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Styles of Regional Barbecue in the United States

Styles of Regional Barbecue in the United States

Barbecue refers to a technique of cooking meat outdoors over a fire, or a barbecue pit. This form of cooking adds a distinctive smoky flavor to the meat which can be quite addicting. Barbecue sauce, while a common accompaniment, is not required for many regional styles as they are mouthwatering enough on their own. The proprietors of Southern-style barbecue establishments across the U.S. often originate from the South. 

In the South, barbecue is more than just a style of cooking, but is a subculture with wide variation between regions, leading to a fierce rivalry for titles at barbecue competitions. Particularly, four barbecue styles from the South represent the most recognized regional renditions of smoked meat: Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis, and Texas. And while debates rage over which state makes the best barbecue, let’s face it: Most smoked meat is tasty. How that meat is cooked, however, does vary from place to place. 

Each element and ingredient—wood, meat, cut, rub, and sauce—add up to entirely different traditions, from the smoked brisket of Texas to the whole hogs of the Carolinas. We are going to break down the four main types of American barbecue, so you can recreate each tradition at your home or restaurant this summer. While you are at it, equip yourself with nitrile industrial gloves designed for the job. Whether you choose 1st Choice 6-mil black nitrile disposable industrial gloves or Gloveworks 5-mil black nitrile disposable industrial gloves, your barbecue experience is guaranteed to be safe. 


Kansas City-Style BBQ 

Kansas City-style barbecue offers an assortment of slow-smoked meats rubbed down in a sweet seasoning and slathered in a thick, sugary sauce. Brown sugar is the base ingredient of Kansas City rub with traditional recipes calling for a two-to-one ratio of brown sugar to paprika. Pitmasters keep their heat low to prevent the caramelizing sugar from charring and blackening their meats. That said, the trademark of what makes Kansas City-style barbecue so unique resides on its burnt ends. They are fatty, flavorful pieces of meat cut from the pectorals of a smoked brisket. Their texture tends to soften when cooked and mixed with delicious Kansas City-style baked beans. 


Carolina-Style BBQ 

To understand North Carolina-style barbecue, you must split the state in half. In the east, you will find whole hogs on the smoker, whereas western Lexington-style barbecue smokes just the shoulder. Eastern barbecue is served chopped with a vinegar-based sauce, while Lexington-style is often served on a sandwich with a tomato-based sauce. South Carolina is also famous for whole-hog barbecue, which locals enthusiastically serve with a variety of sauces such as a vinegar-based one like North Carolina’s, a heavy tomato, a light tomato, and a mustard-based sauce known as “Carolina Gold.” It’s interesting to note that a good chunk of the southern part of the state is dubbed the “Mustard Belt,” thanks to its regional affinity for the Carolina Gold sauce. 


Memphis-Style BBQ 

Memphis-style barbecue is like Kansas City-style but does not pack as much sugar and tends to be spicier. Pork ribs are usually the primary meats found in Memphis-style barbecue joints. It is usually served without barbecue sauce, but the meat might get greased occasionally while cooking. Since oftentimes no sauce is used, Memphis-style barbecue is not nearly as messy as Kansas City-style, so perhaps it is not as much fun to eat, too. If sauce is preferred to be used, it would be served only for dipping purposes or for pouring over pulled pork. Memphis sauce is thinner, runnier, tangier, and less sweet than Kansas City-style sauce. Memphis-style uses rubs as well, but the sugar in Memphis-style barbecue is either reduced or lacking in the rub. 


Texas-Style BBQ 

Texas-style barbecue focuses on beef. Chicken or pork ribs are sometimes tossed in as a sort of garnish, but Texas-style is all about beef and its juicy goodness. Beef brisket and beef ribs cooked with dry mustard and chili powder-based rubs are considered Texan staples. To add, Texas-style sauces tend to be thin and bold, more like a basting or mop sauce that’s heavy with flavor from various kinds of ground chilis, cumin, red and white onions, hot sauce, and meat drippings. Sometimes mixed with beer or even coffee. If you want your barbecue “wet,” then Texas-style is for you as the meat gets dunked into the mop bucket of sauce before plating. 


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