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Guides To Texas BBQ Styles

There’s a reason we enjoy delicious barbecue so much in Texas: it’s larger in the Lone Star State.

After my family moved to Texas when I was three years old, I’ve lived here for the bulk of my life. In the almost ten years that I’ve competed in Texas BBQ competitions, I’ve discovered that not all Texas BBQ is equal.

At its widest, Texas is 790 miles long. In a state with so much land, you’ll discover that Texans don’t all smoke their meat the same manner.

Today, I’d want to discuss the distinctive characteristics of each of the state’s four primary BBQ subgenres.

What does it mean to have “Texas BBQ?”


Texas BBQ

You’ll have a different experience if you go to the Hill Country than if you stay in South Texas.

Food in South Texas, which shares a border with Mexico, is heavily influenced by Mexican and Central American cuisines. You’ll discover a unique German and Czech culture in the Hill Country. For the creation of Texas food and in particular, Texas barbeque.

If you go on a barbecue tour of Texas, you’ll see that it’s as much of a melting pot as the rest of the country. As far as “Texas BBQ” is concerned, there is a lot of misinformation out there.

As far as Texas BBQ goes, what is it? Aaron Franklin barbecued a brisket, is this the same? The roadside eatery that serves sausage and ribs?

When it comes to debates in the Texas barbecue scene, there’s a lot of disagreement regarding what constitutes “Texas BBQ.” The only difference is that they’re all from various sections of the state of Texas.

Kansas City, Memphis, and South Carolina all have their own regional barbecue styles. Texas has its own regional barbecue styles, too.

If you go to a barbecue establishment in East Texas, you won’t get the same flavor as if you went to one in Central Texas. You’ll have a different experience if you go to the Hill Country than if you stay in South Texas.

Food in South Texas, which shares a border with Mexico, is heavily influenced by Mexican and Central American cuisines. You’ll discover a unique German and Czech culture in the Hill Country. For the creation of Texas food and in particular, Texas barbeque.

It’s important to note that Texas barbecue is divided into four distinct areas, each of which has its own distinct flavor profile.

The four types of Texas barbecue

1. Central Texas: Where everything started

texas bbq style tray with smoked beef brisket, st louis ribs, ch

Most people associate the term “Texas BBQ” with the Central Texas style of barbecue.

Assemble a BBQ charcuterie board using a metallic cafeteria tray coated in butcher paper and filled with a selection of smoked meats. Because of this, Central Texas BBQ is what it is.

Non-Texans sometimes try to imitate this presentation approach when opening a barbecue restaurant in Texas.

It is common for meats to be sold by the pound, and the sides are virtually an afterthought. You’ll see a lot of meat on the plate, but not much bread or sauce.

For Central Texans, the meat is the star of the show, and the frills are unnecessary.

In Central Texas, barbecue is primarily about letting the meat speak for itself, so the seasonings are kept to a minimum. On a regular basis, pitmasters will season their meat with simply coarse-ground black pepper and kosher salt.

There are two main components of Central Texas barbecue: the meat and the wood that it is cooked on. The most common kind of oak and hickory in this region is Post Oak, although other species of oak and hickory are also common.

Central Texas barbecue is world-famous for its low and slow cooking method.

Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue, is one of the most well-known pitmasters in the nation, and he’s certainly the most popular in Central Texas.

For years, people have been queuing up for hours to try his legendary brisket, which has been called the “most perfected BBQ art” in the world by many.

He is the co-author of Franklin Barbecue, a New York Times bestseller, and he teaches barbecue techniques via MasterClass. Aaron Franklin is the best BBQ in Central Texas.

2. East Texas: Low, slow, & rich in flavor

poring bbq sauce in a tray with pulled pork

In East Texas, it’s all about going slow and steady.

Meat that is so tender it almost slips off the bone may be found here. East Texas has an abundance of offset-style smokers, like their Central Texas counterparts, although the firebox is more likely to be filled with Hickory or Pecan wood.

East Texas barbecue, on the other hand, makes liberal use of spices and marinades.

When it comes to a sandwich, East Texans like their meat chopped up and served on a bun, but there is no preference between pig and beef.

If you’re looking for a juicy and flavorful bite, you can’t go wrong with a low and slow method like this.

Texas has a lot of Cajun culture in its neighboring state of Louisiana. An East Texas BBQ business is likely to provide boudin sausage and po’ boys on its menu.

No matter what kind of barbecue you like, Gatlin’s BBQ in Houston is the place to go. Some of the world’s greatest barbecue sandwiches may be found on their menu, along with mouthwatering side dishes that equal the meat in taste.

East Texas barbecue is all about taste, and Gatlin’s strikes all the right notes when it comes to East Texas barbecue, including the use of a variety of sauces.

3. South Texas: A mix of Mexican and Texas influences

whole lamb on smoker with foil on hams

South Texas barbecue reflects the state’s proximity to Mexico, which borders the state to the south. South Texas barbecue, most known for its barbacoa-style dishes, takes its cues from both Mexican and Texan culinary traditions.

A pit with brick lining and a huge fire at the bottom is widely used by pitmasters to slowly prepare meats. In South Texas, mesquite is the wood of choice for cooking, and after the wood has burned down to the bare coals, the meat is put directly on top of the leaves.

Barbacoa is most often made using the full head of a cow, however whole goats and lambs are also regularly used. When properly prepared, this flesh will slip right off the bone, making for some of the most delicious tacos you’ve ever tasted.

There are few places in South Texas where you can still get a taste of the old-fashioned barbeque.

This region is well-known for its traditional preparation of barbacoa de cabeza (cow’s head), which involves burying the meat in a pit lined with masonry.

With the James Beard Foundation Award in 2020, they’ve established themselves as the state’s only restaurant licensed to employ the subterranean way of cooking.

4. Hill Country: Maintaining the status quo

charcoal grill with fire touching steaks

In addition to its stunning scenery, the Texas Hill Country is known for its delectable cuisine. The cultures of early Czech and German immigrants are still evident in the Texas Hill Country today.

The Hill Country is known for its abundance of brisket and huge chunks of meat, including handmade sausages.

The “cowboy style” of barbecue, in which meat is cooked over hot coals and mesquite wood, has become synonymous with their old-school cooking manner.

Although the meal here lacks the “low and slow” manner associated with barbecue, it still has a lot of flavor.

While cooking over hot coals, heated fat renders off the taste of the meat’s fat. Whole chickens, pork chops, and sausage may be found here, as well as a wide variety of sides and sauces.

Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in Llano, Texas, is one of the most popular venues in the Hill Country. Their legendary “Big Chop” can be found here, and they also sell just about every other kind of smoked meat you can think of as well. They also have some of the top shoemakers in the world.

Barbecue in Texas is a part of the state’s culture

You’ll never get bored in Texas since there are so many different types of barbecue to choose from. Texans value and appreciate innovation, and in the last decade, you’ve seen barbecue elements being incorporated into various culinary techniques.

Seeing a Brisket Breakfast Taco at your local Mexican restaurant or a Brisket Banh Mi at your neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant isn’t out of the ordinary. Texans are known for their barbecue, and it’s clear that it’s here to stay.

Be sure to get a platter of barbecue the next time you find yourself in Texas, since there is no place like it in the world.

Our collection of barbeque road trip options may have you salivating. Texas has so much to offer, and these road excursions are a terrific way for you to see it all.