Im continuing to share my advice on bbq places to visit in texas
this week im sharing my tips on what to do when you go to your favorite BBQ joint
1. Go only to a place that specializes in barbecue.
The only barbecue worth eating is cooked fresh, kept warm in the pit, and carved to order. Rapid turnover is the key. If a restaurant has a general menu, chances are that the barbecue was prepared in advance and perhaps even (God forbid) stored in the refrigerator and reheated. Your best rule of thumb is to look for a pile of wood outside and smoke coming from the pit. If everybody in the room isn’t eating barbecue, you shouldn’t be, either.
2. Pick the right time.
Go for lunch. Most good barbecue places close by 7, and some of the best shut down by 5:30. The choice cuts are gone well before then. Fridays and Saturdays draw the largest crowds, but the only day you should usually avoid (other than Sunday) is Monday. Since the cooking process is such a lengthy one, the meat must be in the pit before the suppliers commence their weekly rounds; in consequence, the Monday selection is often more limited—sometimes containing weekend leftovers.
3. Try to get acquainted with the carver.
Easier said than done in a city restaurant, but not very difficult in the rural places. Barbecue cuts vary widely—some are too dry, some too fatty, some not as good a grade of meat. The carvers rule their domain with as much discretion as federal judges have in their courtrooms, and preference regularly goes to the steady customer or the visitor who knows what he wants. The best-tasting barbecue always has some fat on it, so don’t fall into the trap of demanding only lean. Ask the carver’s advice; he’ll usually give it.
4. Order by the pound whenever possible.
At most of the Central Texas places, you’ll have no other choice. Don’t be intimidated; even if they do make sandwiches you’ll find it’s better and cheaper to make your own. Policies on this will differ from town to town, however, so be prepared to play it by ear. In sandwich-oriented East Texas they may refuse to let you eat on the premises if you buy it by the pound; west of Austin, in places like Mason and Junction, they won’t carve or cut a chunk in two for you, and you simply have to rummage around in their pit until you find the size piece you want—or do without. But then again, if you’re tired of the standardized hamburger and the ten-piece Thrift Box, you may appreciate the fact that barbecuers represent a last stronghold of stubborn individuality in marketing.
Every barbecue buff has his own list of four-star places; the surprising thing is how often these lists overlap. My own preference is for the old-fashioned Central Texas type, with the emphasis on sliced beef rather than sausage or ribs. It’s hard to find all the good barbecue in a state of 250,000 square miles, and the following recommendations make no pretense of being inclusive. But they certainly rank near the top offerings in their locality, and you could seldom go wrong at any time
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