BBQ tradition runs deep in the Lone Star State. The region's signature style has recently come into the spotlight over the past decade as being a truly separate dish from the pork-centric pit masters of the Carolinas and Tennessee.
To understand Texas BBQ, it's important to know that there are four distinct styles of barbecue native to Texas: East, West, Central and South. East Texas barbecue serves chopped beef, West cooks over direct heat that is closer to classic grilling and South is all about barbacoa.
Usually when people refer to Texas BBQ, they are talking about Central Texas style barbecue. This type of barbecue means cooking brisket over long, low, indirect heat, which produces tender and incredibly flavourful fall-off-the-bone meat.
In case there was any doubt, the meat in this case is always beef. While you can argue about it all you want, you'll be hard pressed to convince any dyed-in-the-wool Texan that there is a piece of protein with better flavour than a slow-cooked hunk of beef. Often, the choice cuts of meat are brisket, which are cut from the breast or lower chest of the cattle.
To cook the meat, most traditionalists still use wood over gas. While gas-powered smokers have gained popularity, especially with high volume restaurants, the flavors achieved with wood smoked meat still trumps speed for most pit masters.
If you're preparing Texas-style barbecue, you're not going for speed in the first place. Smoking meat means that meticulous fire management is necessary. Cooking hot and fast will result in a tough cut of meat, so true Texas-style barbecue means a low and slow fire that burns consistently for up to 20 hours to cook the brisket to perfection.
Texans have always been about the great outdoors and their barbecue is no exception. Because of regulations concerning smokers, the relatively low cost of trailer smokers and the simple fact that this type of cooking takes up a lot of room, the cooking is almost always done outside under the wide-open skies.