5@5 - Busting barbecue myths
April 1st, 2013
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Daniel Vaughn may be the most envied man in America right now. Not only is his book "The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue" coming out next month as the debut title in the Anthony Bourdain Books line, he's also taking up a post as the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly magazine. It's the first position of its kind in the country, and the 35-year-old Ohio-born Vaughn left his job as an architect to pursue his fiery passion for smoked meat full time.

The self-proclaimed "BBQ snob" has eaten at over 600 barbecue joints across the nation. He makes it his business to sniff out the best of the best and help his carnivorous brethren avoid potential pitfalls along the way with reviews on his website Full Custom Gospel BBQ.

As such, Mr. Vaughn has a bone to pick with some commonly-held barbecue beliefs.

Five Barbecue Myths That Should Be Dispelled: Daniel Vaughn

1. Barbecue sauce is mandatory
Wrong! I love barbecue sauce. It's a tight race between it and German mustard as my favorite condiment, but it doesn't need to be a part of every barbecue meal. A well-cooked piece of meat that has been adequately spiced and smoked doesn't need to be covered in a thick barbecue sauce to taste good, but bad barbecue does require sauce to be edible.

Hugh Acheson said it best in his "Vinegar and Barbecue" article that ran in the Southern Foodways Alliance Gravy Newsletter #44, "...saccharine sauces do not complement meat cooked for hours, tended with care and precision over wood coals stoked with love and strength. That's like roasting a perfect chicken and serving it with a melted jelly bean sauce." Save the sauce for dipping your bread.

2. Grilling = BBQ
Nope. If you can cook it for a short time over high heat and it's still edible, chances are it's not barbecue. Tough fatty cuts like brisket, spare ribs and pork shoulder are transformed by a low fire over a long period of time. That's barbecue. If you haven't planned your evening meal by 5 p.m. and can still prepare meat over fire for dinner, then you are eating grilled meats, not barbecue.

3. Fat is evil
Child please! When I read a Yelp review complaining that a barbecue joint's brisket is too fatty, I immediately bump that joint up on my personal to-do list. Fat captures and retains the flavors of smoke and seasoning far better than meat, so please don't trim it off. One of the hardest things to watch is when a fresh brisket is laid on a cutting board in front of me and the carver takes the back of their knife and scrapes off the fat right into the trash - all of that incredible flavor wasted.

Well-smoked fat is one of the joys of eating brisket, and its doneness is the best indicator of a well smoked brisket. If the fat's good, then the meat probably will be too.

4. Texans only know beef
Try again. Yes, we can smoke a mean brisket in Texas, but smoked sausages (usually including a mix of beef and pork) are just as important to our barbecue tradition. You'll be hard pressed to find a barbecue joint in the Lone Star State that doesn't have pork ribs on the menu (the term "Texas Trinity" refers to a combination of brisket, ribs and sausage), and you may even find smoked pork chops, mutton ribs, pulled pork and even cabrito (young goat). You'll also find plenty of poultry, which is barely barbecue, but the point is we go way beyond just beef in Texas.

5. "Falling off the bone" is a positive achievement
For heaven's sake, no. When rib meat flops onto the plate while you're trying to lift a rib bone to your mouth, it's an insult to the pig. That pig just provided one of nature's best meat handles and it's now wasted. Rib meat should easily come away from the bone when bitten, and the bone should be clean after a bite has been taken.

If we could rid society and advertisers everywhere of the notion that there are positive connotations that go along with "falling off the bone," then we will have won. There's no reason for those of us with teeth (or good dentures) to celebrate overcooked, mushy meat.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

A fraternal bond in Texas barbecue
The self-cannibalizing pigs of Texas BBQ
How to spot a great barbecue joint
South Carolina barbeque and the human condition
Honoring the bond of barbecue
Mutton, pork butts and burgoo – an intro to Kentucky barbecue
5 slices of barbecue wisdom
Picking the pig, flipping the hog

More on barbecue

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Filed under: 5@5 • Barbecue • Texas • Think

soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Herbert Menchaca

    Voir ce excellent blog : Acheter cigarette �lectronique


    August 29, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
  2. Frederick Schenk

    Any piece of normal BBQing meat that isn't spoiled is great if it's cooked at a low temperature for a long time, with or without smoke. My Mom always cooked ribs in a bed of sauerkraut for hours at low temp in the oven. I prefer smoked but I'm not complaining if I ever get ribs on sauerkraut, unsmoked. Of course cooking time varies with type of meat but BBQ is hard to screw up. I wouldn't want to eat with someone who thinks otherwise because their dimwitted snobbishness would probably permeate their conversation.

    May 15, 2014 at 4:35 am |
  3. Brandon

    I smoke ribs ad brisket together when I'm smoking for the whiole weekend and the ribs generally take 4.5-5 hours and the brisket about 8-9 depending on the size. I serve the ribs at night on the day of the smoke and hold them kin a cooler for a couple of hours until I'm ready to "finish" them on my "gasser" for another 5-6 minutes, and appy the sauce on the meat side for the last 2-3 minutes. My guests think they have died and gone to heaven! I pull the brisket from the smoker when my digital thermometer reads 185 F which is a little below the reccomended 190-195 and then it cooks the rest of the way the next day when i put it in a dutch oven with some apple juice and heat it at 300 F for an hour and fifteen minutes. It turns out very moist, and still has the crunchy bark that people like, and don't forget to slice against the grain for better cuts and max tenderness.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • TrueCoug

      Cool story, bro.

      July 3, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  4. Michael

    BBQ is like sex. While some is better than others, it is all pretty good.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Q4Fun

      Some is downright awful and you end up thinking, "Why did I do that?"

      April 4, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  5. Mac

    Why worry about the membrane. I can smoke some pork ribs that will make your mouth drop wide open. They are so good that the after taste taste good when you swallow a again. I can prove it too. And don't forget the brisket, it is just as good. I live in San Antonio, Texas. Check it!!!

    April 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  6. SJones

    BBQ Beef ribs. I've never had good ones outside of Texas.

    April 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • MattW

      So you move out of Texas and you forget how to bbq beef ribs?????

      April 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  7. taco bender

    Best bbq tip: Control your temp.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Curious-er

      Considering some of the heated posts here, is that temp-er or temp-erature?

      April 3, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  8. ohioan

    I have a smoker and do a pretty tasty pork shoulder. Definitely low and slow and the leftovers make pretty tasty tacos the next day.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  9. Mitch

    This guy is just a fat slob and is glorifying poor eating habits

    April 3, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Joe

      How so???

      April 3, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • taco bender


      April 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • edward

      And you're a vegan prick!

      April 4, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Dave

      Agreed. Killing animals for amusement is the definition of senseless violence.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:55 am |
      • Dave

        Agreed with Mitch, that is. Not with Edward, who is clearly threatened by vegans.

        April 4, 2013 at 10:59 am |
        • Seansa

          Yet, you are clearly threatened by omnivores because you came to a BBQ thread just to post your distaste in what others do. Pot "meat" kettle. Hah.

          April 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  10. KieranH

    Rib meat should totally fall off the bone. Is this dude insane?

    April 3, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Joe

      If you follow ANY of the countries top pitmasters (Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone, Aaron Franklin, Johnny Trigg) they will all tell you that "fall off the bone" is poor BBQ. You should be able to "Bite" the meat and pull it away from the bone cleanly.
      Learn your BBQ.

      April 3, 2013 at 8:26 am |
      • MikeH

        I don't understand why Tuffy Stone is considered a pitmaster. I haven't had his competition meat, but his restaurant (Q BBQ) failed pretty quickly around here and for good reason. His BBQ was second rate at best.

        April 4, 2013 at 10:12 am |
      • Frederick Schenk

        Only girls listen to what the leading names in fashion say...same goes for bbq. Real men like what tastes and feels good to them.

        May 15, 2014 at 4:38 am |
    • Paul

      Technically he's right. But there's very little to distinguish "falling off the bone" and "pulling the bone clean with your teeth". Point is, the meat should be tender, not cling hard to the bone, but not be mushy. It's sometimes a fine line.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
      • Seansa

        I disagree with his clean bone theory. I think a little SHOULD stick to the bone. Mushy ribs = Fail.

        April 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Herman

      Ribs should NEVER fall off of the bone. They should be just like he said. Perfect ribs fall from the bone when GENTLY bitten into. There should be little to pulling to get them eaten. Ribs should also be a nice bronze color when properly smoked.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • MikeH

        Any chance that's what people mean when they say "fall off the bone"? I have never seen it where you pick up a rib and the mean litterally falls off the bone and flops on the plate.

        April 4, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • Q4Fun

          I have seen "fall off the bone ribs" and used to eat them that way along with boiled ribs. SACRILIGE I say. I have found the error of my ways and repented. Many none BBQ resaraunts that serve ribs serve them this way.

          April 4, 2013 at 11:46 am |
        • Seansa

          Lots of places will advertise this atrocity as good. They are typically what I call "crock pot" ribs. They bake ribs for 15+ hours at 200ish and slather it with sugary BBQ sauce and liquid smoke and call it BBQ. Lame and an insult to pork.

          April 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Q4Fun

      Rib meat should NEVER fall off the bone. It's over cooked if it does. It should leave whats called a "watermelon bite." If you ever bite a watermelon you can see where you bit. The same should happen with ribs and the meat should pull off the bone clean.

      April 4, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  11. its just chicken

    crock pot level "fall of the bone" is the worst. I would rather it be cooked too fast than too slow to the point its just baby food

    April 3, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • Seansa


      April 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  12. North Dallas Don

    There's a place at Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia that promotes itself as serving "Texas Barbeque." Don't trust their claim. It's nothing like Texas barbecue. In fact, calling it barbecue at all is plain wrong.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Little Timmy

      And it's just your opinion. Get a grip.

      April 3, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  13. Star Magazine

    Daniel Vaughn looks like Newman. Could it really be? Ask Kramer


    April 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  14. BBQ Heretic

    I have found that the absolute best cooking apparatus for BBQ did not originate in TX, NC, TN, or any other place in the BBQ belt. It came from Japan–the Kamado cooker. The best known example in the US is probably the Big Green Egg™. Put a brisket, butt, or rack in one with lump charcoal and soaked mesquite or hickory chips. Keep the temp low, around 200-250F, and pull it off when the center of the meat gets to 150F. Oh.My.Lord. I have never had finer anywhere.

    April 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Sid


      I bought a Primo XL (made in USA btw!) right before Super Bowl last year & that thing is AWESOME! I've cooked everything from ribs to pizza to stuffed jalapeños to whole snapper to Thanksgiving turkey (which friends/family said was best they'd ever had by far) and everything in between!

      this article talks about the don't(s) but a few DO(s) I've learned from experience:

      1. WRAP to finish! most meat only soaks up smoke for 1st couple hrs, after that you're wasting moisture so wrap in heavy duty foil after that!
      2. use a dual digital thermometer! you want precise meat temps & the stock temp gages on smokers tend to have a margin of error.
      3. smoke is like wine – pair the right one with the right meat! it DOES matter! I've gotten fond of Western Smokin' Chunks/Chips and grown my "library" to include hickory, mesquite, oak, apple, cherry, pecan, maple & alder.
      4. bring the temp up SLOWLY on a komado! it's a heck of a lot easier to raise it than to lower it – you're way better off to take more time stabilizing temp up front!

      April 3, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • roflhar

      Yes, Big Green Eggs are awesome to cook on, I can't disagree one bit there.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
      • Seansa

        Except that the green egg brand is WAY overpriced. You can get the same exact thing for 1/3 of the price if you get a generic kamado.

        April 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  15. us_1776

    Korean BBQ is the best.


    April 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • BBQ Heretic

      Good? Absolutely!
      Great? Sometimes.
      Best? No way!

      April 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • its just chicken

      they dont bbq, they grill

      April 3, 2013 at 1:25 am |
      • BBQ Heretic

        I hadn't considered that, but you're definitely correct.

        April 3, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  16. Ray

    No self respecting Texan puts BBQ sauce on his grilled/bbq meat.

    April 2, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Anne Stewart

      Too bad Texans are cooking the wrong animal. Everyone else knows pork is better than beef.

      April 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Speedy Gonzales

        The only reason Texans eat beef instead of horse is because cows are easier to catch.

        April 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
      • wrong

        we pork too anne stewart you nerd. go back to thew stax museum and pine over memphis lost glory and soul.

        April 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  17. laughingsalmon

    Texas, Memphis, Kansas City...Which BBQ is best!?! The one that's in front of you when you're hungry!

    April 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • John

      North Carolina. Or Kentucky.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  18. laughingsalmon

    Texas, Kansas City, Memphis...Which is the Best!?! The BBQ that is in front of you when you're hungry!

    April 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Anne Stewart


      April 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
      • wrong

        wrong. you must have only had memphis. Ive had memphis and i live in texas, and texas is better bbq

        April 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
        • get over it

          Who's the best guitar player ever?
          Who's the best quarterback ever?
          What state has the best bbq?

          Opinions all. And like a particular body part, we all have one. The poster who said the best bbq is the plate in front of you is someone I can agree with.

          BBQ is a cooking technique that any properly motivated person with enough time on their hands can become good at.

          Best pulled pork (my particular bbq fav) was from a joint in Cockeysville Maryland (Andy's Famous), but it is NC style. go figure.

          April 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • roflhar

        I live in Memphis, and I can tell you, I cannot stand they way some of these places think they need to slather meat in bbq sauce. One of the places most highly regarded here – and I won't name names, but they serve sandwiches slathered in sauce, it absolutely disgusted me. I'll pass on the baked beans too. Who needs all that sweet in a meal? I like something with dry rub, reasonably dry but wet is fine, potato salad on the side. If it's just a 2 course meal, last thing I want is everything on my plate to taste the same and some of the most famous joints we have here do.

        April 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
        • Globalhobo

          KC BBQ really is the best.

          Burnt end brisket is heavenly there and hard to find anywhere else.

          American Royal in KC is by far the biggest BBQ contest in the world for a reason.

          Gates BBQ sauce is the 5th food tongue flavor after sweet, salty, bitter and msg!

          April 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  19. sweetenedtea

    I never did get the whole "Texas barbecue" thing. I've had all sorts, from vinegar-based pulled pork in NC, to mustardy bbq in SC, to Alabama and Memphis to KC to Texas (and even a passable if not great southern Illinois variant.) All of them were delicious - I was careful to pick places that were known to be good - but even the Texans I spoke to weren't particularly clear on how their beef brisket was "barbecue" and not just "very tender well-cooked meat." How does that differ from, say, a ribeye steak prepared the same way?

    April 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • The Dude

      BBQ means cooking with smoke, not direct heat. Grilling is cooking on direct heat.

      April 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  20. scarf

    Serious question. Can someone please explain to me how Kansas City, South Carolina, and Texas all have completely different ways of cooking meat, yet they all call it BBQ. It seems to me that comparing Texas BBQ to KC or SC BBQ is much like comparing beef and chicken. They are so different, they shouldn't be compared as if they are even remotely similar. They should each be enjoyed for their individual attributes. One may have a preference, but that doesn't make the alternatives bad.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • Aaron

      Think of barbecue as a general method of cooking. Low, slow, and smokey. Everything else is a matter of personal taste (or regional in this case). The type of wood used to make the smoke, sauce, and even the type of meat are all reflections of the diners choice. So there is a great deal of variation. I mean, a sandwich is still a sandwich even with the massive variety of breads and fillings you have to choose from. Same thing with barbecue.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Schoolin'Q

      BBQ is indirect cooking. Rather low and slow OR even hot and fast (aka. Miron Mixon method)
      Grilling is direct heat.

      October 31, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  21. JT

    I look at BBQ like I look at beer: I reallly enjoy the good stuff and all the intricate varieties, but at the end of the day if I want BBQ I really don't care who makes it or how it's cooked. I would much prefer a home smoked brisket to a fastfood pulled pork sandwich, but I'd prefer the later to chicken fingers :)

    It kinda bugs me when people get snobby about BBQ. You do realize that cooking food down for hours on end to make it palatable isn't too far from pickling food, covering it in sugar/butter, or any of the other many things we do to make cheap food taste good.

    I think I just might smoke me a tenderloin this weekend :)

    April 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • roflhar

      Unfortunately so many people that make BBQ think it's doing just what you said. Smothering it in sugar. I like some sweet sauces but I prefer mine with a little bit of heat. Sometimes more heat and less sweet is ideal for me. I live in a place famous for good BBQ and a lot of what I have seen here, tastes like they just dumped molasses on it. It's a shame really. I don't want baked beans either, that's like 2 courses that taste the same. Gimme potato salad and a cole slaw that isn't sweet but made with dill pickles instead of sweet and less carrot and I am set.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  22. CT

    As a Kansas Citian, I agree with everything this Texan wrote. (Of course, I'm provincial and like to think we do it better, but that's a different story.)

    You're not barbecuing if you're cooking your meat for less than six hours ... or using open flame ... or high temperatures. You're grilling. Call me an elitist if you want, but calling a grilled chicken breast "barbecue" is no different than calling a Ford Taurus an airplane. You can say it all you want, but it will never be true.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  23. John English

    this is it, we've reached peak first world problems. Congratulations everyone; it's all downhill from here.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Vashon

      You know the phrase "first world problem" is already passe with your unwashed hipster buddies, right? If you're trying to show everyone you're a tool of the first order, congratulations! You passed the audition. Now make me a pulled pork sammich.

      April 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • Phil

        I'm glad to see you care so little that you took the time to type out a reply. Hahaha

        April 4, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • CT

      Actually, barbecue typically involves the cheapest cuts of meat you can get. There's a reason the nation's best barbecue regions are areas with high poverty rates. People with little money had to figure out ow to make cheap meat taste good.

      First-world problem? Hardly ...

      April 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Dan

        Actually, arguing about the proper definition of what constitutes BBQ is the very definition of a first world problem. I don't think starving people in Africa would care if what they were eating was proper BBQ or not.

        April 4, 2013 at 1:34 am |
  24. Jack Sprat

    It's funny to see how people get worked up over little things. It is BBQ, not some kind of cult.

    April 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • RS

      And that's why you'll never understand.

      April 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  25. Bryanska

    Hey BBQ people: quit acting like it's some freaking religion. The one thing I know about BBQ, is that EVERYONE Is wrong. How this is, is beyond me.

    April 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Ed G.

      Isn't religion also a thing where they say everybody else is wrong?

      April 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  26. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Rub an onion on the grill prior to throwing your steaks down. Just do it. Thank me later.

    April 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Little Timmy

      Why would I do that when I hate onions? You're an idiot. Go away.

      April 3, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  27. Emett

    Oh please, Texans know NOTHING about barbecue. I have been there and Texas is HIGHLY overrated.

    April 2, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Vashon

      So's your Mom, but nobody complains in public about her. Besides, you probably use sauce to cover up your weak meat.

      April 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
      • Speedy Gonzales

        But what does Mom use on your meat?

        April 2, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  28. tracie


    April 2, 2013 at 12:30 am |
  29. EVN

    Fat and flavor are not synonomous. Too much fat is gross as well as unhealthy. Trim it – if it has that much to begin with there is enough you can't get rid of to give you that taste you desire.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • redblank

      This is the complaint of a person who has never had the pleasure of tasting delicious, salty, smokey beef fat transformed by low heat for many, many hours.

      April 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  30. bbqbabe

    Totally agree with #5 – when I bbq ribs, they still have some tug – tender but toothy!!!!

    April 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  31. billm75

    I was about to give you hell at #5, but I read the whole thing and you saved it. :) I like my ribs to come easily off the bone, almost falling off. And as a South Carolina BBQ Enthusiast/Chef, my ribs are always done to that standard. Also, I make a mean brisket, even if I'm not in Texas.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Lisa

      So as someone who doesn't like ribs, because they are always too tough, (not just mine but in restaurants I've gone to).... HOW do you accomplish that feat?

      April 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • Bob

        Not hard,but sacrilege to some. Make sure ribs are at room temp. About an hour before cooking, strip off the membrane, season liberally with rub of your choice, and smoke the ribs (baby backs or St Louis style slabs) for app 3.5 hours at 250. Remove from smoker, rehydrate by brushing down with a mixture of melted unsalted butter and honey. Wrap in heavy foil, bring smoker temp up to about 300, and cook an additional 1-1.5 hours (you can do this in your oven at home if you like – it doesn't matter; the ribs are done smoking.) Some like to brush on a little sauce and finish the ribs on the grill for about 15 minutes before serving. It is important to let the meat rest for a bit before serving also.

        April 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
        • elob

          Bob – where can I order some of these ribs of yours? Do you ship to California?
          (I'm eating a "BBQ" chicken salad as I type this and am now very unsatisfied.)

          April 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • Lisa

          Thanks – will try!!

          April 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
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