Texas BBQ has become so popular and a part of American life that one has to wonder just how it became such a big hit. It is not only an ingrained part of Texas culture; Texas-style BBQ joints are popping up all throughout the United States and even the world.
There was no big corporation behind it like McDonald’s with massive advertising campaigns. Business savvy independent business owners nowadays market online, but there’s never been a major push to make Central Texas BBQ, in particular, a household name. It just grew organically on its own.
The story goes that the Central Texas barbecue method came from Czechs and Germans who had settled in Texas in the 1840s. They were looking to improve their economic situation as are most immigrants. Farmland prices in Texas were attractive compared to their homeland, so they bought land to raise cattle.
Many owned butcher shops in town and smoked the left-over meat to preserve it, which they had plenty of being the shop owner and supplier. They started to offer their smoked meat to butcher shop customers, and it became so popular their shops soon became BBQ joints. This is the reason it would seem to this day that Texas BBQ means beef!
These original barbecue lovers would eat BBQ on a piece of butcher paper served with whatever was on the shop’s shelves. Sides such as crackers, pickles, onion, or jalapenos, and these are still served as sides today.
The leftover smoked meat at these butcher shop BBQ joints became a staple food for Texas cowboys and migrant cotton pickers. So, BBQ was a poor man’s food then. Slow cooking made less-desirable cuts of meat affordable and edible. Some workers would get it as part of their pay.
Migrant cotton farmers did a lot to make BBQ popular. As they followed the cotton around Texas, more options were needed to feed the increase in mouths to feed.
Cotton pickers weren’t typically welcomed in restaurants. But at butcher shop BBQ joints anyone was welcome, regardless of what their social status was or what they did for a living. Temporary smokers were set up when the migrants came to town, which served the workers from dawn till dusk.
When the Civil War was over, cowboys were able to drive Texas longhorns northward along the famous Chisholm Trail from Texas all the way to Kansas City. The cowboys took their love of beef BBQ spreading it all along what is now called the barbecue belt.
Germans Brought Us Brisket
The Brisket was considered a worthless cut of meat in the US and was typically ground up for chili or stew. The Germans already had a culinary tradition of cooking meat low and slow until tender over an indirect flame in a Dutch oven. In the 1950s two German butchers put a brisket in a smoker and modern Texas Barbecue was born.
We also find the German influence with smoked sausages, potato salad, coleslaw, and beer, as part of the Texas BBQ experience.
So, next time you are in Caldwell County BBQ and ready to dig into our brisket and smoked sausage, and wash it down with a beer, raise your glasses and say PROST! And make a toast to those early German and Czech settlers who gave us this excellent tradition.
Barbecue – A Communal Celebration in Texas
Meat cooking from wood broadcasts a chemical invitation to a shared sensory experience, bringing large groups of people together. It is really a primal experience. Go way back when cavemen and women depended on a fire to cook and keep them safe and warm. It’s in our blood and in our DNA to respond to the aromas that trigger distant memories of smoke-filled celebrations.
BBQ events in Texas are frequent and can be huge serving ten thousand plates. One includes BBQ from as many as 50 top Texas BBQ joints. These events celebrate the best in barbecue with lots of food, cold beer, and live music. There are now more than 100 barbecue competitions in the state of Texas.
But you don’t need 1000’s of people to celebrate a birthday, the 4th of July or any day. Just come to Caldwell County BBQ and we will get you fixed up indoors or outdoors with a celebration and meal to remember!
Famous Texas BBQ Pitmasters
Texas has hundreds if not thousands of BBQ pitmasters. You can go almost anywhere in Texas and come upon a BBQ joint that features Central Texas BBQ brisket, ribs, sausage, and all the trimmings. Here are a few of the renowned pitmasters from the early days to current pitmasters:
Matt Garner – 1920’s
Matt Garner was a famous Houston mentor of BBQ cooks. There he opened Matt Garner’s Barbecue Stand. Garner mentored Joe Burney, who went on to open Burney’s Barbecue and Avalon Barbecue. Then, in turn, Joe Burney taught Harry Green who also became a Houston barbecue legend.
Walter Jetton – 1950’s
Walter Jetton was a “larger than life caterer and showman.” Called Fort Worth’s barbecue king, he built a huge catering business with a fleet of 18 trucks, serving over 1.5 million dinners a year! Also famous for being the head cook for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s cowboy-style barbecues at the LBJ Ranch.
Aaron Franklin – Present day
Aaron Franklin is a legend in the Texas BBQ circuit. The author of “A Meat Smoking Manifesto” his Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue started out in a small trailer on the roadside. Franklin Barbecue has grown to be a critically-acclaimed BBQ spot with Texas Monthly’s highly coveted “Best Barbecue Joint in Texas” ranking.
LeAnn Mueller – Present day
LeAnn Mueller is the owner of La Barbecue, known as a rival of Franklin BBQ. She’s the grandchild of legendary pitmaster Louie Mueller whose BBQ legacy started in 1949, he opened Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX, becoming one of the first restaurants to serve and vastly popularize — Texas barbecue.
From Texas to Gilbert, Arizona
From the early days of those first German and Czech settlers in Texas to around the world, low and slow cooking has made its mark.
You can find a Central Texas-style BBQ joint everywhere from Texas Joe’s Slow Smoked Meats in London England to The Beast barbecue restaurant in Paris, France.
Or, you can just come to Caldwell County BBQ here in Gilbert, Arizona. Bon appetit y’all!