One of America’s Favorites – Barbecue in Texas

July 29, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A plate of South Texas Style BBQ. Potato salad is common in Texas barbecue as a side dish.

Texas Barbecue is a traditional style of preparing meat unique to the cuisine of Texas. It is one of the many different varieties of barbecue found around the world.

Texas barbecue traditions can be divided into four general styles: East Texas, Central Texas, South Texas, and West Texas. The Central and East Texas varieties are generally the most well-known. In a 1973 Texas Monthly article, Author Griffin Smith, Jr., described the dividing line between the two styles as “a line running from Columbus and Hearne northward between Dallas and Fort Worth”.

Additionally, in deep South Texas and along the Rio Grande valley, a Mexican style of meat preparation known as barbacoa can be found. In Spanish, the word barbacoa means “barbecue”, though in English it is often used specifically to refer to Mexican varieties of preparation.

Generally speaking, the different Texas barbecue styles are distinguished as follows:

East Texas style: The meat is slowly cooked to the point that it is “falling off the bone.” It is typically cooked over hickory wood and marinated in a sweet, tomato-based sauce.
Central Texas style: The meat is rubbed with only salt and black pepper or in some restaurants with spices and cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood or mesquite wood or a combination of woods. Sauce is typically considered unneeded but may be served on the side.

West Texas style: The meat is cooked over direct heat from mesquite wood.
South Texas style: Features thick, molasses-like sauces that keep the meat very moist.
The barbacoa tradition is somewhat different from all of these. Though beef may be used, goat or sheep meat are common as well (sometimes the entire animal may be used). In its most traditional form, barbacoa is prepared in a hole dug in the ground and covered with maguey leaves.

European meat-smoking traditions were brought by German and Czech settlers in Central Texas during the mid-19th century. The original tradition was that butchers would smoke leftover meat that had not been sold so that it could be stored and saved. As these smoked leftovers became popular among the migrants in the area, many of these former meat markets evolved to specialize in smoked meats. Many butcher shops also evolved into well-known barbecue establishments.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted a state dinner featuring barbecue for the Mexican president-elect in Johnson City, Texas. It is generally considered the first barbecue state dinner in the history of the United States.

In 2019 J. C. Reid of the Houston Chronicle wrote that pulled pork barbecue was becoming common in Texas even though the style originated elsewhere.

Regional styles
Central Texas
Central Texas pit-style barbecue was established in the 19th century along the Chisholm Trail in the towns of Lockhart, Luling, and Taylor. The German and other European immigrants who owned meat-packing plants opened retail meat markets serving cooked meats wrapped in red butcher’s paper—a tradition which continues to this day in many Central Texas towns. This barbecue style’s popularity has spread considerably around the world, especially to Southern California, New York City, Britain and Australia.

Today, many Central Texas barbecue restaurants open around 11:00am and serve until “they are out of meat”. Most barbecue establishments close on Sundays.

At a typical Central Texas pit barbecue restaurant, the customer takes a tray cafeteria-style and is served by a butcher who carves the meat by weight. Side dishes and desserts are then picked up along the line with sliced white bread, wavy-cut dill pickle chips, sliced onion, and jalapeño. Barbecue meats are commonly sold by the pound. The emphasis of Central Texas pit barbecue is on the meat—if sauce is available, it is usually considered a side dip for wetting purposes. Calvin Trillin, writing in The New Yorker, said that discussions of Central Texas pit barbecue do not concern the piquancy of the sauces or common side dishes and desserts—the main consideration is the quality of the cooking of the meats.

Smith posits this theory on why sauces are not a focus of Central Texas pit style: in the early days, the noon meat markets were dominated by the upper class purchasers, who could choose among the highest-quality cuts of meat with little interest in sauces. Smith describes many sauces in Central Texas pit barbecue as intentionally made “bland”, as compared to the flavor of the meats themselves. The sauce is typically thinner and unsweetened, different than the Kansas City and Memphis styles (which rely heavily on molasses, sugar, and corn syrup to provide thickness and sweetness).

Jayne Clark of the USA Today said in 2010 that the “Texas Barbecue Trail” is an east of Austin “semi-loop” including Elgin, Lockhart, Luling, and Taylor. Barbecue eateries in this semi-loop, like Louie Mueller Barbecue, are within one hour’s drive from Austin, in a direction of northeast to the southeast.

East Texas
East Texas barbecue is usually chopped and not sliced. It may be made of either beef or pork, and it is usually served on a bun.

Robb Walsh wrote in “Texas Barbecue in Black and White” that due to the prevalence of beef, African-American varieties of barbecue in East Texas tended to use that instead of the pork found elsewhere in the South. Walsh quoted an artist, Bert Long, who stated that African-American varieties are heavily smoked.

According to Reid, the presence of pork ribs in East Texas barbecue originated from elsewhere in the South. According to Walsh they had origins in barbecues that were held for slaves. Many black restaurateurs struggled to continue operating restaurants as food safety regulations passed by Texas jurisdictions around 1910 had restrictions on the operations of restaurants until the cinder-block pit became widespread; this innovation allowed black restaurateurs to serve their fellow black customers.

Griffin Smith, Jr., in a 1973 Texas Monthly article, described East Texas barbecue as an “extension” of barbecue served in the Southern United States and said that beef and pork appear equally in the cuisine. According to Smith, the theory on how East Texas barbecue got started was that the emphasis on sauces and spices came as African-Americans received poor quality cuts of meat and needed flavoring. According to Smith, the “finest manifestations” of the East Texas style were found in African-American-operated restaurants. Smith further described East Texas barbecue as “still basically a sandwich product heavy on hot sauce.”


Other styles
West Texas barbecue, sometimes also called “cowboy style,” traditionally used a more direct heat method than other styles. It is generally cooked over mesquite, with goat and mutton in addition to beef.

Barbecue in the border area between the South Texas Plains and Northern Mexico is mostly influenced by Mexican cuisine. Historically, this area was the birthplace of the Texas ranching tradition. Often, Mexican farmhands were partially paid for their work in less desirable cuts of meat, such as the diaphragm and the cow’s head. It is the cow’s head which defines South Texas barbecue (called barbacoa). The head would be wrapped in wet maguey leaves and buried in a pit with hot coals for several hours, after which the meat would be pulled off for barbacoa tacos. The tongue would also be used to make lengua tacos. Today, barbacoa is mostly cooked in an oven in a bain-marie.


Wild Idea Buffalo Recipe of the Week – Mesquite Grilled Tenderloin Steaks with Mushroom Compote

February 11, 2015 at 6:30 AM | Posted in Wild Idea Buffalo | Leave a comment
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Shake off those Winter Blues and Fire that Grill up with this week’s Wild Idea Buffalo Recipe of the Week, Mesquite Grilled Tenderloin Steaks with Mushroom Compote. Buffalo Steak and Mushrooms are one of my favorite pairs! You’ll use Wild Idea Buffalo 8oz. Tenderloin Steaks for this recipe. If you’ve never tried these you’re in store for one of tender and flavorful Tenderloin you’ve ever had, whether it’s Bef or Buffalo! Another fantastic recipe from Jill O’Brien of Wild Idea Buffalo.




Mesquite Grilled Tenderloin Steaks with Mushroom Compote

Life gets busy, and at the end of the day when grilling, I’m a go to, gas grill, kind of a girl. Using mesquite or other hard wood takes a little more time and although not difficult, it is a labor of love. The extra aromatic flavor and elegant smokiness this gives the meat is a special treat, but it’s that – a special treat. Mesquite coals, would work for any steak or burger, adjusting time, based on thickness or size of cut.
Ingredients For Fire:Mesquite Grilled Tenderloin Steaks 2
Weber Grill
10 pounds mesquite wood
Kindling; pine cones and/or wood shavings

Open the lower vents of the grill located in the bottom of the grill. Bunch the paper, and place on the lower rack of the grill, top with the kindling, and a few smaller pieces of the mesquite, in a sort of teepee fashion. Light the paper and allow the fire to get going. You may need to blow on the fire a bit to get the mesquite to take. Add 3 to 4 larger pieces to the fire, stacked so air can move in between the wood. When the fire starts to burn down, push the burned wood around and add more wood. Continue repeating this process until you have a nice hot bed of white coals that are still licked with a bit of fire. I added wood four times to achieve this and it took about two hours. Your grill is now ready. Place the top rack of the grill as low and as close to the coals as possible.

Ingredients For Steaks: Mesquite TenderloinMesquite Grilled Tenderloin Steaks
4 – 8oz. Tenderloin Steaks
2 – tablespoons olive oil
2 – teaspoons black pepper
1 – teaspoon sea salt
1 – teaspoon garlic powder
1 – teaspoon onion powder

1) Remove the thawed steaks form package, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2) In a small glass dish or backing pan, mix the olive oil and seasonings.
3) Add steaks to the pan and roll around into the seasoned olive oil. Cover the steaks and allow them to rest at room temperature while you establish your fire. About 2 hours.
4) When your mesquite fire is just right, place the steaks on top of the grill and close grill lid. Grill for 3 minutes then rotate the same side to create a nice grill marking. Cover again and grill for two minutes on the same side, before turning over. Turn steaks, cover and grill for 3 more minutes.
5) Remove steaks from the grill and place them on a plate. Sprinkle a little finishing salt over the steaks and then cover them with a lid or foil and allow them to rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Mushroom Compote

½ – cup sweet yellow onion, finally diced
5 – ounces cremmini mushrooms, finely diced
1 – green onion, green part only, finely minced
1 – tablespoon olive oil
4 – salted tablespoon butter
4 – teaspoon salt
½ – teaspoon black pepper
1 – teaspoon sugar
1 – teaspoon balsamic vinegar


1) In a sauté pan over medium high heat, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.Wild Idea
2) Add the diced onions to the pan and season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir occasionally, until the onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 6 minutes.
3) Add the diced mushrooms to the caramelized onions and stir in. Sauté until mushrooms are just tender, but have not yet released their moisture.
4) Add the balsamic vinegar and stir in.
5) Immediately following, stir in remaining butter. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and stir in minced green onion.
6) Season to taste and serve immediately with mesquite grilled steaks.

*We enjoyed this delicious steak with lightly sautéed green beans, a cauliflower & potato mash, and short glasses of Heradura Blanco Tequila on ice with fresh squeezed lime. It was fabulous. A nice earthy Zinfandel would be great too.

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