By: Dan Gentile
Barbecue is a controversial food, but nothing in the canon of smoked-meat history lights the fires quite like the age-old question of beef vs. pork. Although "combination plate" is always a good answer, we asked a panel of barbecue luminaries to weigh in on which is the superior barbecue meat and why.
Not surprisingly, this fell largely across geographic battle-lines. Texans and those heavily influenced by the Lone Star State went beef (with one notable exception), and the rest of the Deep and mid-South voted hog. Read on to learn what the pros think, then leave your own thoughts in the comments.
THE CASE FOR BEEF
"After being in the barbecue business for most of my life in Texas, I would definitely say that in Texas we spell barbecue "b-e-e-f." Other people in the country may spell barbecue "p-o-r-k," but if you ask any Texan what they're gonna have when they say barbecue, they will say it's beef. 25 million Texans can't be wrong." - Kent Black, Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, TX)
"Beef brisket is the heart of Texas barbecue. Beef is less forgiving than pork, which makes it more challenging for pitmasters to perfect. Between brisket and beef short ribs, they always bring a good bull fight for the cook. A perfectly cooked brisket or short rib tastes just as good as a well-marbled prime ribeye." - Doug Pickering, D.W.P. Grill M.D. (Dallas, TX)
"In my opinion, beef is harder to execute and shows the skill of the pitmaster... much more than pork. With that being said, I don't think barbecue is totally about the choice of beef or pork, but more often about the quality of the animal, the choice of cut, and execution of the cooking process." - Tiffani Faison, Sweet Cheeks Q (Boston, MA)
"Beef, because cows don't wallow in their own s**t. I grew up eating beef. In Texas, pork is new to the game. I just like beef better. It's more flavorful. That's why when I do cook pork, I glaze it up. You don't have to do that with beef." - John Mueller, John Mueller Meat Co. (Austin, TX)
"Ferrari vs. Lamborghini, Bordeaux vs. Burgundy, blonde vs. brunette. Which is best comes down to personal preference, but when comparing the two best barbecue meats on the planet and having to choose, for me, it's beef. Barbecue beef is more desirable, transcending, and quite frankly magical, because of two things: collagen and fat."
"Genetic factors in cattle, and the fact that it is typically raised to an older age, means it has inherently more collagen. When cooked correctly, this collagen converts into gelatin. The gelatin and fat create a magical combination of mouthfeel, flavor, and that stick-to-your-ribs feeling. You can hit beef hard with wood fire and it's resilient in the beginning, but at a certain point you really need to know how to back off and handle it correctly. So many people have a hard time cooking with it because it requires a more conscious effort. Don't get me wrong, pork is incredible, but I have not heard of people waiting six hours in line for it. At least as of yet. Have you?" - Adam Perry Lang, Serious Barbecue (Los Angeles, CA)
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