Smoke Rules

Smoke Rules

A Texas barbecue primer

In Texas, barbecuing means smoke—meats are cooked over low heat for many hours over live oak or post oak in central Texas, or mesquite in West Texas. This is done in a brick smoker with heavy steel doors on top, giving the meat a deep smokiness. Beef brisket or shoulder (a.k.a. clod) is most common, but you can also find beef, pork, and lamb ribs, as well as ham, pork chops, chicken, and sausages.

Most pit masters use a simple spice rub instead of brining or basting before cooking, and the best Texas barbecue will have a pink “smoke ring” just inside a crisp outer layer of meat. Texas-style sauce, which is only added on the plate after cooking, is less sweet than Memphis-style and less vinegary than Carolina-style. It’s a tomato-and-vinegar-based creation that’s dark red in color, spicy, and just a little bit sweet. Texas barbecue was originally served wrapped up in butcher paper instead of on a plate, and you can still sometimes find it that way.