They say an army marches on its stomach, and a family is no different. Keeping everyone fed is one of the easiest paths to family harmony. Avoiding hangry meltdowns with nutritious and delicious meals is going to make life a breeze. Picking the cuisine isn’t always a straightforward job. Thankfully, there are plenty of American barbecue styles to keep the table interesting and full of new ideas.
The Five Famous American Barbecue Styles
If you were to break down all of the various American barbecue styles you’d be ready a hefty tome of a book rather than a relatively short article. Here, we’re focusing on the big 5.
Texas barbecue is where many people believe the great American barbecue tradition all began. As with many barbecue regions, the umbrella style is further broken down depending on where you are within the area. With Texas, most people think of Central Texas barbecue when they think of Texas barbecue. Central Texas barbecue focuses on the meat. It’s a simple affair with just a salt and pepper seasoning and a long smoke over oak chips.
Brisket really is the king of barbecue meats here. You’ll find pitmasters tending their slabs of beef for 12-plus hours at a time. If you want to have truly traditional Texas barbecue you have to forgo the sauce and enjoy the flavor the meat has itself.
In complete contrast to Texas, Memphis food (especially Memphis barbecue food) is all about pork. This is the home of dry rub pork ribs and sumptuous pulled pork. Memphis is famous for its ribs. They’re different from the ribs you might find in many barbecue restaurants. Devoid of sauce, served dry, they take all their flavor from a combination of the smoking process and the dry rub applied.
Many pitmasters will tend to their ribs with a vinegar and apple-based mop sauce. This keeps them from drying out and adds a layer of decadent caramelization.
North Carolina Barbecue
North Carolina, especially in the east of the state, is all about the whole hog. A difficult one to replicate at home. The whole hog is spit-roasted over an oaky fire for hours at a time. There’s no standing on ceremony when it comes to carving either. The meat is simply torn and cleaved straight from the bone, dropped into a sandwich, and topped with crispy skin and a vinegar-based sauce.
South Carolina Barbecue
There’s a real focus on pulled pork in South Carolina. This could come from a whole hog roast or just the shoulder. That’s not too dissimilar from their northern brethren, but that is until you add the sauce. South Carolina is all about the mustard sauce. This sauce all started thanks to the German immigrants and the mustard that they brought with them.
It’s not as harsh as some mustard that you can find. It’s made weaker with cider vinegar, plenty of brown sugar, and a few spices.
When the world thinks of barbecue sauce, that sweet, tangy, slightly spiced tomato-based sauce, they’re thinking of Kansas barbecue sauce. You’ll find that Kansas barbecue uses almost all meats. Chicken, beef, and pork, they’re all enjoyed equally.
One of the most famous specialty items from Kansas is burnt ends. It all started as a snack for customers as they waited for the prime pieces of the brisket. The burnt ends of the joint would be sliced, cubed, slathered in sauce, and popped on the counter. They’re now just as popular as the meat itself.
You can really experiment with different American barbecue styles at home. Simply mix up the cuts of meat that you’re serving and the way that it’s prepared. Why not try a Memphis dry-rubbed set of ribs one week, then a sauce-slathered Kansas rack the next week? There really is something for everyone.
- Feel free to experiment at home, leave the staunch traditionalism to the professional pitmasters.
- Just because a recipe says you shouldn’t serve it with sauce, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t add some if you want to.
- Try making your own barbecue sauces, you might end up with your own signature flavor.