TEXAS BARBECUE’S HISTORIC ROOTS
The German and Czech immigrants who settled Central Texas in the mid 18th century are credited with laying the culinary groundwork that would become Texas ’cue. The early settlers smoked leftover meat as a means of preserving it. Maybe it was the fall-apart texture of the cuts of beef and pork or the subtle tinge of burnt wood that lit a fire in the bellies of those early pioneers.
Within a few decades, restaurants that served “barbecued meats” began sprouting up across the Lone Star State. The first documented Texas barbecue joint opened in Bastrop in 1878. Fort Worth would gain its first smoked meat establishment with William Connell’s meat stand in 1892.
Making Barbecue Sandwiches; Courtesy: Library of Congress
Slicing Barbecue at a Fair; Courtesy: Library of Congress
TEXAS’ FIVE BARBECUE REGIONS
Broadly speaking, Texas barbecue can be divided into five distinct regions that are defined by indigenous wood, historic smoking practices and cultural influences. Central Texas barbecue dates back the furthest and largely defines what people think of as Texas barbecue. Mild oak and pecan wood are the preferred smoking agent for this variant, along with modest salt and pepper rubs.
West Texas embraces Mesquite wood while traditional North Texas ’cue makes use of paprika/chili rubs and a rotisserie offset smoker, according to Joe Riscky.
DFW’S MUST-TRY BARBECUE RESTAURANTS
If you’re passing through North Texas, you can find many of our state’s best-known barbecue joints. Each offers a unique take on the Texas tradition.
1. MEAT CHURCH
Meat Church in Waxahachie is all about fellowship. Pitmaster Matt Pittman caught the barbecue bug at the age of 13 when he first tried Central Texas barbecue. The meat maven offers classes on grilling and barbecue techniques.
His store is a one-stop-shop for smoked meats and barbecue seasonings. One of his most popular seasonings, Honey Hog BBQ Rub, features powdered honey sourced from Fort Worth.
2. PECAN LODGE
My first trip to Dallas-based Pecan Lodge landed me at the end of a long line of excited customers. The restaurant has a sprawling outdoor patio that hosts live music on weekends. The fare features meats smoked on mesquite and oak (surprisingly, not pecan).
Beyond ribs, brisket and smoked sausage, southern fried chicken and Aunt Polly’s banana pudding are popular orders here. Texas Monthly named this restaurant one of the “Top 4 BBQ joints in the world.”
Fort Worth offers more superlative barbecue offerings than I have space to mention. Heim Barbecue is still Cowtown’s barbecue darling. The bacon burnt ends (oily, sweet and oh-so-addictive) are a must-try here.
Newcomer Dayne’s Craft BBQ features beef from 44 Farms, a black Angus beef producer renown for the marbling and quality of its meat. Dayne Weaver cooks up colorful and creative sides, and his brisket exemplifies the best qualities of Central Texas barbecue.
Denton’s Juicy Pig Barbecue lives up to its name. Locals rave about the brisket, quirky sandwiches and St. Louis style ribs. Visitors can enjoy another treat — a rotating selection of homemade fried pies. After chowing down, snap a picture with Juicy Pig’s out-of-this-world mural, located in the parking lot.