Very simply put, Texas Style Pit Barbecue is meat cooked with wood. It is an art form that requires
time, patience and understanding to master. It is hot, hard, dirty work but the results are absolutely
incredible, making it well worth the extra effort.
The first step of cooking Texas Style Pit Barbecue is the rubbing of the meat. Barbecue rubs go
from simple combinations of salt and pepper clear up through rubs that might include twenty
or more different ingredients.
Once the meat is rubbed, it is cooked in an enclosed pit, which basically a wood fired oven where
meat is enveloped in a hazy curtain of smoke while it cooks at low temperatures, usually somewhere around 200 to 250 degrees. Seasoned hardwood is used to fire these pits, with oak,
hickory and pecan being the most common. Texas Barbecue is almost always cooked well done with a few Texas "Pit Men" cooking their brisket 20 hours of more. This type of cooking not only produces extremely flavorful meat, it will also tenderize even the toughest cuts.
Speaking of tough cuts of meat, when any Texan worth his salt talks about Barbecue, one of the first words out of their mouth will usually be "Brisket". They're talking about beef brisket, a tough, fatty cut of meat that has the well deserved reputation of being difficult to cook. However, what happens between brisket and Barbecue is almost magical, the two were made for each other. As the brisket cooks the fat on the outside caramelizes, sealing in flavorful natural juices. It also contunually bastes the meat during the long, slow, smoky Barbecue. If Barbecued by someone who really knows what they're doing, brisket is some of the best eating on this earth. It's crusty on the outside, smoky, tender and delicious on the inside.
One very popular misconception is that Barbecue sauce is put on the meat while it's in the pit. This is totally untrue and most Texans would be very suspicious of meat that was served with sauce already on it. Real Texas Style Pit Barbecue is served with sauce on the side so that it can be applied as the diner wishes. There are still some Barbecue joints in the Texas hill country where sauce is not served at all.
One way to positively indentify real Pit Barbecue is by the "smoking ring". This is the dark pink ring that shows on the outside edges of meat cooked in the pit. Sometimes smaller cuts of meat like ribs will be a rosy pink color all the way to the bone. When you see that "smoking ring" you'll know your eating the real deal...