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You Can ‘Cue Better: Barbecue 101 With Daniel Vaughn

Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn says he has the “best business card in the world.” The former architect arrived at the glossy’s office with thousands of miles of searching for the best joints and reams of greasy butcher paper in his wake. Here are four tips for procuring or preparing 'cue from Vaughn’s hour on Think -- the conversation re-airs today at noon as part of KERA's weeklong "Best of Think​" series.

[listen to theshow here]

#1: First things first: A backyard grill party is not a barbecue.

“Barbecue is meat that has been smoked or cooked over wood. What you’re doing on your gas grill – burgers, hot dogs – doesn’t really count as barbecue. Even steaks – not barbecue,” Vaughn says.

#2: There is no secret ingredient.

Somehow, a lot of people still feel like “secret rub recipes” of seasonings and herbs are necessary. They’re not, Vaughn says. In fact, any memorable barbecue he’s had in Texas was dressed only in salt and pepper.

“The only real secret ingredient is the pit master themselves,” he says.

#3: Out-of-state flavors and barbecue beef ribs do exist in North Texas.

Callers wondered about the breadth of options here, as minimalist spots like Lockhart Smokehouse in Oak Cliff surge in popularity. But Vaughn knows where to find less-Texan fare. Pecan Lodge serves pulled pork with sweetened vinegar sauce, Vaughan says, key of a Carolina M.O. And Red Hot and Blue is the place to find Memphis style ribs – albeit the only place in the area Vaughn knows to find the sort, finished with a dry rub.

As for barbecue beef ribs, Vaughn prefers the beef short rib on the dinner menu at Smoke, the ribs at Lockhart Smokehouse, and the beef ribs at Pecan Lodge.

#4: Styrofoam to-go containers will ruin your road-trip souvenir barbeque.

If you are planning to share your killing from Smitty’s in Lockhart, Texas, you'd better transport it correctly. First, he says, don’t order the meat sliced or it’ll likely be dry before you even get behind the wheel of your car. Ask for a chunk instead – and have it wrapped in butcher paper.

“If you wrap it up in foil, you might get some condensation that might screw with the crust a little bit,” Vaughn says.

Keep it in a small cooler – no ice.

“Chances are, if you’re on a 3-hour-drive, it’s still going to be warm when you get there.”

You can listen to 'Think' Monday through Thursday at noon and 9 p.m. or stream online at

Lyndsay Knecht is assistant producer for Think.