Talking about BBQ is a bit like talking about religion or politics; everyone has an opinion, and it’s easy to cross a line into sacrilege. Is Carolina whole-hog BBQ the best? Is it Memphis? What about Texas? To help us Aussies get it straight, we talked to our own Chef Adam Moore for a bit of a primer.
Having just spent a good amount of time in Houston and other parts of the Lone Star state, we’re feeling charged up about Texas-style BBQ! What makes Texas BBQ different?
For the most part, Texas BBQ focuses on dry rubs and smoke. In some places if you put sauce on your BBQ it’s a sin! The rubs and woods all vary with the region in Texas ‒ east, west, north and south ‒ all have their own preferences, and all would tell you theirs is the best.
The famous BBQ spots in Texas all have big and expensive equipment for their pits. How can home cooks get similar results?
You can get a smoker for a couple hundred dollars these days, well worth it if you want to really dive into BBQ. If you don’t have one, your domed grill like the ones from Weber work fine - you just need to learn to keep it steady with temperature with your airflow and coals. Start your fire about an hour early, get the coals hot, pop them in the grill and push them to the sides, and monitor the temperature with a thermometer. As a rough guide, you should be able to hold your hand over the middle of the grill without burning yourself.
What about the smoke, how do you get that effect? These days, you can get a wide variety of wood chips and chunks for the grill. You can totally geek out on it if you want to! [editor’s note: Serious Eats has a great piece on different woods] If you’re using chips, pre-soak them in water for 30 minutes; they’ll last longer, and the smoke flavor will be less harsh.
What are some of your favorite TX BBQ preparations?Ooh. Brisket for sure, and those hot link sausages are awesome. I love to take an Aussie lamb shoulder and cook it like a Texas brisket with a dry rub and long, slow cooking with a little wood smoke. Lamb cooks faster since it’s a smaller piece of meat, so you can be done in about 3 hours for a square-cut shoulder; about an hour a pound.
OK, so if it’s all about the rub, then you must have your special blend. What’s in it?I can’t tell you that, it’s a secret! Every chef has their own, but I like to use smoked paprika and brown sugar in mine. The sugar gives you that crusty bark on the exterior that’s a signature of Texas BBQ. In general Alton Brown’s golden ratio of 8:3:1:1 sweet, salt, chili powder, and flavorings is a good guide. So if you have 8 TBS of brown sugar, 3 TBS of kosher salt, 1 TBS chili powder and/or paprika, then a mix of other herbs and spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and onion to add up to the final 1 TBS.
Hungry yet? Click here for Adam’s lamb rub, steak rub and BBQ seasoning recipes. And if you just can’t wait for BBQ but want to get grilling, Adam’s grassfed beef grilling tips are here.