Texans are diehard advocates of enjoying a juicy, smokey and unadulterated piece of brisket, but sometimes sauce can give barbeque that extra flavor and kick that will make your mouth water. In the right moment, there’s nothing better than a succulent piece of meat that has been smoking for hours. To some, barbeque is a sacred ritual denoting some of the most salient aspects of Texas culture. Austin has some of the best barbeque in the state and in the nation; however, different places all over the country have continuously vied for the right to call their meat, “the best barbeque in the country.” This title can be near impossible to determine when barbeque is such a diverse and rich form of cooking.

One of the largest debates in the barbeque world is the conversation on the importance of the meat itself versus sauce. Many Texans characterize the succulence of the meat, the char of the edges of a piece of brisket and the smoky flavor as central to the identity of true barbeque. The bark and burnt ends of a brisket especially demonstrate this mentality of the meat’s dominance over sauce, and the idea that sauce is almost confectionary in the realm of barbeque. I mean, if you cooked it right, you shouldn’t need sauce.

BBQ Sauce

Photo by Kathleen Lee

Many other states believe that the sauce is what makes barbeque sacred. In places such as Kansas City, Missouri, sauce plays the defining role in their barbeque’s identity. Meat doesn’t necessarily play a secondary role in barbeque, but the sweet, tangy or savory sauces of other states are seen as the meat’s complementary culinary partner. Many believe that sauce is not only a delicacy itself, but that sauce often brings out and complements the smoky flavor of pork ribs or accompanies the tenderness of brisket.

Either way, the debate will probably last forever. Both camps of meat versus sauce have excellent points about the nature of meat and the character of sauce. Furthermore, the relationship between sauce and meat is something that is worth thinking about, however you feel about the subject. The best thing to do is to get out there and try as much barbeque as is humanly possible. Try the meat. Try the sauce. Try them together and expand your barbeque horizons. Can’t hurt, right?