin is less well-known but just as good.
Another Texas specialty is hot guts, also known as Elgin sausage. These all-beef sausages are coarsely ground and seasoned with garlic, pepper, and cayenne. They originated in the town of Elgin at the Southside Market, which claims to be the oldest barbecue joint in Texas.
The third piece of the Texas barbecue trifecta is big beef ribs. At first sight you might mistake them for dinosaur bones. The town of Lockhart is home to two seminal barbecue institutions, Kreuz’s Market and Smitty’s. The owners of these restaurants are descendants of a barbecue dynasty, but after a family falling-out they split up their business and opened separate joints on different sides of town. Texas history is filled with similar “barbafeuds,” but these rivalries have resulted in some of the best food in the world. Just ask Texas Monthly.
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