Next week, the United States celebrates Independence Day. In honor of this beloved summer holiday, I thought I might treat our readers to some expert-level barbecue tips, courtesy of a genuine, real-life Texan.

I recently read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and have begun applying its teachings to other areas of life. This is how to do Texas BBQ: essentialism edition.

Wood, fire, meat. Repeat.

Looking for more in-depth details on proper Texas BBQ? Here you go.

Start with good beer – the cheap stuff is best for a hot day in the sun. I prefer Lone Star®, which is what all the Texas hipsters drink. If you can’t find Lone Star, try a Shiner Bock®. Not into beer? Have a Topo Chico® mineral water, or a LaCroix® if you like to stay on-trend. If you are reading this post in the Pacific Northwest, it is acceptable to drink a local pinot.

Next, surround yourself with good friends, but don’t let them touch the smoker.

Properly done Texas BBQ requires staring at a small thermometer gage for at least eight hours, so you’ll want to have access to a hammock or a comfy chair. BBQ is not an activity for those who are short on time or patience. If your attention span is limited, I recommend grilling instead.

How do you know when your Brisket is finished smoking? It is all in the jiggle. Seriously. While a good thermometer is a fantastic tool – I’m partial to the Thermapen® Mk4, which comes in fun colors – you should definitely check the brisket for jiggle. If it shakes like Jell-O®, you are good to go.

Because we’re good friends, I’m going to share my super-secret spice rub: kosher salt and course ground pepper – the only two spices you need. You can get fancy, but you will regret it.

You may serve additional meats: sausage, pulled pork, ribs, turkey, rattlesnake, but if you do not have Brisket, you haven’t made Texas BBQ.

Sauce is to be offered. However, direct application of sauce to meat is not recommended. Good BBQ will not need sauce (or forks, for that matter). Try making your own, like this simple vinegary sauce. If you must buy a premade sauce, go for Aaron Franklin’s Espresso Barbecue Sauce. The espresso might help counteract your food coma.

Additional tips:

  • First-time BBQers need not worry – even bad BBQ is still good.
  • Sliced brisket laid over a finger should bend but not break.
  • The only essential sides are saltines and freshly sliced jalapeños.
  • Nobody likes store-bought potato salad.
  • A good “stick burner” (real wood-fire) smoker will outperform any science experimental reverse flow, gravity feed, compressed pellets, dual probe, Wi-Fi-enabled temp sensor, automated airflow blower with racing stripes every single time. Believe it.
  • Slicing a brisket properly is harder to master than Common Core math. Let your friends attempt it.
  • There may be vegetarians present. It is perfectly acceptable to politely ask them to leave.
  • After you pull the brisket off the heat, throw on a pecan pie for desert. Mmmmmm smoked pecan pie.

Do you have any barbecue tips or favorite Fourth of July traditions? Leave a comment and let us know!