Texas competes with a number of other southern US states for the bragging rights on the best barbecue. The Texas variety differs significantly from others. Greg Flakus explains exactly why and profiles a member of the Texas outfit that claims to produce the best BBQ anywhere.
It is not hard to find good barbeque any day in Texas, but to sample the best of what the Lone Star state offers, you have to be in Houston in March for the world's biggest livestock show and rodeo.
If there is anyone in Texas who knows the secrets of barbeque it is R.M. Bethell of the "Goody Girls" team. He says Texas barbeque is quite different from what is found in other parts of the country. "On the east coast and in the southern states they do a lot of pulled pork. They cook basically pork. We cook beef. We smoke our meat. There is a difference between grilling meat and smoking it. All of our pits, we are cooking on indirect heat or what is called a hot smoke because our fire box is on the end of the pit."
The "pit" used in Texas is generally not a hole in the ground, but an old barrel with a fire box on one end and a smoke stack on the other. Nothing but chopped wood is used in the fire boxes.
R.M. Bethell talks about the importance of the wood used. He says, "Wood is a big factor in a lot of areas. Mesquite is native to Texas. A lot of people cook on oak here, pecan, hickory. You go to different parts of the country, they are going to cook on the wood that I am assuming is more prevalent in their area. Mesquite is native to Texas so that is why we cook a lot on mesquite. Mesquite burns a little hotter than some of the other woods. The smoke adds a little different flavor."
Another important element is the sauce used on the meat and again, Texas sauce is different. Of the sauce, Bethell tells why Texas sauce is different from others. "Most Texas sauce is tomato based with a little mustard in it and maybe a touch of vinegar. It is a pretty sweet sauce. If you go to southeastern states, they are vinegar-based sauce. Kansas City sauce is going to have molasses in it and most of your Texas sauces don't," he said.
R. M. Bethell says the Goody Girls rarely experiment with their sauce since it has helped them win prizes all over the country. "We have been successful with what we have and we don't play around with it too much. It is kind of like your mama's recipe and we are not messing with it."
By the way, the name of this team-"Goody Girls" dates back to when it was an all-female group, but it now includes around 50 people of both sexes, with men doing the cooking and women doing the serving. One female member says, "I think it is a great idea. I am very good at talking and socializing and trying to get to know other people. I think they are doing what they do best." Another says, "We love men who cook!"
Although teams like the Goody Girls come here to compete, most people visiting their tent come just to eat and enjoy an old Texas tradition.