Smoking a Brisket inTexas

History of Smoking Briskets in Texas

There are four distinct ways to smoke a brisket in Texas!

smoked brisket

West Texas Barbecue

There is the Western Way which is primarily done in West Texas. It was developed during the height of the famous cattle drives. This method is more like grilling as opposed to smoking a brisket. Normally a pit was dug and the meat was placed over the flame for cooking. Since the most readily available wood was mesquite, the cook often had a supply of mesquite handy for cooking the meals. This gave it that signature mesquite flavor that is still sought after to this day. After years of practice, the cook knew how long to cook the meat so that it had a good flavor and was sought after. Barbecue beans and white bread were often the only sides to go with what the cook had prepared.

South Texas Barbecue

The South Texas Barbecue uses a sweet sauce that has a molasses base. The meat is marinated and cooked in the sauce to seal the meat to help it retain its moisture. South Texas Barbecue is influenced by its neighbor to the south. Mexican cuisine has had a direct impact on barbecue in this part of Texas using a wide variety of spices and herbs. They also introduced the diaphragm and cow’s head to the local cuisine. The Mexican cowboys were often paid with the less desirable cuts of meat as part of their pay. The diaphragm was used at first in fajitas. The cow’s head was wrapped in maguey leaves and put in a pit and cooked until it was done. Some of the other meats that were introduced to South Texas Barbecue were goat, lamb and sheep. Beef was still king of the barbecue.

Central Texas Barbecue

sliced brisket and potato salad

Central Texas Barbecue was developed by immigrants to the Hill Country of central Texas. They were primarily from Germany and the Czech republic. Central Texas pit masters were famous for slow cooking their meats. They did not use sauces as a rule. The main seasonings they used on their meat was salt and pepper. They were famous for their sausages. The meats that were not sold in a timely manner were slow cooked for preservation. Slow cooking took a lot of time and effort. The pits were basically pits that had been dug and lined with brick for heat retention and control of the cooking time. The people liked the slow cooked meats and sausages so much that they started buying those as well. There were two reasons for this. The first reason was it made it easy to have a quick meal and the second reason was the added length of time it could be eaten before it spoiled. This was in a time before refrigeration. Finding a way to keep meats was of paramount importance to everyone.

East Texas Barbecuesliced brisket and potato salad

East Texas Barbecue is said to have been developed by slaves who were freed at the end of the Civil War. Beef was king but there was an addition to the beef and that was pork. The most common pork used was a pork shoulder(butt) and ribs. We are talking full slab and not spare ribs. “Low and slow” is often a term often used with barbecue in East Texas. Another expression that is used quite often in East Texas is “fall off the bone”. This refers to how tender the meat is after slow-cooking, it literally falls off the bone. Some say that East Texas barbecue is marinating in a tomato-based sauce.

pork shoulders make great pulled pork

Make it your own

Making it your own style of smoking is not that hard. You need to have the desire to try knew recipes, listen to more experienced grillers and have patience when something does not work out the way you want it to.

You may want to try a different rub or marinade. You may want to try different woods for use in the smoking process. Whatever you decide on, keep an open mind with the results. You will have more failures than successes. The failures are necessary so you can find out what your weaknesses are. Listen, observe and learn. This way you will grow in experience and in favor of those you cook for. Trying different woods can be tricky. You need to find out what flavor most people like. Try one for yourself first and see how you like it and if you got the results that you want.

You must be willing to take risks with family and friends about the flavor, tenderness and whether they would want to try it again. You need to take notes, take pictures and possibly video the event. If you decide to video, you will find there are numerous tools available to edit your production.

Texas has a history of innovation and trying knew ideas with most things. However, Texans are proud of their briskets, sausages and ribs. To the average Texan, respect the meat. The flavor and tenderness are key to Texans. You can dress it up any way you want if you respect the meat. Trying knew recipes is fairly common in Texas but expect for them to put their signature on it to claim it for themselves. It may be an added spice or a change in the marinade or in the time smoked but it will be there.

Most Texans once they have found the right method for them will not allow for any kind of negative comments to what they love. Some may get just downright hostile to you if you do not like their version of smoking. They are fiercely proud of their accomplishments. They hope to one day be recognized for the amount of time of trial and error they spent in their effort to find smoking perfection. All of that being said, try to find your own path. Explore the different methods, find the one that suits you and your family and friends best.

10 thoughts on “Smoking a Brisket inTexas”

  1. Hello there! Thank you very much for sharing this article on smoking a brisket in Texas. I’ve gone through it and I must say it’s a very detailed and helpful one. I love barbecue but I don’t really know how to make them. This article has proven that I can make mine myself and I’m happy I came across it. Thank you for sharing 

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I always try to give good information. If you have any questions on some of the specifics on smoking a brisket then get in touch with me an I will give you some detailed instructions.



  2. I ma not a fan of smoking and I have never been a fan of it before but it’s good to see you tell us a number of things about this brisket intecas or whatever it is and how people actually smoke it. Infact,I think I know a friend of mine who mentioned it one time to me before. Doesn’t it have side effects?

    1. Eating a smoked brisket is a wonderful experience if done properly. I have friends that tend to over-smoke their brisket and the smoke flavor is dominant. I prefer one that has been smoked but the flavor of the meat comes through. The meat is succulent, moist and flavorful. The only side-effect that I personally know about is that it is so good that you have a tendency to overeat. There are other foods that can be grilled as well. I love to grill vegetables and fruits on the grill. They are so good that you may not want to eat any meat that is grilled. I have also done pork and fish on the grill. The enhancement of the natural flavors is tremendously satisfying. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post. If you have any questions about grilling just pm me and I will be more than happy to give you the information that you require.



  3. I had no idea of the history of this, thank you for sharing. This article is making my mouth water and now I am hungry lol. Looking at that tender piece of meat on the screen. 

    I know Texas always goes big for everything so I know they won’t disappoint with this Brisket. I like to eat Bar-B-Que when it is freshly done, yumm. Thank you again for this great history lesson.

    1. Part of my mission with my site is to educate people on various ways to grill from around the world. There are as many ways to grill as there are people. Unfortunately in some countries the art of grilling is disappearing. The history is disappearing due to urbanization of the cultures. Some techniques have been in one family for hundreds of years. Some types of grilling are disappearing due to not having an heir to train from birth to the position of a pit master or master griller for a village. The knowledge is lost since it is passed on from father to son.

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my post. I agree with you that one of the best meals is when the meat just come off the grill. The flavors are so fresh and inviting, especially if done by someone who loves grilling for their families and friends.


  4. I had no idea that there are different ways to barbecue based on the location in Texas!  I usually barbecue chicken thighs as I really suck at barbecuing any type of beef. It sounds to me like I need to research some experts in this field and be willing to make mistakes and to keep trying.  

    I have heard of the term “falling off the bone” ,but never “respect the meat”. 

    Thank you for this very informative blog post!


    1. If you can grill chicken thighs then you can grill beef easily. One of the main things to know is temperature control. You don’t want to grill at a heat that is too high but you also don’t want to grill at too low a temperature. Reading or watching videos will give you an idea of how to grill beef and pork but it comes down to actually doing the grilling with confidence. You will be fine in your future endeavors.

      “Respect the meat” is a saying almost as old as Texas. That came about in Central Texas with the German and Czech immigrants in the 1800’s. That is when the saying became popular. If you look at the traditions that came from South America they also respected the meat just in a different way. The tradition of “respect the meat” has a very real meaning when grilling. The more you respect the meat the better the flavor and the more tender the meat will be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  5. I have a new natural gas BBQ with a smoker.  I have never used the smoker, but feel inspired to try it after reading your article.  I have cooked brisket on the BBQ but never in the smoker.  I think I am going to do a combination of the South Texas style with marinade and the slow cooking of both beef and pork.  Maybe the best thing is for me to try each of the styles and let the family decide which is best.

    1. Using a gas grill to barbecue has its own challenges, finding the right temperature, how to get the smoke flavor and others. If you do not have a basket grill topper to put your wood chips in then I would suggest investing in one, the results are amazing. Another thing I would suggest is to use a type of drip pan to go underneath what you are grilling, this will help prevent drippings from getting on your burners. Some of the grills from South America have grates that are V-shaped to help with any runoff from the juices. If you smoker is gas then fire it up and have your wood chips ready in the main part of the grill to capture that wonderful smoke flavor. Good luck with your smoking. If you have any questions just pm me and I will answer your questions for you.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


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