A Few Words on Texas Barbecue

Posted by Holly Whitfield | March 16th 2010 5254 0

Almost as soon as I landed in Austin, the questions about barbecue started. Had I eaten any yet? Is it better than Memphis barbecue? Why don’t you people put sauce on your ribs?

So, yesterday, I ventured over to Ironworks to try some Texas barbecue.

Barbecue sandwich, Ironworks, Austin, TX

Barbecue sandwich, Ironworks, Austin, TX

I stepped up to the menu board and was a little confused. There were ribs and sandwiches, but no pork to be found (save for something called a pork loin sandwich).

Brisket was considered for a few seconds, and I debated the turkey. Ribs were immediately vetoed: pork ribs are manageable, cow ribs are ginormous. I wound up ordering a chopped beef sandwich, because it was the closest thing I could find to a pulled pork sandwich.

Inside the sandwich, Ironworks, Austin, TX

Inside the sandwich, Ironworks, Austin, TX

At first, the sandwich seemed remarkably similar to one that I would get in Memphis. There was meat, and sauce, and a bun, and it tasted pretty good. But a few bites in, I started to consider it a little more closely.

The beef was good, but tougher than slow-cooked pulled pork. The sauce was very different, too. It wasn’t thick – it was sort of vinegary and a little sweet. It wasn’t thick and tangy, and it didn’t make much of a statement on the sandwich. It was so different. Imagine wearing a Hanes beefy tee-shirt every day of your life, and then putting on an American Apparel shirt – same basic idea, but completely different.

Overall, I think I prefer the barbecue in Memphis. It tastes like home.

Show Comments


  1. kate says:

    You need to try sliced brisket. That’s where the TX BBQ shines.

  2. Nathan says:

    cmon back home and have some real bbq!!!

  3. Mo Charlo says:

    First let me preface this by saying that that I love Memphis and all things Memphis BBQ. Having said that,

    1. Cow is better than pig. Any attempt to debate this is foolhardy. Maybe pig is what you’re used to, but that’s because cow requires more land and more resources to maintain.

    2. Your complaint on ribs was that beef ribs are too big? In food, like all things, more is better. And beef ribs are like steak on a stick.

    3. At a real Texas BBQ place, ordering sauce is taboo, because the meat is too high quality. BBQ sauce was invented in Kansas City to mask the odor of rotted flesh brought in off the plains.

    While in Austin, consider a trip to Stubb’s on Red River, Smitty’s or Kreuz’s in Lockhart (30 min. south) or the Salt Lick in Driftwood (30 min. west). And step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Expand your horizons. You’ll be better for it.

  4. tgirsch says:

    Agreed with kate: sliced brisket is what you wanted.

    As to Mo‘s remark about cow being better than pig, that all depends on the context. Sure, I’ll take a steak over a pork chop almost any day of the week, but it bears remembering that there’s no such thing as beef bacon! Also, really delectable BBQ is all about connective tissue (collagen melting into gelatin), and on that count, pork wins.

    As for sauce, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that, and I have family in Ft. Worth and Houston. As with all fine BBQ, it should be tasty even without sauce, of course, but there’s no sin in saucing it.

  5. Gurley says:

    The first and cardinal rule of BBQ is that Beef is NOT BBQ. It never has been and never will be. Beef is beef no matter how you cook it. Pork becomes BBQ through the process of slow smoking and in this transformation it becomes something divine. You can smoke beef till it’s relatives come home but it’s still not BBQ. I love a good steak and beef ribs may be good but they can never achieve BBQ-ness. All barbecue is pork but not all pork is barbecue and the cows can stay out to pasture.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I am born and raised Texas and I love Texas (beef) BBQ (and yes beef can certainly be BBQ) but Memphis BBQ is awesome. Whenever I go to Memphis the first thing I want to do is eat BBQ. As far as I’m concerned both are great — just different kinds of BBQ.

  7. Bas-O-Matic says:

    Brisket is what TX BBQ is all about.

  8. Sara Brock says:

    Loved the post. Go Memphis BBQ! Safe travels back.

  9. Helen Jones-Jackson says:

    I moved from Memphis to Fort Worth in 1984. And to this day I have yet to find a decent dry rib or pulled pork BBQ sandwich with slaw. The only one who comes close is Sunny Bryant BBQ.
    When I return to Memphis to visit I have to hit all the Top BBQ places. And if your from Memphis you know what I’m talking about.
    Your Texas Friend Helen

  10. Tom says:

    Texas, Oklahoma, North and South Carolina… all are well known for their styles of cooking meat (beef or pig)

    But, when you grow up in Memphis and eat BBQ port and chicken Memphis style… those other places will always be SECOND best.

    Only Colemens, TOPPS, the Rendezvous, Corkeys, Gridleys and all the other great MEMPHIS BBQ locations just cannot compare.. I even vote that Collette’s BBQ Pizza is to die for…
    <— proud member of the charter group of BBQ contenders that slow cooked Whole Hog in the Memphis BBQ contest before it became part of Memphis in May. CURBI group.. 3rd place 1976. Took place in the parking lot at Beale and Front.

  11. Andy says:

    Two minutes of research online would have led you to any number of better examples of Texas BBQ. You’re making a judgment based on the worst product on the menu, scraps soaked in sauce, at a tourist place. Then again, if you wanted to be sure you didn’t find anything you liked better than your current favorite, you made a safe choice. Hope you enjoyed Austin otherwise, and I hope you’ll come back one day and try the BBQ.

    • Hi Andy,

      I asked around a bit before I settled on a place, and a few Austin natives suggested Ironworks. As for the selection, I went with what I thought would make for the closest comparison.

      I’m still in town for a few days and may give the brisket a try. What are your favorite places?

  12. Ellen says:

    Kerry (admin) :Hi Andy,
    I asked around a bit before I settled on a place, and a few Austin natives suggested Ironworks. As for the selection, I went with what I thought would make for the closest comparison.
    I’m still in town for a few days and may give the brisket a try. What are your favorite places?

    Come to Houston and eat at Thelma’s.

  13. justin says:

    You went to a texas bbq place expecting memphis bbq. So even if it was good (and iron works really is not), there’s no way you could have enjoyed it.

    And yes beef is bbq. Texas bbq. Just as pulled pork is memphis bbq and whole hog is carolina bbq.

    Can’t we all just get along?

  14. Brazos says:

    Yes I agree with some of the comments above about beef rules in Tx but the best ribs in Tx are still pork – with no sauce. Remember – pork was eaten more in Tx before beef.

  15. Jamie says:

    If you are still in Austin a few days, take some time out to make the drive to Lockhart. Go to Smitty’s or Kreuz’s. They are both owned by members of the same family. Take cash, especially if you go to Smitty’s.

    Put away your preconceptions and just enjoy the experience. Try a hot link and some brisket. Drink a Big Red with it. Prepare to get messy. Enjoy the atmosphere. Take a gas mask for the smoke room at Smitty’s and a change of clothing if you don’t want to smell like smoke for the rest of the day.

    Know that what you are eating is BBQ and it’s just a different type of BBQ from Memphis. And remember that there’s nothing wrong with that.

  16. Cameron MAnn says:

    Didnt you like that half brisket sandy you had with john at the show? mmmmmmmm…twas very good. I had 3 that night. burning lots of calories for memphis music and staying fueled on street meat

  17. Nick says:

    Gurley is exactly right. Everyone else in here is confused and/or has been lied to. BEEF IS NOT BBQ. Never has been or will be. It can be barbequed, as in the cooking technique, and it can be VERY good (along with chicken and turkey) but it will NEVER be BBQ.

    Pork is BBQ, anyone saying otherwise is perverting God’s own perfect food.

  18. Doh, you went to Ironworks, I hate that place (I live in Austin). Not sure if you tried a decent Texan BBQ while you were here, next time go to Franklin Barbecue or even good old Salt Lick. Going to Memphis in a few day and making a list of all the good BBQs I want to try while there 😉 I like beef and pork BBQ, I'm Brazilian and have no issues about which one is "real", they are all good when done right.

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