Low-and-slow smoked beef likely became a central-Texas tradition after a massive influx of German and Czech immigrants in the mid-19th century. Many were butchers, and once in Texas, these European meat purveyors smoked the cuts that didn't sell so well. But believe it or not, smoked beef is not the last word in Texas barbecue.
|Photo by Nicholas McWhirter.|
You may have heard of Snow's in Lexington, Texas, which shot to statewide fame in 2008 after being named the Best Barbecue in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. Twenty minutes away, in tiny Deanville, there's another spot that flies under the radar but deserves a visit. On Saturday mornings, you can find Mr. Charanza tending the pits at the local Sons of Hermann Hall. Though Mr. Charanza is of Czech heritage and the Sons of Hermann is a German organization, there's no hint of irony at this melding of cultures. Both German and Czech traditions remain prominent in this part of the state. Fraternal organizations like the Sons of Hermann were founded by immigrants seeking a sense of community in their new home. They offered a place for fellowship, pooled their funds into life insurance policies for members, and became home to some of Texas' historic dancehalls. Outside many of these buildings you can find a barbecue pit of considerable heft and wear, but few contain the remote firebox required for smoking meat. Most of these pits, including the ones at the Sons of Hermann Hall No. 301 in Deanville, were designed with direct-heat cooking in mind.
|Photo by Nicholas McWhirter|
Mr. Charanza burns oak wood on a concrete slab, transferring the coals to the pit when they are white-hot. He cooks pork spare ribs, half-chickens, thick-cut pork steaks, and Czech sausage (all from a local meat market) at high heat directly above the coals. You won't find beef on this pit, and there isn't much smoke, but you'll hear plenty of sizzle. Most folks take their foil-wrapped barbecue to go, but you can also eat in the side room of the functioning dancehall, where old men spend the afternoon playing dominoes. After one bite of the heavily seasoned meat, you won't miss the smoke. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Deanville during the town's Independence Day celebrations, I suggest you boogie off the barbecue on the dance floor.
—You can follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @BBQSnob.