Chili vs Brisket: Why Brisket Should Be The Texas State Dish

by Matt Gross

It all started with Paul Burka and his chiliphobia. Time to change the Texas State Dish to brisket from chili, he said. Chili is “tasteless mush” and an “obliteration” of flavor, he said.

Yes, yes. Texas chili is basically grease and spices.

On the other side we have Bud Kennedy putting in his two cents and proclaiming chili as a Ft Worth “icon” (lol, c’mon it’s “from” San Antonio) and tacitly suggesting that the chili vs brisket debate is really about Texas vs Austin. He also claims that changing the state dish to brisket would be an attack on “our way of life”.

Chili has a rich history in Texas, there is no doubt. But, brisket should be the state dish and here are some reasons why.

Barbecue (and by extension brisket) is a lifestyle. Cooking a perfect brisket on large scale takes years and years of practice and requires a lifetime commitment to perfect. Everyday, you have to rise before the sun and quit well after it goes down. Some folks, like Bert Bunte of Zimmerhanzel’s in Smithville, have for decades dedicated nearly every waking hour of every day to keep the brisket flowing. If you don’t believe me, go there and ask him. He’s a brisket machine.

Paul Burka basically admits chili is nothing more than another item on the menu when he writes that “even the Tex-Mex restaurants serve chili” and that “Railhead also has…chili”. How exciting.

Brisket, on the other hand, is an all-star. Folks wake up at 6am and travel out to Lexington, Texas for Snow’s. They stand in line for hours on end to eat at Franklin. They drive half a day out to Jefferson, Texas for Joseph’s Riverport.

Lockhart, Texas is the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Catfish, crawfish, cheeseburgers, kolaches, pancakes, pickles and sausage all have a capital in the Republic. What’s the Chili Capital of Texas? Oh, there isn’t one.

Brisket has yet another intangible attribute that chili will never rival: drama. Take the Smitty’s and Kreuz family feud, the Mueller family saga and now the Black family ordeal. Folks in Texas eat chili but they care about barbecue.

Now, you’ll have chili preservationists out there who bemoan the idea of changing anything, especially their beloved chili. Chili has history! Chili has this and that and some other thing! My mom made it! I sleep with it! I shower in it every day!

That same group of people will claim that brisket is “new” and “hip” and an “Austin…scene”. Baloney. BALONEY. Southside Market in Elgin, for instance, dates back to 1882. Black’s in Lockhart to 1932. Louie Mueller in Taylor to 1949. Brisket has been around long enough to have a history. Do we actually need to debate that point?

So, to all the brisket naysayers, chili preservationists and resistors of culinary “change”. I submit to you that brisket is the most important dish in Texas, it embodies a unique Texas lifestyle and, the fact is, it tastes better than chili. Therefore, let’s make brisket, the most superior food in the Republic of Texas, the Texas State Dish.

Should brisket or chili be the Texas State Dish?

  • Brisket (70%, 7 Votes)
  • Chili (30%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmy December 18, 2013 at 10:29 am

Great piece. Lots of valid points. You didn’t really have to convince me though. :-)

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Brent April 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

I couldn’t agree more. I have developed fondness for creating brisket in the last few years. My family now ask me to be the BBQ guy, I am constantly working on and tweeking my rubs. Back to the point, it should be changed because making a good brisket takes dedication and hard work, things Texas is known for.

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