Heart of Texas Magazine

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

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Tony Maples Photography


“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors- It’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”-Wolfgang Puck

Tried and true and about as American as we can get is our love affair with barbeque. Or is it BBQ, Bar-b-que, barbecue, or even barbacoa? There are a variety of ways used to pronounce it, just as there are a variety of down-home family recipes passed from generation to generation ready to argue their barbecue is the best! Believe it or not, it also goes way beyond Texas. Although we Texans love to brag we have the best barbecue anywhere across the globe, the truth of the matter is scrumptious barbeque can be found in other states, each with their own unique style to it. Is it as renowned as, say, Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, or Truth BBQ in Brenham? Some would argue not, but one thing for sure is that everything is bigger in Texas, and good barbecue is a prime example.

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

Photo: “A southern barbecue, wood engraving from a sketch by Horace Bradley.”

The evolution of our beloved barbecue can be traced to areas known as the “barbecue belt,” according to an article by Smithsonian.com. “The area of the United States known as the “barbecue belt” houses four distinct barbecue traditions – Carolina, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City.” Interestingly enough, I also came across an article from CulinaryLore in my search for the backstory on barbecue and discovered some unique explanations about where the word was derived.

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

Photo: Courtesy of Franklin BBQ

Call them what you may, facts, theories, or myths, but the following explanations as to how the word barbecue made its way into the hearts of millions is worth a share. One theory, according to culinarylore.com, says the French laid claim to the word by stating it comes from… “barbe à queue which translates loosely into “from beard to tail.” Simply put, roasting the entire pig over fire pits, which, according to CulinaryLore, was how the first barbecues were done. The Spanish laid claim to the derivative of the word by stating it had… “actually come from the Carribbean Taino Indians, who cooked on high wooden racks above burning wood. They called these racks barbacoas.” Furthermore, they state Columbus brought this technique back to Spain, which in turn introduced the pigs into the mix because they “brought the pigs to Florida which multiplied throughout the Southeast.” Lastly, the word is said to come from “the Taino word barabicu which means the sacred fire pit,” shared CulinaryLore. Although these explanations sound good in theory, the origins vary as much as the variety of barbecue recipes you will come across.

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

Photo: Courtesy of Truth BBQ

Regardless of where the word barbecue originated, many Texans will tell you some of the best fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth, kind of BBQ can be traced back to pits grilling your favorite meats starting bright and early in almost any corner of our picturesque Hill Country. However, as mentioned above, “the barbecue belt” goes far beyond Texas into Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City. Each has their own unique flair for seasoning and creating the tantalizing sauce smothered on top, but for the purpose of this article, let’s just say Texas is the granddaddy of them all! Barbecue is second nature to Texas. It’s a part of the fabric that makes up the Lone Star State with central, south, east and west regions in Texas being as diverse as the “barbecue belt” with their own style of barbecue.

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

In central Texas, according to Wikipedia, you might find barbecue being cooked over pecan, oak, or mesquite wood or a combination of all three. “Central Texas pit-style barbecue was established in the 19th century along the Chisholm Trail in the towns of LockhartLuling, and Taylor.” East Texas will be the best place for that “fall off the bone” style with its meat cooked over hickory wood and smothered with a “sweet, tomato-based sauce.” West Texas will find you enjoying barbecue cooked over high temps from mesquite wood. This is sometimes referred to as “cowboy style,” according to Wikipedia. Let’s not forget the Southern-style barbecue, highlighted by its thicker sauce bringing out the tantalizing flavors of the moist meat it’s known for. It’s also known for its barbacoa introduced by Mexican farmhands. “It is the cow’s head which defines South Texas barbecue (called barbacoa),” states Wikipedia. After being wrapped in “wet maguey leaves” and cooked for several hours in a pit with hot coals, it would be pulled off for barbacoa tacos that south Texas is renowned for.

Chasing the BBQ Truths, Myths and Legends through Texas

Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

Many barbecue places have been passed down through generations of families with their own special recipes. It’s interesting to see the paths that have made some of these crowd favorites a little slice of heaven with a side order of homemade goodness, all served up with Texas hospitality.

Pecan Lodge BBQ located in Deep Ellum Dallas. Independently owned and operated by Justin & Diane Fourton. “They offer the perfect balance of sweetness and vinegary bite to offset the richness of the smoked meat,” shared the couple in a previous article with Heart of Texas. Everything is made from scratch, along with old family recipes shared along the way. Visit Pecanlodge.com

Blacks BBQ in Lockhart, Texas, has been a Hill Country favorite since 1932. “3rd Generation Pitmaster Kent Black slow smokes all Barbecue the way his grandfather did in 1932. A simple rub, local Post Oak Wood and patience is the secret,” shares its website.

Franklins BBQ in Austin, Texas, where the atmosphere is just as enticing as their barbecue. Aaron and Stacy Franklin opened Franklin Barbecue in December of 2009, and usually have a line out the door. Most of their fame comes from their delectable brisket. Just salt and pepper is the seasoning of choice. Visit franklinbbq.com/

Opie’s Barbecue a Hill Country family-owned gem since 1999 in Spicewood, Texas. Their sweet and spicy baby back ribs will keep you coming back for more.  www.opiesbarbecue.com

Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, needs a mention as it’s known as a Texas staple around these parts. Bobby Mueller carried on the legacy of his father. Today his son Wayne is the 3rd Generation Owner | Pit Master. www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com/

The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, “A Texas legend since 1967,” according to its website. If you know barbecue you know Salt Lick with “recipes that have roots back to the wagon trains in the mid-1800’s.” saltlickbbq.com/

The list is endless for barbecue connoisseurs and enthusiasts on the hunt for a great place to stop around Texas for some down-home, slow cooked, mouthwatering brisket, chicken, or sausage, and homemade sides to go with that order of an American classic. A legend in its own right, no matter how you pronounce it or where it started. One thing for sure is that it’s here to stay and continue growing its roots deep in the heart of Texas.