Texas BBQ map latest salvo in state’s savory meat ‘declaration of supremacy’

The Sideshow

There’s a new map and website on the Internet showing the best 50 BBQ joints. And they’re all in Texas.

Of course, the list—compiled annually since 2008—was done by a Lone Star state publication, Texas Monthly.

Editor Jake Silverstein told Yahoo News by phone that he’s ready to "declare war" on all famous BBQ regions, including Kansas City, North Carolina and Memphis. "It's a declaration of supremacy. Our level of authority on BBQ is completely unmatched," he said, noting they were partly having fun with the map, "but [we] also believe what we’re saying."

Causing job envy elsewhere, Texas Monthly has a BBQ editor. "The only BBQ editor in the country," Silverstein claimed. That’s right. Someone is basically paid to eat BBQ. The questionable list claiming newspaper reporter was the “worst job in 2013” may just have been flipped on its head.

“Our guy eats BBQ several times a day,” Silverstein said. And while he might not be as healthy as Texas native Lance Armstrong, he added, "he’s still alive.”

To compile the list, Silverstein sent a team of 15 staffers to 658 BBQ joints, covering about 33,000 miles. Once the list was narrowed to 50, staffers returned to some of the places three, four, even five times.

“One of the hardest things to measure with these places is consistency,” he said.

Interestingly, some of the state’s most famous BBQ joints, like Rudy’s, Stubbs and Iron Works, did not make the list. Of particular interest, the top-rated BBQ joint, Franklin Barbecue, is less than 10 years old.

So, how exactly did the magazine determine the best BBQ?

“At every single joint our eaters would eat primarily brisket, ribs and sausage," Silverstein said. "They had a score sheet that is filled out immediately after the meal. Sauces play a minor role in the process, and they tried some of the sides. But meat was the focus, with brisket being the most important.”

The origins of Texas BBQ are in the rural regions of the state where small-town connoisseurs would sit on folding chairs near the pits, waiting hours for a delicious meal. The pit masters themselves (they were almost universally men, although that is slowly changing) were often up as early as 2 a.m. to begin cooking.

When the Texas Monthly staff put together this year’s top 50 list, they found it to be a radical departure from the first time they attempted to chronicle the state’s best BBQ.

“Five years ago the BBQ landscape looked completely different,” Silverstein said. “A lot of young pit masters that are very traditional in their approach have come on the scene. Most of them are in cities.”

He added, "Sixteen places on our new Top 50 list were not even open five years ago, including two of the top four [Pecan Lodge and Franklin BBQ]. And yet, they’re doing it with an absolute reverence for the traditional way of smoking meat.”