The smoked goodness of traditionally barbecued meats is nearly a staple food in Texas, and so many entrepreneurs have opened restaurants dedicated to the cuisine, that Central Texas boasts its own Barbecue Trail. Essentially, barbecuing is a highly skilled form of cooking, and when done with the right smoke and spices, it has the ability to turn low-cost cuts of meat like beef briskets, ribs, and pork butts into a culinary masterpiece. Interestingly, the definition of barbecue varies among geographic regions, and everyone is convinced that their style is by far, the best.
Barbeque Done Texas Style
In the eastern regions of North Carolina, it is not considered barbecue unless the meat is pulled pork served up with hush puppies and Brunswick stew. In states near the Tennessee and Mississippi region, their specialty is juicy pork ribs. Kansas City, home to an annual competitive barbecue championship cook-off, is more about the sauce, and the entrants tend to favor smoky, sweet concoctions. Much of these differences have come into existence through ethnic heritage, regional access to agricultural products, and cultural traditions.
Texans have found ingenuous methods of producing fall-off-the-bone ribs, tasty brisket, and hand-stuffed sausages that are certainly favorites of residents in the Deep South. Pit masters within the state typically toss chicken, pork, mutton, and even cabrito onto their smokers. The tradition of cooking up such a large variety of meats evolved from a long line of traditions brought into the area by a variety of early settlers, as well as Texas’ vast acreage that is ideal for grazing animals.
Much of Central Texas’ barbecue traditions stem from a confluence of events in the latter part of the 19th century as refugees from the Civil War came to the state looking for a fresh start and land. These new settlers brought along their cooking traditions and recipes with them. An influx of German and Czech settlers arrived and introduced their expert sausage making and meat smoking skills. The abundance of cattle that would pass through the area along the Chisholm Trail made plenty of meat available to newcomers to perfect their skills. The vast assortment of trees in the state, such as hickory, pecan, oak, and mesquite, took barbecue to the next level, as each of these woods’ smoke provides a unique flavor to meats.
Fall Off the Bone BBQ Joints to Try
Today, one can find barbecue almost anywhere across the state, and this cuisine can be enjoyed from roadside shacks, on butcher paper at traditional family-owned meat markets, or elegant restaurants over a glass of wine. One of the most world-renown places to dine on this cuisine is at Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, Texas, just west of Lake Buchanan. They have been slow smoking almost every meat imaginable for nearly 50 years. This establishment also is known to make a mean prime rib and delectable T-Bone steaks.
Another notable stop is Luling City Market BBQ, located in the sleepy community of Luling, 40 miles southwest of Austin. This establishment fosters a no-forks and no-plates policy, but that does not seem to affect their popularity. Because the meat simply falls off the bone, diners do not even need them. Guests walk into the back of the smokehouse, choose their meats, and can sit down and eat them off butcher paper at the picnic tables in the dining hall.
Along the Texas BBQ Trail, there are nearly 40 stops to make, so bring a good appetite if planning to indulge in a trip to the region to explore the numerous options. However, there are so many interesting parks, trails, and stunning lakes in the area, that there will be ample opportunities to work up another appetite.
Tracey is an avid foodie and traveler. She is also an editor for the Burnet County Tourism Office which promotes tourism in The Highland Lakes of Texas.
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