Did you know that not barbecue is the same? Although the basic technique is the same everywhere – cooking the meat for a long time over low, indirect heat – the similarities end there. Across the southern US there are a number of regional approaches, each one claiming to be the best there is. The four most well-known are Texas, Carolina, Memphis and Kansas City.
Texas Style Barbecue
Unlike most other barbecue hubs, in Texas cattle is king. Brisket, the most popular cut, is smoked very slowly in a brick pit. The cut’s high fat content helps prevent the beef from drying out during the lengthy cooking process. In the eastern part of the state it is common to find barbecue served with hot sauce on a bun, whereas west Texas prides itself on “cowboy barbecue”, which forgoes the sauce and bun and is typically eaten with your fingers.
Carolina Style Barbecue
In the Carolinas, barbecue is synonymous with pork. Whether the whole hog gets cooked, like in eastern North Carolina, or just the shoulder and ribs in the western part of the state, you’ll be hard pressed to find any other kind of meat.
Barbecue sauces vary widely in North and South Carolina. Some are vinegar based, and others add tomato and brown sugar. The latter is typically used as a dip, rather than put directly on the meat. In South Carolina a mustard-based sauce is popular, a sauce derived from recipes of German immigrants.
Memphis Style Barbecue
In Tennessee, the go-to cut for barbecue is pork ribs. They’re either served “sticky”, with a tangy barbecue sauce, or dry with a spice rub mix. Each year the Jack Daniel’s distillery hosts a barbecue competition called ‘The Jack’, where contestants compete to make a new sauce using their namesake whisky.
Kansas City Style Barbecue
Home to over 100 barbecue joints, Kansas City, Missouri is often referred to as the barbecue capital of the world. The barbecue tradition here was started by a Tennessee transplant who brought the barbecue practices he knew and combined them with other regional varieties which he encountered given the city’s location as a major railway hub and meatpacking town. As such, in KC you can find brisket, beef and pork ribs, pulled pork, even sausages and chicken. A local favorite is burnt ends, small slices cut from the very ends of a beef or pork brisket.