Battle of the BBQ: Regional Barbecue Secrets Revealed
Americans are passionate about their rivalries. East Coast hip-hop vs. West Coast hip-hop. Mustard vs. mayo. But if you want a real throw-down, it’s all about barbecue. The gloves really come off when you start talking ‘cue, that smoky, sometimes saucy dish that can turn brother against brother, friend against friend. Take a look at the hottest (and most hotly contested) regions for barbecue – and get ready to rumble.
When we talk about having a beef with Texas barbecue, we mean it literally. That’s because beef brisket has become synonymous with the region’s style. Drawing on the German and Czech traditions that have defined so much of the area’s culture, Central Texas barbecue is dry-rubbed, with sauce only on the side (if it’s available at all).
Fun fact: The first state dinner in the history of the United States to feature barbecue was held in 1963, when President Lyndon B. Johnson served the local favorite to West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and his entourage.1
For a city in the Show-Me State, they sure do lay it on thick (the sauce, that is). Meat may be the star in Texas, but in K.C., it’s not barbecue without a sweet/spicy/tangy blanket of ketchup and molasses (vinegar and mustard, too).
Fun fact: The world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts is the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), founded in 1986 and boasting over 13,000 members worldwide.2
Pork – chopped, sliced or in rib form – is the main meat in North Carolina. Lexington style sticks with the shoulder, along with a tomato sauce for the meat and the slaw, while Eastern style goes whole hog – literally – and eschews the tomato for vinegar on the meat and mayo in the slaw.
Fun fact: In North Carolina, barbecue has become a political topic, with a bill introduced in 2006 (and ultimately defeated) that made the Lexington Barbecue Festival (and, by implication, the Lexington style) the official barbecue festival of North Carolina.3
In the low country, pulled pork is the name of the game. There are four kinds of sauces in South Carolina, the self-proclaimed Birthplace of Barbeque, – and locals will go to the mat for their fave.
Fun fact: In South Carolina, many people spell it “barbeque” – with a q instead of a c.4
In Memphis, it’s all pork all the time – pulled and piled high on buns or dwarfing the plate in rib form. For the ribs, dry rubs and wet basting sauces are both welcome here, and everything is served with a thin, tomato-based sauce.
Fun fact: Barbecue is so popular in Memphis that it’s made its way into all manner of dishes – nachos, tacos, even spaghetti.5
Regardless of your regional alliance, we can all agree: Barbecue is delicious, especially when served on America’s favorite bun – Ball Park. Need proof? Just check out our Pulled Pork Sandwich with Sweet & Sour Slaw recipe and taste for yourself.