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.
Mac's Bar-B-Que, Dallas
Finally, because every guy needs somewhere close to home, there's Mac's, in Vaughn's own Dallas. "This is my guilty-pleasure barbecue," he says. "Whether it's the banter with owner Billy McDonald or the killer sauce, this is the local place where folks are happy to become regulars." Did Vaughn say sauce? "I talk plenty about eschewing sauce, but Mac's is where I get my brisket chopped, my sandwiches sloppy, and my hands dripping in barbecue sauce," he tells us. (While sauce is generally frowned upon in Texas barbecue, he describes the East Texas style, which you'll find in the urban centers and suburbs, as descended from a Deep South, sauce-heavy lineage.) Here, after 10,000 miles, Vaughn no longer has to be a purist road warrior of the dusty plains or battle it out for meat that has diseappeared well before noon. And to go with that chopped, sloppy, sauced meat? Mac's ranch beans and "damn good fries."
Credit: Full Custom Gospel BBQ