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Best Grill BBQ


Texas barbecue has no peer on earth. If you’re reading this in Texas, you may wonder why we need to begin with such an obvious statement, but there are people who contend otherwise. In Kansas City they tout paltry slices of gray beef covered in sweet ketchup; the whole thing resembles cold cuts more than barbecue, which is why their arguments generally center on sauce rather than meat. In Memphis they grill ribs over charcoal and fret about whether to hide the product under a pool of sugary sauce or cover it with flavored dust. In the Carolinas they lift their noses and say through pursed, vinegary lips that they invented barbecue. They may have a claim there, but luckily we Texans came along to perfect it.

Let’s back up. The American barbecue tradition is rooted in numerous ancient practices. Caddo Indians had a method for smoking venison, and in the West Indies, natives grilled meats on a frame of green sticks. When European colonists arrived in the New World, no doubt tired of all the salt cod from the long Atlantic passage, they found a local populace given to roasting all manner of game—iguanas, fish, birds, corn, pretty much anything at hand. The Europeans’ contribution to this scenario was to introduce a tasty new animal: the hog. Not only was this beast a marked improvement over the previous fare, but its own gastronomic habits proved well suited to the slop-filled environs of the burgeoning Eastern seaboard. In rural areas and colonial burgs, pigs would roam freely, indiscriminately eating trash until someone decided to roast them, which was done in the local manner—a hole in the ground, a fire, and a split hog laid directly above it on a wood frame.

Barbecue might never have advanced beyond this crude stage but for the fact that another type of animal had come to these shores at the same time as the pig: the cow. Eventually, bovines made their way up through Mexico to the vast grazing lands of Texas, and it didn’t take long for us to figure out what to do with them. We started out by placing the beef directly over the flames but eventually adopted a more elegant approach by which the meat was smoked to tenderness in a chamber with a fire pit at one end and a chimney at the other. Over time, barbecue proliferated throughout the state, eventually leading to the opening of commercial establishments like Elgin’s Southside Market, in 1886, and Lockhart’s Kreuz Market, in 1900. We’ve been arguing about barbecue joints ever since.

Unlike our friends in the South, however, our arguments involve only the important stuff—not who has the better sauce or rub but who has the best meat. And in Texas, this means beef. Sure, we smoke hogs, in the form of spareribs, pork chops, or even (gasp) pulled pork, but we specialize in the Mount Everest of barbecue: brisket. In all of barbecuedom, there is no greater challenge and no greater reward.

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