In Texas, barbecue isn't merely a savory cooking style but a matter of religious import. To know it requires education, discipline, a missionary sense of adventure . . . and likely a belt-hole puncher. Dedicated meat eater Daniel Vaughn, of the blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ, has made Texas's grand tradition his specialty and was a featured speaker at the recent 2013 Foodways Texas Symposium (this year's genius theme: Our Barbecue, Ourselves).
While researching his new book, 'The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue,' Vaughn crisscrossed more than 10,000 miles of Lone Star State highway and returned with culinary discoveries, arcana, and recipes from the state's distinct and storied barbecue regions and pitmasters. The book is an ode to what's been described as the country's only true vernacular food – one that changes with the lay of the land. Vaughn offers up Texas barbecue's basic premise as: "Simply seasoned meat cooked to tenderness over hardwood smoke." Yet in a state larger than France, such generalizations don't do justice to the bounty and incredible variations: Pork and sauce make appearances in the land of beef, and the tortilla joins white bread as the quintessential barbecue napkin. Still, despite the variety and volume of contenders, Vaughn says there are plenty of standouts and so gave us his top 10 picks that any visitor to Texas ought to experience.
Kreuz Market, Lockhart
Lockhart is small-town Central Texas at its finest, a longtime barbecue pilgrimage site founded on the meats of the state's German immigrant past. Along with neighboring Smitty's Market, Kreuz's history dates back to 1900, but it doesn't coast on its reputation. Kreuz Market makes use of a cavernous joint to go beyond the standard offerings. "After all that brisket, you may be looking for a change, and Kreuz can provide it," Vaughn says. Which means relishing in anticipation while watching pitmaster Roy Perez slicing cuts of meat like beef shoulder clod, whole racks of pork, and even prime rib. And as a bonus, Vaughn says visitors always leave with a distinctive souvenir: "You'll definitely get a little of that good-smelling smoke into your clothes from ordering so close to the pits."
Credit: Nicholas McWhirter