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Where there's smoke, there's Texas barbecue.

ON A RECENT TREK to the Dallas Fort Worth area, we found several barbecue masters who appeased our hankering for the local version of Texas barbecue. Among them, Sam Higgins--author and former caterer from Arlington-- was very articulate about how to create succulent slow-cooked, smoked meats. Here he shares his acclaimed technique. As a bonus, he's tossed in his recipe for an authoritative tomato-based barbecue sauce to serve with the meats.

WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN

With a covered barbecue and patience, you can duplicate his professional barbecue smoker-oven results at home.

At the heart of most debates about which barbecue tastes best is the kind of wood used to smoke it. Most Texans favor mesquite or hickory, which home cooks can buy in chip form. Mesquite provides a mild, clean smokiness; hickory smoke is heavier and sweeter. The smoke flavor of choice is so essential to the formula of a barbecue that restaurants keep their wood supplies under lock and key.

Commercially smoked meats cook in specially constructed ovens, some of which are big enough to walk into. At one end of the oven, wood is burned down to coals. The meat goes into the oven, well away from direct heat of coals, and cooks for hours at carefully maintained (with regular addition of coals) low temperatures. When the meat emerges, it has the deep, rich color of mahogany.

THE BEEF COMES FIRST

In this state, where cattle reign, beef brisket sets the standard for good barbecue. When cooked long and slow, this fibrous, chewy cut becomes tender and moist. And when sliced across the grain, it's downright delicious. Serve it plain or tucked into soft buns with Sam Higgins's lively barbecue sauce.

While the beef cooks, other meats such as chicken, spareribs, sausages, and ham usually share grill and smoke, achieving equal succulence.

Higgins has reduced his massive recipe so it will work on a standard covered (kettle) barbecue using charcoal briquets and wood chips. In this unit, you can smoke a beef brisket, a rack of pork spareribs, and a chicken--enough to serve 20 to 24 people.

The technique is easy. First, rub meats with a blend of salt, pepper, paprika, and chilies, then sear them briefly over hot coals to brown. Push the coals to one side of the firegrate; sprinkle them with a few soaked wood chips for slow, steady smoke, and place meats on the grill--but not over coals. Cover the barbecue and regulate vents to maintain a low temperature for at least 3 hours.

THE TEXAS TWO-STEP

After the brisket smoke cooks, it needs 3 hours of slow oven-baking. This turns making Texas barbecue at home into a two-step process.

Higgins's recipe takes one rather long day; alternatives that follow split the cooking time between two days.

Texas Two-step Mixed Grill Barbecue

4 to 6 cups hickory or

mesquite wood chips

1 broiler-fryer chicken

(about 31/2 lb.)

1 beef brisket (4 to 5 lb.)

1 rack (3 to 4 lb.) pork

spareribs

Pepper rub (recipe

follows)

Sam Higgins's sauce

(recipe follows)

In a bowl, pour water over chips to cover; soak them at least 30 minutes. Split chick en in half lengthwise, rinse, and pat dry. Rub chicken, beef, and pork with pepper rub, using all.

Ignite 55 charcoal briquets on firegrate in a barbecue (about 22-in. diameter) with a lid. When coals are well dotted with gray ash, 30 to 40 minutes, spread in a single solid layer (coals must touch). Place grill 4 to 6 inches above coals. Cook chicken, beef, and ribs over coals on grill until browned, 3 to 5 minutes a side.

Lift off grill; mound coals against one side of firegrate. Put 3 briquets on coals; scatter 2 cups drained, soaked wood chips on coals. Replace grill and set all meats on grill, not over any coals.

Cover barbecue and open or close vents to maintain temperature between 200[degrees] and 225degrees] for 1 hour. To measure temperature, insert a long-stemmed instant-read thermometer through vent in lid (if thermometer is left in place, smoke may discolor stem). For more heat, open vents; for less heat, partially close vents. If temperature drops so low that you are unable to increase it by opening vents, add 1 or 2 briquets to coals and open all vents until coals ignite.

After 1 hour, remove lid; using tongs or thick hot pads, tilt up grill to expose coal mound; add 2 more briquets and 1 to 2 cups drained soaked chips (use smaller amount for milder smoke flavor). Replace grill and lid; continue smoking 1 hour, maintaining 200degrees] to 225[degrees] temperature by adjusting vents. Repeat step, adding 2 more briquets and 1 to 2 cups soaked chips; cook until meat at thigh bone of chicken is no longer dark pink (cut to test) and meat pulls easily from sparerib bones, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer. (Smoke causes meat just under skin or at surface to turn bright pink.)

Remove meat from grill; chicken and ribs are ready to serve, but the beef takes more cooking. Seal beef in foil and set in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake in a 200[degrees] oven until meat is very tender when pierced, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

About 30 minutes before beef is done, seal chicken and ribs separately in foil and put in oven.

Drain and save beef juices; skim and discard fat. Reserve juices for barbecue sauce (recipe follows).

Serve the meats hot. (If making ahead, see two-step cooking options that follow.) Slice beef, cut ribs between bones, and cut chicken apart. Add barbecue sauce to taste. Serves 20 to 24. Per serving: 377 cal. (67 percent from fat); 28 g protein; 28 g fat (11 g sat); 1.2 g carbo.; 500 mg sodium; 104 mg chol.

Pepper rub. Mix 3 table spoons California or New Mexico ground chilies, 3 tablespoons paprika, 1 1/2 table spoons salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons pepper.

Sam Higgins's sauce. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan, combine 1 1/2 cups catsup. the reserved beef juices (from beef brisket, preceding) and enough water (or regular-strength beef broth) to make 3/4 cup, 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup lemon juice. 6 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and 2 teaspoons liquid hot pepper seasoning.

Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 3 cups, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or cool; add more liquid hot pepper to taste. If making ahead, cover and chill up to 2 weeks. Makes 3 cups. Per tablespoon: 19 cal.; 0.8 g protein; 0 g fat 4.8 g carbo.; 137 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Two-day barbecue two-step. The first day, cook beef and finish it in the oven. Let cool and chill overnight. Next day, smoke-cook chicken and ribs; as they cook, heat beef packet in a close-fitting pan on grill.

Two-day oven two-step. Seal cool cooked meats in foil. Chill up to a day. To reheat, set wrapped beef in a close-fitting pan and other meats in packets, on oven racks or baking sheets; bake in a 200[degrees] oven until meats are hot in thickest part, about 2 hours for the beef and ribs, 1 1/2 hours for the chicken.

Locals share favorite barbecue spots in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

Cowboy-booted ranchers, high-heeled fashion plates, and business-suited professionals rub shoulders as they devour Texas barbecue in the following restaurants--all of which get consistently high ratings locally. The mix of barbecue choices varies, but smoked beef brisket (sliced or chopped) is basic. Other likely options include pork spareribs, chicken, sausage, or ham, plus the inevitable side orders of coleslaw, beans, potato salad, corn on the cob, and onion rings. Prices for barbecue served as dinner range from $6.50 to $10; sandwiches cost around $3. Smoked meats can also be purchased to take home for around $8 to $9.50 per pound.

Angelo's, 2533 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth;(817) 332-0357. Open 11 to 10 Mondays through Saturdays. This local institution excels in juicy pork spareribs and well-spiced beef.

Baker's Ribs, 2724 Commerce Road, Dallas; (214)748-5433. Open 11 to 7 Mondays through Thursdays, 11 to 9 Fridays and Saturdays. Customers line up for hickory-smoked pork spareribs rubbed with four kinds of pepper, and the tangy sauce.

Gaylen's Nationally Famous Barbecue, 326 N. Collins, Arlington; (817) 277 1945. Open 11 to 10 Mondays through Saturdays. This restaurant serves big, meaty pork spareribs. Help yourself to mild or spicy sauce to lavish onto smoked meats.

Mac's Bar-B-Que, 3933 Main Street, Dallas; (214) 823-0731. Open 11 to 2:30 weekdays. Since 1946, this family-owned operation has served fine barbecue in a crowded 50-seat restaurant. Customers vigorously endorse the stuffed baked potato topped with smoked beef and sauce.

N. Main Street B-B-Q, 406 N. Main Street, Euless; (817) 283-0884. Open 11 :30 to 2 and 6 to 9 Fridays and Saturdays. This restaurant offers all-you-can-eat barbecue for only $10. It has twice won the title of "Rib Champion of the World." Bring your own beer.

Smokey John's Barbecue Depot, 6412 Lemmon Avenue, Dallas; (214) 352-2752. Open 11 to 7 Mondays through Saturdays, to 8 on Fridays. Well-seasoned meats make robust, succulent barbecue; the beef gets raves.

Sonny Bryan's Smoke house, 2202 Inwood Road, Dallas; (214) 357-7120. Open 10 to 4 weekdays, 10 to 3 Saturdays, 11 to 2 Sundays. Also at 302 N. Market Street; 744-1610. Open 11 to 10 Mondays through Thursdays, 11 to11 Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 9 Sundays. And at 325 N. St. Paul Street; 979 0102. Open 10:30 to 2:30 weekdays. This old-timer, in operation since 1910, cooks a beef brisket that melts in your mouth. The oldest smokehouse, on In wood, is small, crowded, and hot. Sit at old-fashioned school chairs with armrest tables and eat beef sandwiches off plastic plates. The Market Street location boasts air-conditioning, tables, and chairs.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes and directory of restaurants
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau
Publication:Sunset
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:1663
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