Barbecue The American Tradition Continued; Texas and Kansas City

Sunday, October 31, 2010 @ 06:10 AM

So we have already visited the pork based barbecue region of North Carolina and the rib joints of Memphis. Next we will visit Texas and then follow the cattle north to Kansas City.

When you think of Texas, you think of Longhorns, beef, cowboys and BBQ. Cattle was a great industry with a huge population of bovine roaming the Texas range. Where the other southern states had pigs, Texas had beef. Cowboys had to eat. You ate what you had. Cowboys ate beef.

You can get steaks, roasts, sausages and any other cut of beef that you want in Texas, but when it comes to barbecue, the most well known cut of beef is brisket. A tough piece of meat but when cooked properly will melt in your mouth. Real brisket has a thick fat cap on it, not like the trimmed down versions that you find in the grocery store. Brisket is cooked low and slow, with the fat cap up so that the fat melts over the meat as it cooks. Drip pans are placed under the meat to collect the drippings. Any sauce that is made for the brisket starts with those drippings. (I prefer mine naked, or without sauce). The brisket is sliced and served with or without bread. Any left over bits are chopped and made into chopped beef sandwiches. Again with or without sauce, your preference.

Mesquite is readily available in Texas. Again, you use what is available to you. The prominent smoke used in Texas is mesquite.

The market was sated in Texas with the over abundance of cattle, but the price for beef was high in the north and the east. Sturdy men took it upon themselves to move the hardy Longhorns on cattle drives north to the the railways and on to market. The largest hubs for the end of the cattle drives were in Kansas and Missouri.  Therefore eventually bringing barbecue to Kansas City.

Kansas City is an area where all of the barbecue traditions now come together. Given Kansas City’s proximity to the railways and the amount of meat packing houses that were located there, the variety of meat available was greater than the other areas. These meats included pork, beef, chicken, sausage, and turkey. (There are even a few places BBQ joints that have expanded to include smoked fish and lamb). The area also had a large source of hickory trees, so hickory smoke is more associated with Kansas City barbecue than other regions.

In the early 1900’s a man named Henry Perry moved from an area outside of Memphis to the Kansas City area and opened up shop. He served slow cooked ribs with sauce. The style of Kansas City and Memphis barbecue are very similar, although Kansas City prides itself on it’s sauce.  Either thick and tomato based or thin and vinegar based. With over 100 barbecue joints and restaurants in the area, these shops needed something to make them stand out from the each other. Almost every barbecue place in Kansas City has it’s own sauce. Some of them are so secret the recipes are kept under lock and key.

Barbecue has now started to spread through out our grand country and even outside of it. Many of us have a grill, but not every one has a BBQ smoker or pit. It takes a very trained, skilled, and patient person to perfect the art of BBQ on a propane grill. Smoking comes a little easier with a charcoal grill in that you can put wood chunks right in with the charcoal, but not all charcoal grills can stand up to the long hours of heat that true barbecue entails. Luckily for the rest of us that do not have the equipment, the talent, or live in one of the BBQ regions of our great nation, there is now probably a BBQ joint in a town near you.

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