With rodeo season in full swing, the barbecue returns to the party. Besides, should we say barbecue, BBQ, bbq, barbeque or barbecue ? What is its history and origin? How to taste it? We tell you all about this American tradition that is legendary in the Southern States. Without forgetting to give you the best addresses.
Its origin dates back to the time of Christopher Columbus, who discovered among the Indians how to keep meat warm with spices. The « barbacoa » designated the wooden trellis for cooking or smoking meat. This cooking technique also kept animals and insects away. Over the centuries its name will be distorted into bbq, borbecu, barbecue, barbeque to finally arrive at barbecue.
15th century origin in Texas
In Texas, the main state of BBQ Belt which brings together the Southern States, its history dates back to the 16th century with the first vaqueros who smoked their meat on stones. But it was the arrival of German and Czech settlers, mainly butchers, who brought full meaning to this culinary art. Traditionally, the latter smoked the remains of unsold meat, thus making it possible to preserve them longer. Very quickly, smoked meat markets appeared throughout the territory, offering beef brisket, pork chops and sausages. In 1964, President Johnson hosted the first state dinner and barbecue for the Mexican president-elect in Johnson City, Texas.
Since then, cooking meat on the grill has become a popular passion, even a national sport. But styles differ depending on where you live. In eastern regions, the meat is slowly cooked until it « falls off the bone », often marinated in a sweet tomato sauce. In the central provinces, it is rubbed fiercely with salt and black pepper and then cooked over indirect heat over mesquite wood. No sauce as it might kill the taste. It is quite the opposite in the West, where the direct heat of the wood is used in the way of cooking on the grill. It’s the barbecue called « cowboy style » that gives it a distinct, smoky flavor that’s different from other wood-smoked styles. Southerners, on the other hand, tend to marinate meat in thick sauces that keep the meat moist after cooking. Finally, the « barbacoa » method of the Rio Grande Valley, which generally uses goat, lamb or mutton meat cooked in its most authentic form, that is, in a hole dug in the ground with hot coals for several time.
the beef brisket, king of the grill
Thus traditionalists cite the subtle flavors of cooking in an open oven while others savor the more marked smoky taste of cooking in a closed oven. For this, preparation comes into play and is important. The « rub » is undoubtedly the most important part: this massage of your barbecue can be « dry » or « wet », that is to say covered with salt and pepper and other spices or brushed with oil , vinegar and lemon. The meat thus coated will be kneaded, fiddled with, rubbed, in short, it will release all these natural juices for cooking. Beef, the royal meat for Texans, is perfect for this exercise, especially the beef brisket (beef brisket), supreme dish of the barbecue.
But the subtlety of the taste will come down to the choice of wood: white walnut will give a bacon flavor, oak is used more for big game and mesquite is used for vegetables and beef because of its earthy taste. A good barbecue is also a matter of seasoning. The sauces play an essential role because they end up putting this meat in your mouth, which for 12 to 16 hours is browned over a low heat to make you melt with pleasure. Some will use marinade or pickling sauce. It is made with onions, garlic, red pepper and a touch of spices. The meat is coated with this mixture a day in advance so that it can absorb it. Many Texans prefer to baste it during cooking to better hydrate it and keep all its softness. This sauce consists of alcohol vinegar, chopped onions, pepper and lemon.
As you will have understood, barbecue is an art and many Texans make it a state affair. The « cook off » competitions are proof of this. We are not kidding with this competition where grilling professionals compete for the trophy of the best barbecue cook. The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has had its own world championship for over 20 years. San Antonio’s Stock Show & Rodeo Bar-B-Que Cook-Off, meanwhile, takes place every September and sees more than 250 teams of barbecue experts compete.
But to really understand what makes Texas the kingdom of the barbecue, you have to follow the « Texas Barbecue Trail », a delicious culinary adventure. Starting with Austin with the Iron Works restaurant, a must. The star of the small screen, Jay Leno, is also regularly delivered meals by Federal Express. The Franklin restaurant will seduce you with its beef brisket. Voted America’s Best BBQ by several magazines, the establishment boasts a line of customers waiting daily until they are exhausted. Le Lambert, more chic and upscale, remains the only one to serve pulled pork, rarely seen in Texas.
In Taylor, a railroad town of the 1800s, the influence of the Czech and Austrian population make them masters of sausage making. To taste them, head to Louie Mueller Barbecue, which has also been serving thick slices of pepper-crusted beef brisket since 1949. But the indisputable capital of the sausage is Elgin, which has been serving it hot for 125 years and you can discover at Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse, a famous restaurant that has been in the same family for four generations.
Also in the Hill Country, the world-famous Salt Lick BBQ serves all kinds of meats all cooked to perfection over high heat. Further northeast, the town of Lockhart has two iconic barbecues: Black’s Barbecue known for its brisket Angus beef and Kreuz Market which smokes its meats in its century-old brick pits. At Smitty’s, a firm believer in no-sauce, the brisket is the best in town. Everything is cut by hand and weighed to order.
Houston is not left out with its many critically and popularly acclaimed barbecues, including Gatlin’s BBQ, Goode Company and of course Rudy’s BBQ. The Pit Room serves three kinds of sausages and especially tortillas made with smoked breast fat. Something to delight you!