Being from Texas, I have strong opinions regarding the smoking of meat. Barbecue is the sacred tradition of my people. From the cattle ranchers perfecting brisket to the Germanic, Polish, and Czech infusion of sausage, Texas is barbecue and vice versa. When you live your life in the holy land of smoke rings and pits, you grow accustomed to a certain level of quality; a quality not easily found in other parts of the country. A fact which I quickly discovered when I moved to Virginia in 2015.

The ‘best’ barbecue in Lynchburg—where I moved in 2015—was from Dickey’s. This was the consensus of everyone I spoke to in the area. Including my fellow texpatriots (people who has left their native country of Texas), much to our disappointment. It seems that the great state of Virginia has not been informed of the Gospel of Smoke. Thus, I have set about to rectify this cruel trick of fate.

1. There is only one true style of barbecue.

Pipe down Kansas City, Memphis, and Carolina. Texas barbecue is the one and only true style of barbecue. (Oh, and while we’re talking about states, Arkansas, ‘side’ means it goes beside the barbecue. Get that coleslaw off your sandwiches. You’re embarrassing yourself.) K.C., no one likes that spicy ketchup you call barbecue sauce. Memphis, see my side-note directed at Arkansas. Carolina, Vinegar? Why? The fact that theses pretenders to the crown of smoky glory are chiefly differentiated by the bases of their sauces, proves that they are, in fact, pale imitations of the one true barbecue. Which brings me to the second law of barbecue.

2. Sauce is a crutch.

Barbecue sauce is the autotune of the smoking process. Its purpose is to cover up shoddy craftsmanship and sub-par flavor with a sugary sweet syrup that takes your mind away from the bland nothingness in your mouth. Sauced barbecue is to real barbecue, as Miley Cyrus is to the Eagles: a pale imitation and a miserable successor. True barbecue should be imbued with enough flavor from the smoking process that to smother it in sauce would be, rightly, considered laughable.

3. Pork is not barbecue. Period.

Nor is chicken, lamb, turkey, or—god forbid—fish (looking at you K.C.). With the exception of fish, these are acceptable sides for real barbecue but contemptible substitutes. What, then, is real barbecue? Beef brisket. End of discussion. In its purest form, barbecue is sliced or chopped brisket; nothing else. Ideally, served with a half-loaf of thinly sliced white bread and coleslaw, potato salad, green beans, and onions as sides.

You should now be wondering where you have to go to get this mouthwatering barbecue I have described. The answer is simple: Texas. It’s not hard to find good barbecue in Texas but if you want the best, you will need to venture off the beaten path. Kruez Market in Lockhart, Texas is the best barbecue you will taste this side of heaven (it is universally accepted that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will, in fact, be beef brisket). But, if you can’t make it to this beef oasis between Austin and San Antonio, here are some other options that will suffice:

  • Pecan Lodge (Dallas)
  • Franklin’s (Austin)
  • Black’s (Lockhart)
  • Cooper’s (Llano)
  • Smitty’s Market (Lockhart)
  • Gatlin’s (Houston)

Try any of these and your life will be forever changed.