You could say that there’s no such thing as Texas cooking. Not in the way that you’d think of it exactly.
The famous “six flags over Texas” refer to the six sovereign powers that have ruled over Texas in its history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and of course, the United States. Those six flags also allude to the diverse peoples who’ve called the Lonestar state home, with each of them bringing their own culinary traditions with them.
Mixed together, those traditions combine to form what we now call Texas cooking. To learn to cook like a Texan is to learn to appreciate all those disparate aspects. To get started, here are a few key dishes and techniques to familiarize yourself with.
Fire Up the Grill
When it comes to Texas cooking tips, everyone is bound to have their own set of grilling rules that they swear by, while often scorning all others. Texans tend to be passionate folk, after all, so it’s no surprise that they have some strong feelings about cattle country traditions.
Grilling the perfect steak is an art form in and of itself, with libraries of texts written on the subject. For the novice griller, a good word of advice is to start with the ribeye.
It’s a nicely marbled cut of beef, endowed with plenty of juicy flavor. And thanks to that marbling, it tends to suffer overcooking a little better than leaner cuts, so you have more room for error if you miss that perfect medium-rare.
Chicken Fried Everything
Chicken fried steak isn’t exclusive to Texans, but you would be hard-pressed to find folk with more fondness for it.
Rather than a breaded and fried slice of sirloin or the life, chicken fried steak is usually made from either a cheaper cut or from cube steak. It likely originated as a way to stretch pennies a little further by making something special out of cheaper meats.
It’s heavily tenderized, almost to the point of being flattened, then breaded, deep-fried, and traditionally served with white gravy. It’s a hearty dish, but well-worth the occasional indulgence.
Put It in a Stew
No talk of the best food from Texas would be complete without mentioning chili con carne. Made the official state dish in 1977, Texans are particular about their chili. Make sure to leave the beans out, lest you be branded a chili heretic.
But chili’s not the only soup or stew native to the Lonestar state.
To the east, you enter shrimp country, where the local culture skews much more towards cajun and creole tradition. Expect to find plenty of gumbo recipes here, along with your red beans and rice and crawfish etouffee. Check out these Southern Recipes for examples of how broad Texas cooking can get.
Texas Cooking Should Taste Like Home
Texas is a huge state, larger than many sovereign nations. That size, combined with its history, creates an environment full of unique stories told by way of the dinner table.
So the takeaway is that Texas cooking is about building community as much as the dishes themselves. So once you’ve mastered a few of these, the important thing is to find someone to share them with.
And don’t stop at Texas. Be sure to keep up with our latest cooking and hospitality tips to help forge new memories going forward.