Texas BBQ Styles

American barbecue dates back to colonial times. The first mention was recorded in 1672. In 1769 George Washington mentions attending a “barbicue” in Alexandria, Virginia. As the country expanded westwards along the Gulf of Mexico and north along the Mississippi River, barbecue went with it.

As people settled and towns grew, various regional BBQ styles developed depending on various influences like culture, weather, and animals that were typically raised. For example, North-South, Carolina, and Memphis BBQ are pork but Western Kentucky is all about mutton.

Texas BBQ has been influenced by a wide range of cultures. In the 1800s, many German, Czech, and Mexican immigrants flooded into the state of Texas, bringing with them different techniques for smoking and preparing meat. The influence of at least one of the three can be seen in some way in almost every barbecue joint in Texas.

Central Texas was the home of the longhorn and the cattle drive, so beef was the meat of choice. The three main types of BBQ that one will find in Texas are beef brisket, ribs, and sausage, with brisket being the most popular.

You always find pork on the menu at Texas-style BBQ joints, but when you say Texas BBQ – beef, and especially beef brisket rules the day. Texas being such a large state, four regional BBQ styles developed in Central, East, South, and West Texas.

All feature smoked and grilled and meats. They also have side dishes that traditionally accompany them. Beef brisket and various pork products are considered the state specialty. However, each region has its own twist on the deliciousness.

You will find variations on all these styles at each BBQ joint, but here we will just give the traditional description of the typical BBQ style of the region.

Let’s look at each region:

Central Texas BBQ

This is where Texas barbecue began and then spread through the whole state, (and eventually the world!)

Typically, the meat gets a dry rub of salt and pepper, some pitmasters may have their own special rub with spices like cayenne pepper or granulated garlic. The meat is cooked “low and slow” in an offset (wood fire not directly on the meat) smoker for hours with mesquite, pecan, or oak wood. Briskets are sliced and sold by the pound and served on a piece of butcher paper and eaten with the hands.

At Caldwell County BBQ we serve Central Texas-style BBQ with an Arizona twist. This includes smoked beef brisket, pork spare ribs, turkey, pulled pork, sausage, and freshly made sides. We believe it is incomparable to most BBQ styles offered anywhere in the USA. Sauce is considered unnecessary in Central Texas-style, and Caldwell County BBQ doesn’t go all out on sauce when smoking the meat. But can be served on the side to complement the meat.

East Texas BBQ

East Texas takes a whole different approach to their BBQ. Rather than a simple dry rub of salt and pepper, the meat is marinated in a sweet tomato-based sauce. Then it is smoked low and slow with indirect heat like Central Texas. However, East Texas BBQ is usually smoked even longer with hickory wood until it is falling off the bone. In this tender state rather than being sliced and sold by the pound, the meat is chopped and served as a sandwich on a bun.

For East Texas BBQ lovers, beef and pork are both equally popular. Pulled pork and shredded brisket are a mainstay. Typically, pickles, onions, and sauce were added to the sandwich, but now you will find many variations with additions like coleslaw, jalapenos, and even cheese.

South Texas BBQ

This style features a sweet molasses-based sauce that locks in moisture and is typically smoked with Mesquite wood.

Texas-style barbecue has a strong Mexican influence. Vaqueros, Mexican horsemen who helped ranchers tend their cattle, were paid in pieces of low-quality meat. Tex-Mex popular dishes came from these early ways of making poor quality meat more edible such as fajitas, where the diaphragm of the cow was used. Burritos and tacos used the cow’s tongues.

Meat from a cow’s head that is traditionally cooked in underground coal pits known as “barbacoa,” is another Southern Texas BBQ iconic dish inspired by the Mexican Vaqueros. Although the traditional way of cooking a whole cow head in underground pits is not often used, parts like the cow’s cheek and tongue are served.

West Texas BBQ

Contrasting the other Texas styles using offset low and slow methods, West Texas BBQ is traditionally cooked over the direct heat of an open flame. This makes it most like traditional grilling as opposed to smoking. West Texas barbecue is specifically associated with mesquite wood, as mesquite is one of the few tree species that thrive in the arid West Texas climate.

Why Central Texas-style is the preferred method of most Texas-style BBQ restaurants.

Many people all from all over the world come to Texas to experience Central Texas BBQ. From England, France, Italy, to Sweden and other places you would never think of you will find Texas BBQ fans visiting famous Texas BBQ joints.

What’s the secret to this widespread popularity?

While other regions dutifully mop sauce over their meats while they cook and dispute the superiority of vinegar- versus mustard-based sauces, the only ingredients traditionally used to make Texas-style brisket are beef, a touch of salt and pepper, plus lots of patience as it cooks low and slow for up to 18 hours.

Famous pitmaster Edgar Black Sr is quoted as saying about Texas BBQ “It’s not what we put in our barbecue, it’s what we don’t put in our barbecue that makes it so good,”

This simple approach allows the meat’s natural flavor to be featured, and not be covered by a rush of other flavors. So, the widespread love of Central Texas Style – its simplicity requires less preparation, and traditional reasons, make this style the preferred method of Texas-style BBQ restaurants.

If you love BBQ then your satisfaction is guaranteed when you come to Caldwell County BBQ. We take great pride and care in preparing our simple back to basics Central Texas Style BBQ. Made with all-natural, responsibly raised meat that is 100% wood smoked for 24 hours to perfection and melts in your mouth.