Brisket is a tough cut of meat, literally -- laced with collagen and when trimmed correctly, topped with a nice fat cap. The best way to cook it is “low and slow” – low heat and over a long time, and with great attention to detail, the kind of attention, in fact that only experience can bring. There are many, many ways to ruin a brisket. But when it’s in the right hands, a barbecued brisket is truly a thing of glory.
As good as the brisket is, there’s all kinds of barbecue to be had in the state –as Robb Walsh, author and former food critic for the Houston Press, explains in his essential book, Legends of Texas Barbecue. As the largest state in the lower 48 – the only state in the country that’s bigger geographically is Alaska – there’s plenty of regional variation in Texas barbecue, both historically and today. In East Texas, you’ll find a southern influence, and so pork ribs (albeit no sauce); in German-influenced Hill Country, smoked sausage, and of course, a strong Mexican influence, which leads to grilled goat, lengua (tongue)and roasted cow heads.
Beef still reigns supreme on the Texas grill, though, and that’s due to the history of the Texas cattle industry – you don’t have to know much about Lone Star State history to know that long horn cattle, cowboys, and cattle drives are an indelible part of the state’s identity and mystique. Although cattle drives ended with the advent of refrigeration and the railroads, the beef industry is still a big part of life in Texas: Cattle are still the state’s number one agricultural product, and Texas still leads the nation in beef production.
- The German connection with Texas BBQ
- The history of the Texas cattle drive.
- The history of farming in the United States
Houston is the largest city in Texas, but it isn’t the epicenter of Texas barbecue – that’d be the Barbecue Belt closer to Austin, especially the towns of Lockhart, Taylor and Elgin. (Where, in fact, you can follow the Texas BBQ Trail.) But there’s plenty of delicious barbecue in Houston, and the advantage here is one that’s typically urban – you can get a good sampling of all the styles of barbecue that are found throughout the Lone Star state, and also the world, as Houston has a sizable Asian population.
Read on to learn where to find the best 'cue in the city.