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All About BBQ in The Texas Hill Country

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I don’t know if it’s ever been made official by any government decree, but barbecue is the national food of Texas. And most of the best barbecue joints” in Texas are right here in the Texas Hill Country!

To be fair, I should point out that some form of barbeque/barbecue (the other accepted spelling — I’ll just say “BBQ” from now on) exists all ’round the world; the term applies to a lot of different kinds of slow-cooked meats with a lot of different rubs and sauces. In the U.S., BBQ is popular in one form or another across the Midwest and South, with Kansas City in particular as the center for one particular flavor.

BBQ in The Texas Hill Country


But it was very enlightening to me to see that two “BBQ experts” (Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk, who put “Ph.B” after their names), both from Kansas City and trying to include all possible states, rated 15 Texas BBQ joints in their “Top 100” nationwide. To show how tolerant they were, the list includes entries from states like Washington, Minnesota, New York and even Vermont! At the end of their book, “America’s Best BBQ,” the authors each listed their top ten favorite BBQ joints; Cooper’s BBQ in Llano was rated #1 by Ardie and #4 by Paul.

Another book (“Republic of Barbecue,” by Elizabeth Engelhardt) zeroes in on BBQ joints in Central Texas. Again, to be fair I should point out that several towns east of I-35 are noted for their excellent BBQ: Lockhart, Elgin and Taylor immediately come to mind. But many of the best and most popular BBQ joints anywhere are in the Hill Country.

BBQ in The Texas Hill Country

I should back up here and point out that cattle have always been a huge part of the Hill Country economy (much of the Hill Country’s tremendous growth in the late 1800s was fueled by the cattle drives to Kansas for shipment by railroad to the packing yards of Chicago). Early German and Czech pioneers were experts at sausage-making, and experimented with ways to prepare the tough “briskets” or heavy chest muscles, from the butchered cattle. At first, the briskets were cooked at low temperatures in dutch ovens, but eventually it was found that a long, slow cooking process in a closed “pit” with indirect heat made for tender and delicious briskets. So while there is an assortment of BBQ meats (pork being the main ingredient across most of the South), brisket rules in Central Texas.

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