Thursday, April 16, 2009

Texas BBQ Ain't All That

Way back a colleague of mine, well versed in the world of BBQ, provided some great insights on the world of BBQ. He explained that the styles of BBQ that people cite (Texas, Carolina, Kansas City) aren't really strict styles but general schools of BBQ. For example, Carolina BBQ has many sub-genres unique to different sections of the Southeastern US. The thing that binds them together is the sweet & sour sauce, and the emphasis on slow cooked pork.

The colleague also went on to diss Texas BBQ. His theory was that Texas (a major beef producer) used its dominance of the beef market to proliferate the idea that beef was the king of BBQ meats, and that the only good BBQ'd beef was Texan. He also stated that Texas BBQ wasn't nearly as delicious as Texans claimed it was.

After this week, I'd have to agree with him.

I visited Dallas earlier this week. I was so excited to finally eat Texas BBQ in Texas. Random Texans I had met (predictably) sang the praises of Texas BBQ to me. I even heard a story about a bunch of Texans visiting Israel who challenged the Israelis to a food battle -- Texas BBQ vs. Shwarma. Stupid food machismo...

While in Texas I only ate two meals of BBQ. It was enough. Afterwards I had no more taste for meat, and ate seafood for the rest of the trip.

Yes, that's right, BBQ in Dallas was so bad that it drove me to eat seafood hundreds of miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

I ate BBQ at two different restaurants in Dallas that had 4 star yelp reviews. The common factor in all of them was that the meat was as dry as a bone. At the first place I ate a combo of beef and pork ribs, to get a comparison of how different meats react to Texas BBQ techniques. The next day I had a beef brisket.

The first case, I wrote it off as being a problem with the restaurant. I ate there at dinner, in a mostly empty restaurant. The place was probably more of a lunch spot than a dinner spot. So what I ate was probably left in the cooker for several hours too long.

With that in mind I went to my second restaurant the next day for lunch. It was a busy bbq joint with high turnover at lunch. I assumed that there would be meat fresh out of the smoker, and it would be moist and juicy. So I took a historically fat and juicy cut of meat, beef brisket, known back on the East Coast as pastrami.

See the picture below;

From Drop Box

Notice all that thick brown sauce covering the beef brisket. That's a BBQ sauce that they drench the meat in. Its the only moisture that the meat has. While it was the same cut of meat as pastrami it was radically different in flavor and texture, but not in a good way.

Oh Katz Delicatessen where art thou...

I asked for more details from my BBQ expert colleague. His theory was that Texas BBQ relies to much on smoke, essentially slow smoking the meat to the point that all the moisture disappears. In that situation, drenching the meat in an overpowering sauce is the only way to keep the meat palatable.

Thinking back to the story I heard about the Texan's challenging the Israeli's to a BBQ throw-down, I know which side I'm betting on in that fight. I'll take a shwarma over Texas BBQ ribs anyday.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sending this on to my brother to get his opinion since he is quite an expert with the smoker. I've always been a huge K.C. fan myself.