As the nation’s only full-time “barbecue editor,” Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly has penned The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, a handy guide for serious meat lovers in the Lone Star State.
The title derives, in part, from the blog that helped launch his relatively new career, Full Custom Gospel BBQ, where, in 2006, he began reviewing barbecue from around the country.
Prophets, however, is not meant to describe Vaughn and travel buddy Nicholas McWhirter.
“The real prophets are in the pit,” explained Vaughn, who will be signing copies of his book Friday afternoon at Full Circle Bookstore. “It’s a craft; [barbecue] is something that takes a lot of care to make.”
Originally from Ohio, Vaughn moved to Dallas to work as an architect. In April, Texas Monthly made him its official barbecue editor.
The results of a 35-day road trip, The Prophets of Smoked Meat features the good, the mediocre and the places to skip.
“The only way I’m going to be of service is to let you know where the best places are,” he said.
Highlighting four distinct Texas barbecue styles according to region, some areas warrant more praise than others.
“In East Texas, you can go to some barbecue chains and they offer lean brisket or moist brisket,” Vaughn said. “When you ask for fatty brisket at the counter, they ask, ‘Sorry, sir, did you mean moist?’” If you’re going to eat barbecue, he added, you might as well embrace the fatty reality and call it like it is.
“We all know why it’s called ‘moist,’” he said.
While some might opt for euphemisms to mollify the health-conscious, others actually trim away the tastiest parts altogether.
“In some places, they’ll cut around the fat and leave you with a square of grayish-looking meat. If that’s the train barbecue is taking to seem healthier, I don’t want to be a part of it,” said Vaughn.
There are no signs of barbecue shortages from where he sits, even in light of the ever-increasing, trendy gourmet options.
“Barbecue is still incredibly popular,” he said. “When you look at buzzwords that are thrown around today, people talk about eating local or use words like ‘artisan’ or ‘handcrafted,’ and these have even been used to describe the bagels at 7-Eleven. When you’re talking about barbecue, these buzzwords people are probably sick of actually do apply.
“This is about supporting local businesses; it’s about eating something that requires a craftsman.”