Growing up in the Lone Star State , I have a preference for Texas Style Barbeque sauces.
Grandpa Bassett Arthur, a Navy Sea Bee cook in World War II, honed his skills in restaurants in Abilene, Brady and Coleman, Texas. His barbeque was perfect.
“In Texas, we don’t play around with basting,” he’d say. “You have to mop it on, like you’re swabbing the deck!”
BBQ Cookoffs, Texas Style
During college, at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State), I loved to go to annual Chilympiad, a festival that moved my freshman year in 1974 from Aquarena Springs to the Hays County Civic Center in San Marcos.
Although the star of the show was chili, I noticed there was plenty of barbeque and barbeque sauces used in some of the contestant’s offerings.
I was fascinated by the friendly dichotomy between the serious pitmasters and the showmasters. Many contestants, vying for a shot to qualify for the World Championship Chili Cookoff at Terlingua, near Big Bend National Park, were both.
The rules were few and simple, being no more than:
1. All chili must be made from scratch at the site of the contest.
2. Women are barred from entering the contest as chefs.
In response to the second rule, the legendary promoter, Texas’ own version of P.T. Barnum, Hondo Crouch established another cookoff in his town of Luckenbach.
He brilliantly named it “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned,” in which the winners similarly qualify for the World Championship Cookoff.
A good memory is sitting with a classmate in the hall outside our classroom of the BAM (Business-Agriculture-Math) building waiting for class to begin. I was worn out from partying at Chilympiad the night before. He was tired from performing there. You may have heard of this young up-and-comer. His name? George Strait.
Two of my Journalism school buddies, Sherman Durst and James Irwin, entered a couple of Septembers at Chilympiad and they helped explain that when it comes to chili or barbeque, “cut and choice of meat is very important, but it’s the sauce that is critical.”
I noticed they mopped their sauce as Grandpa Arthur did.
Texas Style Favorites
A barbeque mecca was formed on both sides of the Balcones Fault along the eastern edge of Texas Hill Country. Even today, some of the finest BBQ can be enjoyed in the region. My favorites, in no particular order, include:
Coopers Old Time BBQ, the original in Llano.
Southside BBQ in Cherokee.
Hays County BBQ, right off I-35 in beloved San Marcos.
Note: Lockhart is the Texas Legislature approved Barbeque Capital of Texas. I’ve heard arguments and even friendly debates about which restaurant serves the best BBQ. The best are Black’s BBQ, Chisholm Trail BBQ, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.
Salt Lick, in Driftwood.
2M Smokehouse, in San Antonio
Louie Mueller BBQ in Taylor.
B&B Barbeque in San Antonio.
Busbee’s in Bandera.
Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak, in Burnett.
Luling City Market, in Luling.
Opie’s, in Spicewood.
Franklin Barbeque, in Austin.
South BBQ and Kitchen, San Antonio.
Smokin’ Joe’s of Texas, in San Antonio.
B-Daddy’s BBQ, in Helotes.
Four Basic BBQ Styles
There are over a dozen variations of BBQ sauces in the United States, but besides Texas Style, the three basic styles are:
Kansas City sauces are tomato-based, with sweet, spicy and tangy flavor profiles. It’s good with a variety of meats. I especially like their briskets.
My favorite BBQ in Kansas City are Joe’s KC BBQ, Jack Stack BBQ, Q39, and Arthur Bryant’s.
Memphis style sauces are swabbed on before, during and after barbecuing. I found most Memphis restaurants were best for their pork and rib servings.
I’ve tried at least a dozen BBQ restaurants in Memphis over the years, but my favorites are Corky’s, Marlowe’s, Payne’s and Central BBQ. I want to try Neely’s next time.
Carolina style sauces are spice and vinegar mixtures usually basted on during smoking of pork. They tend to dry rub their various meats prior to smoking. In some restaurants, I’ve noticed a peppery yellow mustard taste in their sauces.
I’ve only been to half a dozen BBQ joints in the Carolinas. My favorites were City Barbeque in Durham, Hadison’s in Janesville, NC and Carolina Barbeque Shack in Greenwood, and Sweet Carolina’s in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Serving Over 500 People
My favorite memory with barbecue was staying up all night mopping and smoking 320 lbs. of brisket for just over 520 people.
The occasion was for an annual Facilities Alliance Picnic for that H-E-B’s division of partners. The June 25, 2005 event brought families across Texas to the Castroville city park, west of San Antonio.
There were only three of us, Painting Supervisor Larry Colson, Sr., Construction Supervisor of Superintendents Garlan Tschirhart and me.
We expected more volunteers, but they didn’t arrive until daylight. I learned a great deal about barbecuing for large groups throughout that long night.
Larry showed me how to mix the basting sauce and the recipe for the batches we made for the final four gallons of servicing sauce.
We slaved over a 15 foot long barbecue pit trailered in for the occasion. By the time we mopped the last aluminum foil wrapped brisket on one end, it was time to wrap the first one at the beginning end. About every 30-40 minutes each brisket was mopped for 14 hours.
I noticed the more beer Larry and Garlan consumed, the more my mopping skills improved with considerable practice. But I loved every minute of it.
Thankfully, as more volunteers showed up, they handled the chicken, sausage, sides and fixings.
Based on all the mentoring and mopping over the years, here’s my simple recipe for Texas Style Barbeque sauce. Dodie helped me name it. We call it:
Mopping Mo-Fo BBQ Simple Sauce
Tomato sauce: One 15 oz. can of plain tomato sauce (just puréed tomatoes, no extra ingredients).
Apple cider vinegar: To add some tang to the sauce, 1/2 cup.
Honey: Some people use brown sugar, but I actually prefer 1\3 cup of honey as a natural sweetener in this sauce. But you could also sub in maple syrup.
Tomato paste: 1/4 cup to intensify the rich tomato flavor in this sauce.
Red Onion: Finely chopped or not so fine–your choice.
Molasses: 1\4 cup.
Worcestershire: If making this sauce vegan, be sure to use a vegan brand of Worcestershire. 3 tablespoons.
Liquid smoke: To give the sauce those important smoky notes: 2 teaspoons.
Lemon Juice: (Optional) A tablespoon of fresh or bottled lemon juice adds just the perfect amount of acid to this sauce to make it perfect.
Spices: A combo of one teaspoon each of smoked paprika, garlic powder, black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon), onion powder and seasalt. Plus a few optional pinches of cayenne, if you would like to give the sauce some heat.
Combine ingredients. Stir everything together in a saucepan.
Simmer. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then let it continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.
Serve. Then that’s literally it — your sauce is ready to go and use in any of your favorite recipes!
Notes and Variations
You can also add a good dollop of yellow mustard to it to broaden the flavor.
A tablespoon of red pepper can give it an extra kick.
Many times, I’ve subbed the tomato sauce, vinegar, and tomato paste with ketchup! I use 2 cups of H-E-B ‘Select Ingredients’ because it’s all natural–and does not include high-fructose corn syrup.
Seal it with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator to use for quick and easy meals throughout the week!