Unless you’re a devout vegetarian, any trip to the Lone Star State is bound to include at least one stop at a storied barbecue restaurant. After all, the Texas culinary arts scene boasts some of the most diverse and impressive meat smoking variety in the entire nation. Each restaurant has its own proprietary methods for preparing meat, but almost any barbecue joint in Texas will have at least one menu item featuring a wood smoked meat. Conducting this process with different types of woods create different tastes, ranging from bold to subtle and sweet to savory. Take a look at some of the most popular smoking woods types and how they’re used.
According to Dyer’s BBQ, a popular restaurant with branches in Amarillo and Pampa, Texas, most barbecue establishments opt to smoke meat using mesquite. This has a lot to do with the high volume of food many pitmasters are expected to churn out in a given business day. Mesquite is oily by nature, and as a result tends to burn more quickly than other woods, releasing flavor in smoke at a quick rate. This makes it ideal for places like Dyer’s, but not the best choice for a leisurely day of cooking in the backyard.
Post oak is another favorite of Texas pitmasters, particularly those who are interested in perfecting the art of cooking brisket . Brisket is typically served with an incredibly tender inner meat and a thick bark or crust composed of seasonings. According to Food and Wine, Aaron Franklin prefers to use this sort of oak once it has been cured and dried for nine months to a year. He runs a popular Texas barbecue spot in Austin, appropriately named Franklin Barbecue. According to him, post oak is preferable because the dryness of the wood causes it to create minimal soot as it burns, preserving the flavor of the meat.
Maple, though less frequently used than mesquite or post oak, is a favorite among pitmasters looking to add a slightly sweeter taste to their meats. According to Pit Boss Belt, this type of wood burns at extremely high temperatures but still maintains a slow, steady pace as it combusts. It is ideal for light or gamy meats, such as poultry or pork, and there are multiple varieties of maple wood, each offering a different sort of sweetness.