Texas BBQ Styles

Published on: November 8, 2023

There is little debate that Texas is one of the four main regions of American barbecue along with Memphis, Kansas City and the Carolinas.  However, trying to define exactly what Texas barbecue is, is very difficult.  Texas is over 268,000 square miles in size and is a melting pot of peoples and cultures.

Texas BBQ Map

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For all intents and purposes, Texas reigns as the undisputed King of BBQ Brisket thanks to the Czech and German butchers who smoked these meats in the mid-nineteenth century in small Texas towns like Lockhart and Fredericksburg.  However, Texas is probably admired just as much for its incredible smoked sausages and versions of its Central Texas style barbecued pork ribs are quickly gaining popularity.

The 4 Traditional Styles of Texas BBQ + One New One

While there may be no single style of Texas BBQ, most Texans agree that there are four main regional styles. These styles are often closely aligned with the type of woods available in each area and the heritage of many of its people.

Map of Central Texas Style BBQ

1. Central Texas Style BBQ

Most BBQ historians consider Central Texas to be the birthplace of Texas-style BBQ and the Texas Legislature has even honored one of its cities, Lockhart as “The Barbecue Capital of Texas."  For all intents and purposes, when people from outside of Texas talk about Texas BBQ...this is the style they are referring to.  It's world famous.

Central Texas BBQ traces its roots to these Czech and German butchers mentioned above and typically features huge, Texas-sized briskets rubbed with primarily salt and pepper and then smoked low ‘n slow over post oak - a wood plentiful in the region.

The briskets were never wrapped and they were cut-to-order and served by the pound on butcher paper…not as sandwiches, but typically with pieces of white bread to mop up the juice.

Crossbuck BBQ’s Pitmaster, chef and co-founder, Tim McLaughlin is a relative expert in central Texas BBQ.  After being recruited by the step-granddaughter of Edgar "Smitty" Schmidt of Kreuz Market fame to bring Central Texas style BBQ to Dallas, he spent about 10 years delighting Dallasites as the co-founder, Pitmaster and Executive chef for the restaurants.  

Key Elements of Central Texas Style BBQ

  • Wood-fired smokers using mainly post oak wood
  • Dry rubs heavy in salt and pepper that allow the meat to speak for itself - so to speak 
  • Dry smoked...Never wrapped or steamed
  • Cut to order and served on butcher paper with white bread, sliced onions, pickles and relish
  • Sides were an afterthought
  • Sauce was unnecessary

Map of East Texas Style BBQ

2. East Texas Style BBQ

East Texas BBQ is a bit of blend of Southern cooking and Midwestern BBQ with some Texas elements thrown in.  Like most good BBQ, it's still cooked low 'n slow, but typically over direct heat with a lot more hickory wood than Central Texas style Q.

Plus, the region is known much more for its ribs and sandwiches than Central Texas.  Similar to other popular styles in the US, East Texans often use sweet tomato-based sauces on their ribs and sandwiches and aim more for a “fall off the bone quality” to their ribs. 

Of course, the region's biggest claim to fame may be its East Texas Hot Links - a spicy blend of sausage. 

Map of South Texas Style BBQ

3. South Texas Style BBQ

Molasses based barbecue sauce that “locks in the moisture. Intertwined with Mexican cuisine – known regionally as barbacoa. Goes beyond brisket to include tongue and cow’s head. Cooked in underground pits – often with mesquite. Chopped beef and pork in sauce.

Map of West Texas Style BBQ

4. West Texas Style BBQ

Direct heat and flame. More grilling than smoking for most meats. Brisket smoked more quickly or steamed. Use mesquite as its one of the few tree species that can thrive in the desert like conditions of west Texas. Known more for chicken, sausage and chops cooked over mesquite

Map of Dallas Style BBQ

5. Dallas Style BBQ

Located in the Northeastern section of Texas, Dallas is considered one of the country's most cosmopolitan cities with a diverse culture, booming economy and thriving tourism - elements that make it ripe for a fine-dining-chef-turned-pitmaster like Tim McLaughlin.

As noted earlier, Tim already gained fame for bringing an upscale version of Central Texas style BBQ to Dallas.  With the opening of Crossbuck BBQ, he is taking this to a new level and creating a style of BBQ unique to Dallas!