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Texas Barbecue: An Ode to Beef

Posted on 9th Mar, 2011 by Sean Timberlake
Beef Brisket by Jen Yu

What does barbecue mean to you? For those of us who grew up anywhere other than the South, barbecue probably means the Weber that you cooked burgers and dogs on, or the act of doing so. But below the Mason-Dixon line, barbecue is a dish, and one that comes in a spectrum of variations. By and large, most of the South makes barbecue with pork that has been slow cooked until it can be shredded — or “pulled” — and then doused in a sweet-sour tomato-based sauce. The resulting sauced meat is then piled on a bun and served typically with cole slaw — on the side or right on the sandwich if you prefer.

When In Texas

Texas, however, is cow country, and so invariably in the Lone Star State barbecue means beef. Typically, the beef is a sizable brisket that’s been coated all over with a dry rub of spices and cooked in a smoker at a relatively low temperature for eight to ten hours and periodically basted with a vinegary sauce known as a “wet mop.” The final product is then sliced rather than pulled, slathered with a tangy-spicy barbecue sauce and served on white bread. (Pro tip: Try to nab one of the well-encrusted end pieces. Good eats indeed.) Wanna make your own? Jen of use real butter breaks it down for you.

Don’t Forget the Sides

Of course, barbecue is at least as much about the side dishes as it is about the slab of beef itself, and Lisa the Homesick Texan has side dishes in spades. Acidic and spicy things bring the brisket to life, so be sure to have some pickled jalapeños and pickled okra on hand to wake up the palate. Beans make a nice complement, be they porky and hearty or tangy and zippy. A little Texas-style potato salad adds cooling creaminess to the plate. For dessert, a blueberry peach cornmeal cobbler is a classic choice, and a nod to cowboy cookery where everything can be done over open flames or hot coals.

And if you simply cannot fathom barbecue without pork, go ahead and give some ribs a Texas twist by making them with Dr Pepper.

Photography by Jen Yu

Sean Timberlake has written about food and travel for the Cooking Channel, SF Weekly’s SFoodie blog, Leite’s Culinaria, SFStation, Foodista, NileGuide and the Out Traveler. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, Paul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.

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