Few foods in American culture smell of the sort of mythologizing that barbecuing does. With so many legends and myths surrounding BBQ, Texas Standard decided to sit down and pull apart the truths from the lies with Daniel Vaughn, BBQ Editor for The Texas Monthly.
Myth #1: To qualify as proper barbecue, it has to be made in the south.
“We’re finding out pretty quickly here that there’s good barbecue in a lot of different places in the country outside of the Southeast states… Hometown Barbecue in Brooklyn — there’s very few beef ribs in Texas that are any better than that one.”
Myth #2: The best barbecue is done using a secret method.
“Most of the secrets in barbecue really have to do with the knowledge and experience of the pit master. As far as secret ingredients, like I’ve said many times before, that little pinch of onion powder in your rub, if you think that secret is what’s gonna get you over the mountain top, then you’re in for a rough smoke. If you talk to pit masters around the state, by and large, you’re going to get their recipes. Whether they tell you their method for smoking brisket [or] their recipe for their rub. Part of it is also just a little bit of bravado on their end too, like ‘Hey, yeah, here’s how I do it, go for it, good luck.'”
Myth #3: In order to be considered good barbecue, there’s got to be a pink smoke ring.
“The smoke ring itself is a sign that it’s been smoked properly, but without a smoke ring it doesn’t mean it hasn’t. The smoke ring itself is a chemical reaction — a lot of things have to come into play as far as moisture and temperature, so even if it doesn’t have a smoke ring, it can still be plenty smoky.”
Myth #4: It’s all about the sauce.
“It’s all about the sauce if you’re talking about barbecue that needs to be covered up. If I’m out judging barbecue, I’m always gonna ask for sauce on the side — not because I don’t like barbecue sauce, but I like to see what the meat tastes like without it. It’s really how you judge barbecue, is how that meat is going to taste without the sauce. In Texas, we argue about the meat, in Kansas City they choose their favorites based on what the sauce is. So that tells you a little bit about which barbecue is better.”
Myth #5: It’s gotta fall off the bone.
“For me, I’d rather it not fall off the bone. Nature’s already given you one of its perfect handles in the rib bone, so why waste it with meat flopping over onto your plate? I want there to be a little tug — you gotta know this thing was once an animal. Most of us have teeth… that we’re eating this barbecue with, we don’t really need it to be already chewed before we get it.”