In the U.S. barbecue traditions are believed to have originated when Caribbean slaves were brought to the Carolinas in the 17th century. Indeed the English word barbecue came from the Arawak-Carib word barbracot (via the Spanish word barbacoa). This Caribbean style of slow cooking meat formed the basis of the Southern barbecue tradition that influenced Texas when some of its first American settlers arrived.
European meat smoking traditions were brought by German and Czech settlers in Central Texas during the mid-19th century. The original tradition was that butchers would smoke leftover meat that had not been sold so that it could be stored and saved. As these smoked leftovers became popular among the migrants in the area many of these former meat markets evolved to specialize in these smoked meats.
The subsequent emancipation of the slaves in 1865 gave birth to the East Texas barbecue tradition, which was largely a product of the African American community.
Many well-known barbecue establishments in Texas originated as butcher shops.
In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted a state dinner featuring barbecue for the Mexican president-elect in Johnson City. It is generally considered the first barbecue state dinner in the history of the United States.
By 2000 in Texas many old-fashioned barbecue smokers had been replaced by gas-fired ovens due to pollution concerns and due to ease of use.