Most Americans agree – Barbecue is one of the nation’s favorite foods and an important staple at any patriotic celebration meal. What Americans cannot agree on, however, is what exactly defines barbecue. Barbecuing almost always refers to a method of slow-cooking meat over fire, but as barbecue has spread across the country numerous variations have evolved. From the meat to the sauce and even the sides it’s paired with, the definition of “barbecue” has come to depend largely on geographical location. Here are some of the regional variations of barbecue across America. Wondering where to get the best BBQ? Read on.
Memphis, Tennessee is arguably America’s barbecue capital. As host to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, Memphis boasts countless award-winning barbecue restaurants and has developed a style all its own. Though any type of meat can be used in Memphis barbecue, it usually refers to pork – served pulled or as ribs. Dry barbecue is the star in Memphis; the meat is coated with a spice mixture, cooked in a smoker until tender and then served with its sauce on the side. Sauce here is a thin, tangy vinegar and tomato mixture. Memphis barbecue is served with mayonnaise-based slaw on the side. For an outstanding Memphis barbecue experience, check out Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous downtown or Central BBQ at several locations across the city.
Just like most other Texan things, Texas has a unique style for its barbecue. Appropriate for a state known for its cowboys, Beef is king in Texas, and most Texan barbecue joints specialize in beef brisket and ribs. Most Texans like their barbecue served with no sauce, or “market style.” Texas’s sauce, when they decide to use it, is thin and tomato-and-vinegar-based. Texas barbecue is not usually served with slaw; the focus here is on the meat. For an authentic Texas Barbecue experience, visit The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX or Luling City Market in Houston, TX.
Kansas City Barbecue
Barbecue in Kansas City can be any type of meat – pork, beef, chicken, turkey, mutton, or even fish; but what makes Kansas City style barbecue is its sauce – a thick, sweet tomato- and molasses-based sauce. Kansas City residents slow smoke their barbecue and serve it heavy and smothered in sauce. Kansas City’s barbecue is served with a side of slaw that is very sweet and very creamy. To sample some authentic Kansas City barbecue, check out Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ restaurant or the original Kansas City staple Arthur Bryant’s, which has been open since the 1920s.
North Carolina Barbecue
North Carolinians are fiercely proud of their barbecue recipe, which is different from any other location in the country. North Carolina barbecue is pork-based and served with a vinegar-based sauce. In central and western North Carolina, pork shoulder reigns and barbecue is served pulled. The sauce has ketchup in it in addition to vinegar. In the eastern part of the state, barbecue restaurants serve every part of the pig from the shoulder to the rib and the sauce is completely vinegar-based with no tomato. Carolina barbecue is served alongside slaw that has been seasoned with North Carolina-style barbecue sauce. To sample some of North Carolina’s best barbecue, check out Skylight Inn in Ayden, where you can taste Eastern-style barbecue. If you want to try the Northern and western style of barbecue, check out the classic Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, NC.