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Dallas-Fort Worth: the best barbecue in Texas

Dallas-Fort Worth: the best barbecue in Texas

by Great British Chefs 26 May 2017

Texas barbecue has taken over the world, but not everyone in the huge US state grills the same way. Discover the barbecue of Dallas and Fort Worth and why the two cities have become hotspots for some of the best barbecue joints in the world.

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It’s hard to imagine a time when US-style barbecue wasn’t everywhere in the UK. But as little as five or ten years ago, dishes such as pulled pork, smoked brisket and burnt ends were relatively unheard of. Nowadays we’re inundated with barbecue restaurants, each purporting to offer an authentic menu of mostly Texan dishes.

But the term ‘Texas barbecue’ has become a bit of a catchall term for any smoked meat cooked over fire – a bit like how Tex-Mex came to represent the UK’s idea of what Mexican cuisine is (something we now know not to be the case). So what actually is Texan barbecue, and how does the cuisine in Dallas and Fort Worth differ from elsewhere in the state?

‘The first thing to remember about Texas is that it’s absolutely huge – 2.9 times the size of the UK,’ says Joe Walters (aka Texas Joe), an expert on Texan barbecue who now owns his own barbecue restaurant and jerky business in the UK. ‘So there are of course lots of regional differences in the barbecue, which tend to be divided into four styles: east Texas, central Texas, Hill Country and south Texas.’

Already it’s clear that ‘Texas barbecue’ is a bit like ‘Italian food’ or ‘Indian cuisine’ – terms that are far too vague and general when trying to describe the flavours and cooking techniques of an area. And because Dallas-Fort Worth is in the north of the state, it doesn’t really fit into the eastern, central or Hill Country (which covers western, central and southern Texas) styles of barbecuing. Instead, it has started to develop its own unique cuisine. ‘The barbecue of Dallas and Fort Worth used to be more in the classic east Texas style – hickory-smoked meats coated in sauce – but these days central Texas influences have slowly become more dominant, which sees meat covered in spice rubs and cooked over indirect heat from pecan and oak wood,’ explains Joe. ‘There are quite a few influences from Louisiana, too – vinegar-based hot sauces and smoked Boudin sausages are very popular.’

Fort Worth
Fort Worth is right next to Dallas, and both cities are becoming well-known throughout the US for their world-class barbecue restaurants
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Brisket and pork ribs are the two most iconic cuts found in Dallas and Fort Worth, often seasoned with little more than salt and pepper

While you’ll find barbecue joints on nearly every street corner throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, the restaurants that are really worth going to are the ones that use wood-fired grills rather than gas, with chefs (or 'pitmasters') spending hours indirectly cooking huge joints of meat with plenty of smoke until they break down into succulent, slabs of savoury goodness. But when defining Dallas-Fort Worth barbecue, the cuts of meat are just as important as the way they’re cooked.

‘In Dallas and Fort Worth barbecue joints you tend to see brisket or pork shoulder chopped and served in buns, or big tender pork ribs,’ says Joe. ‘But this is all evolving, and these days places like Pecan Lodge in Dallas and Heim in Fort Worth serve sliced brisket, which combines central and eastern Texas styles. This is the sort of food that one day might become known as Dallas-Fort Worth-style barbecue.

‘The sides change from region to region too,’ he adds. ‘Texans love their coleslaw, and most dishes in Dallas come with coleslaw, dill pickles, raw onions and a couple of slices of everyday white bread. That always confuses people in the UK, but it’s just a Dallas thing.’

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Texans love their barbecue, and there are restaurants specialising in smoked meat everywhere you look
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The best examples of Dallas-Fort Worth barbecue are cooked indirectly, smoked with chunks of oak or hickory for long periods of time

There’s plenty of barbecue to choose from in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and at a good barbecue restaurant pretty much everything on the menu will be seriously tasty. But Joe says if there’s one thing you should try if you’re ever in the area, it’s meat cooked indirectly and smoked over oak or hickory wood for a long period of time, with nothing more than salt and pepper added. ‘Simplicity is my favourite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth barbecue,’ he says. ‘Simple time-tested cooking techniques that let the ingredients shine. I don’t think it needs to be messed with.’

Dallas-Fort Worth at Grillstock

Want to taste Dallas-Fort Worth-style barbecue in the UK? Head to Grillstock on 1–2 July in Bristol where expert pitmasters will be serving up authentic, delicious brisket and pork cooked the Texan way throughout the weekend. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

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