Travel Through Texas Barbecue (Good and Bad) with Daniel Vaughn

This Saturday, June 15, Daniel Vaughn, who's the new barbecue editor for Texas Monthly and has been dubbed "BBQ Snob," will be signing his new book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, at Leibman's Foods/Blue Willow Bookshop from 1 to 3 p.m. and River Oaks Bookstore from 4 to 6 p.m.

We spoke with Vaughn about his book and his journey through Texas as he tasted his way through nearly 200 barbecue joints in the Lone Star State. Every place he stopped at made it into his book, whether it was wonderful barbecue or just mediocre.

"I thought it was important to tell the story without strategizing what Texas barbecue was and give a clear picture of a six- to eight-month snapshot," Vaughn says.

Vaughn, along with a few friends and photographer Nicholas McWhirter, traveled through Texas to visit barbecue joints in every region and write reviews of each place. Don't expect this book to feature only the best of the best, because Vaughn wants to tell his readers what's out there, good or bad.

Several Houston locations are featured in Vaughn's book. He says that Gatlin's BBQ and Virgie's Bar-B-Que are two of his favorite Houston barbecue joints.

"I include them all," Vaughn says. "I don't think it helps anybody out if I wrote another barbecue book about the places you shouldn't go eat. I didn't see a need in the market for another barbecue recipe cookbook. I think that [Robb Walsh's] The Legends of Texas Barbecue covers that."

Just as Walsh did, Vaughn breaks the barbecue down into the styles from four regions: East Texas, Central Texas, Hill Country and South Texas. When Vaughn began his trip, he was expecting to find the styles of the regions explained in Walsh's book to be the same, and he did for the most part.

"The only difference is he [Walsh] defines the direct heat as West Texas," Vaughn says. "I found that to be more prevalent in the Hill Country."

Vaughn explains in his book that East Texas barbecue is hickory-smoked and coated in sauce -- this is the one that most Americans are familiar with; Central Texas barbecue focuses on the meat by using spice rubs and cooking over indirect heat with pecan and oak wood; the Hill Country uses a cowboy style by cooking the meat over direct heat and using mesquite coals; and South Texas barbecues whole beef heads in pits dug into the ground, otherwise known as barbacoa.

While Vaughn is not originally from Texas, visiting barbecue joints was a way to connect him to the state.

"It took me to places that I wouldn't have normally gone to," Vaughn says. "It took me to towns I would have no reason to stop in if it weren't for barbecue."