Texas has always been known for its barbecue, and every town seems to have had one or more joints where you could get brisket, chicken and sausage. But in 1973, Texas Monthly magazine began quantifying enjoyment of smoked meat by ranking the top 20 barbecue places in the state. Today, the list has expanded to 50, and its annual release generates headlines across Texas and beyond.

The 2017 list, out this week, adds an extra layer of drama, as the previous champion has been toppled. Where there’s smoke, there’s Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor for Texas Monthly, and proprietor of the Top 50 list. He says we are currently enjoying “the golden age of Texas barbecue.”

On how making it onto the list can affect a barbecue place negatively:

“If you think that ‘well now I’m on this list, I’m gonna get a lot of business, so I better cook as much as I possibly can, quality be damned’ then it will break you. People will stop coming.”

On the evolution of the central Texas barbecue belt:

“These days, a lot of the best barbecue in Texas is made in bigger cities. Lockhart has some great barbecue…but a lot of places in Austin have surpassed them, and a lot of places in Houston are certainly on the way up, too.”

On big city barbecue:

“Unlike a lot of states, the big cities in Texas are not averse to giving out permits to barbecue places that are cooking the old way, so they don’t have to go to the gas cookers that a lot of the big city barbecue joints across the country  have to do.”

The Top 3 of the 2017 Texas Monthly Top 50:

– Snow’s (Lexington)

– Franklin Barbecue (Austin)

– Cattleack Barbeque (Dallas)

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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