(Disclaimer: I have previously lived and drank in Austin for the best part of three years. Bias may affect this article)
When talking about the best barbecue in the US, there's always been a certain amount of meaty chest puffing, especially between States. As everyone agrees on Texas being the greatest region for smoked goods (yeah thats right, Kansas City), the real competition is all between different towns and cities across the Lone Star State. Here's my reasoning on why Austin's barbecue scene is the best IN THE WORLD.
All Wood Fired
A lot of places, especially the bigger restaurants (such as Hill Country BBQ) rely on gas assisted behemoths or even *gasp* electric smokers. While these type of smokers are more efficient and easy to control (so much so, that many regard them as cheating), they just don't deliver the depth of flavor that traditional wood fired offset smokers do. All of Austin's best joints use good ol' steel pits, and so do we. The smoker we are currently using (name pending) is based loosely off Tom Micklethwait's, based out of Austin's Eastside.
No Sloppy, Mushy Ribs.
The Texas spare rib really has no competition. Your Kansas City and Memphis style ribs use St. Louis and baby back cuts respectively. They may look pretty and trimmed, but lack in tender, delicious pork. Texas style spare ribs have a larger fat content, and are much larger in size. This means that they will be moister and can take on more smoke flavor.
You should take caution on anywhere that advertises "fall of the bone" ribs. This just means that they've been overcooked to death or even worse, boiled. Another common rib pitfall (heh) is to have a rack absolutely smothered in sauce - us British absolutely love'em that way. In Texas, it is understood that barbecue sauce is absolutely not needed...if the meat is good enough. Therefore our ribs at HMCo will not have an ounce of sauce smothered on them, to let the smokey flavor and peppery rub shine. This is not to discount a great barbecue sauce- it makes an excellent receptacle for some white bread.
Nowhere can cook dead cow better than in Austin, be it brisket or ribs. Don't believe me? Local favorite La Barbecue took home Best Brisket at the Rodeo (kind of a big deal) whilst Micklethwait’s (where I learnt how to smoke meats) won a Texas Monthly reported beef rib competition. I don't believe anyone in London will be cooking brisket the way we're doing it at HMCo and I can't wait for y'all to try it.
The Barbecue Culture or Tailgating
I really love the culture surrounding barbecue in Austin- it's what originally got me into smoking my own meats. Whole families, groups of friends, connoisseurs, the hungover will line up for ages, hours before we even open. And the line's a great place to be - people drinking beer in Texas' famed sunshine* and chatting to the people next to them. Upon visiting John Mueller's, the man himself might offer you one of his beers and a quick handshake. And it's this that’s what a lot of places in the UK get wrong- it's not about being overly haute or hokey, it's about good times with friends and family. Barbecue to me is best in the outside, beer in hand with several pounds of meat to share with my friends. This is why we've decided to go down the street market/trailer route.Some of my favorite moments working for Micklethwait Craft Meats was having people come up to the trailer and tell me how great our barbecue was. It's gonna be great to be back in my own community, and I can't wait to share what I've learnt in Austin with y'all.
*Sunshine not required to enjoy barbecue