Food News

In Texas, a Golden Age for Smoked Meat

There's a barbecue revolution afoot. Put a tiara on that slab of meat and give it a dozen roses. Barbecue is the new beauty queen in the culinary world.

For many of us, smoked meat is as right as being born a Texan, or getting here as soon as you could. Brisket and ribs are clogging our veins and we all have our particular places or styles we grew up with. More than anything, we love to argue about which place or style is best.

After Texas Monthly anointed Daniel Vaughn as its barbecue editor, a New York Times article pointed to a "golden age of barbecue."

That certainly seems to be the case. Forces have colluded to make us to take a new look at the culture and flavor behind barbecue. Locally, it's been fun to get a fresh perspective on barbecue as our favorite Brit, Gavin Cleaver, charts his maiden voyage through glorious, yet gluttonous, amounts of smoked meat. Vaughn's new book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, was just released, as was Texas Monthly's five-year list of the 50 best joints in the state. Tim Byres of Smoke also recently released a new cookbook, Smoke, which is a rustic field guide for plotting your own narrative using fire and meat (make this book your best friend this summer). Even New York City has a new, and very popular, Hill Country Barbecue Market.

Then there's the organization Foodways Texas, which is a group of chefs, journalists and scholars who document and celebrate the historical narrative of meat across the state. Technically part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, the group hosts events like "Smoke and Suds" at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., and the annual Texas Symposium, all of which aim to spotlight the rich conclaves of food culture in our state.

It's like we just need to go ahead and start a barbecue college. Oh wait. There's that too. It's actually more of a camp, which is perhaps even better.

Bottom line: Texas barbecue is no longer relegated to rural roads in otherwise obscure towns, where all those out-of-towners stick out like sore thumbs when they belly up to a table surrounded by locals.

And it keeps getting better: Shiner Beer and Texas Monthly's relaunched website,, has organized a Texas Barbecue Week, a "Five Day 'Cue Salute" to all this greatness. The weeklong celebration of the state's "culinary heritage" is a way to support our best barbecue joints, which play an important role in preserving our most endearing culinary contribution to the world.

The celebratory week is July 15 and the official site will eventually include a list of participating joints, presumably many of those on the 50 best list.

Foodways Texas is the "beneficiary" of barbecue week; each restaurant will donate a portion of their proceeds the UT-based nonprofit.

TMBBQ is also hosting a Central Texas Road Trip that will haul a group of carnivores around in a cattle trailer charter bus to Snow's BBQ for breakfast, Louie Mueller's in Taylor for lunch, then Franklin Barbecue in Austin for dinner. All profits for this event will go to the victims of the tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.