Texan BBQ Specialties
Whether you’re prepping up for a special celebration or simply in a desperate need of a perfect BBQ meal, you know you can always count on great traditional Texan specialities to deliver.
Home to some of the most sought-after classics, Texas is arguably the motherland of all things BBQ.
It’s well known that everything’s bigger in Texas. From its culture to its cuisine, there are just no half measures.
For all of you out there who can’t afford the trip down south, but still want to experience the hype surrounding Texas BBQ culture, we mustered up all of the best and most classic Texan BBQ specialties for you to explore directly from the comfort of your backyard.
Spoiler alert: It will help you reconnect with the “Meat and Greet” concept in a whole new way.
I would be doing things wrong if I wasn’t starting off with a bang.
Smoked brisket is the lifeline of most Texan BBQ joints.
Heavily influenced by some of the local stars such as Aaron Franklin, Harry Soo, Matt Proctor, and Snow’s Tootsie Tomanetz, the demand for what is often perceived as the holy grail of the BBQ universe never goes down. People will wake early just to get in line for a chance at some of the best briskets on God’s green Earth.
Texas-style brisket is easily recognizable. It’s very simple, heavily smoked, and coated with a basic salt and pepper rub. Although it sounds rather simplistic, it’s very bold and it puts beef at the forefront of every bite.
One of the key things about Texas is that they run almost everything on gigantic offset smokers. The great thing about these is how well-balanced they are with smoke density and airflow.
This makes a big difference when it comes to brisket as the humidity levels and smoke density will factor in how deep the smoke will seep in the meat and how moist your flat will remain.
When talking about Texas BBQ, brisket will be the first thing that comes to mind for most people. Of course, that’s unless you’ve actually experienced the true Texas BBQ scene.
Still to this day, the best kept secret about Texas BBQ is provided by the revered Ms. Tomanetz from Snow’s BBQ. Even at 80+ years old, she’s running the pits like in her prime and schools some of the best pitmasters in the industry. Veteran pitmasters will come from all over the world to get their hands on Snow’s limited quantities of chicken halves.
Mopped regularly with a buttery vinegar sauce, these chicken halves are cooked directly over oak coals, giving each of them a crispy skin and a nice smoke touch. As always, they are rubbed with salt and pepper exclusively to remain true to the local Texas style. They aren’t your traditional “set and forget” chicken halves that most joints will serve. The direct heat and frequent mopping approach from Tootsie helps this chicken stand apart from the rest.
Pork Spare Ribs
Forget about baby back ribs if you really want that Texas-style bite.
Like always, the bigger, the better. This saying makes it an obligation to cook with pork spare ribs.
Once again, Texas-style ribs are notorious for the thickness of their bark, composed of nothing but mustard, salt, and pepper. They have a very dark look to them. Most of them are smoked with a combination of various wood grains to get a more adapted flavor profile, but oftentimes, hickory will be involved in the mixes. There isn’t much saucing or mopping either when it comes to these ribs. A simple mixture of water and apple cider vinegar is all that’s necessary to keep them moist.
Texas ribs are all about smoke and meat, and that’s what’s great about them. The fact that you can’t hide flaws with such a simple seasoning also forces you to up your game and makes you become a better pitmaster.
Those aren’t your typical baked beans. Pork beans are made out of pinto beans and are cooked for 6 to 8 hours in a ketchup/BBQ sauce mix with the addition of salty-tasting pieces of pork (bacon, pulled pork or chicharrones for example).
Pork beans are the perfect side dish for a brisket because their vinegary, salty, and yet sweet taste (this last one comes from the BBQ sauce) help balance out the prominent “fat taste” that we get from the brisket.
Besides its taste, the other great thing about this dish is that it can be done overnight and served at a later time.
You can’t talk about side dishes and not mention cornbread.
While a lot of different regions will have their take on this classic, Texas-style cornbread will tend to be on the salty side rather than the typical sweet cornbread from up north.
Cornbread can be baked directly on the smoker in a cast iron pan and if luck’s on your side, you may be able to add some “oomph” to it with whatever fat drippings you have from the meat that’s cooking simultaneously in the smoker.
Potato and Pickled Red Onions Salad
It should come as no surprise that veggies aren’t really the focus on typical Texan BBQ menus.
To help with your good conscience, if you’re looking for something to bring some freshness to your plate, you will either find green beans or potato salads. Don’t invest too much time on veggies because by the time you are done with the good stuff, you won’t really have any room left to stomach these sides anyways.
I really enjoy potato salads with pickled onions or jalapeños as they bring a fresh and summer feel to the plate, which counterbalances nicely the fat and meat that’s in the rest of the plate. The creaminess of the salads also blends well with cornbread.
To wrap things up, as you can see, Texan BBQ specialties are nothing fancy, but they do deliver. Over there, in Texas, they are all about keeping things simple without doing so at the expense of fun or flavors. Every bite packs a punch and will have you coming back for more. They keep BBQ simple and keep the spotlight on what makes it an art: they craft with the smoke.
If you decide to go ahead and cook these 6 meals (or some of them), you’ll be sure to bring a little piece of Texas straight in your backyard for everyone to enjoy. While working on these meals, you’ll also remind yourself why you fell in love with BBQ in the first place, guaranteed.
Enjoy and have fun BBQing!