Holy smoke! Breaking down the 4 distinct regions of barbecue in the United States

There is perhaps no more popular culinary pastime, especially in the summer! — than to get together and enjoy a little barbecue when the weather is nice and the occasion is festive.

But even those who enjoy barbecuing or grilling at home might not know that the United States is actually known for four barbecue cooking regions.

In honor of Monday being National Barbecue Day, here’s an explainer of what the four barbecue regions are in the United States.


1. Kansas City-style barbecue.

Barbecue in this region is best characterized by two characteristics that stand out.

The first is the sauce, which is sweet and thick with a base of tomato, molasses and brown sugar, according to site Q39.

The other characteristic of the Kansas City style barbecue is the burnt ends. Made from the tips of smoked beef brisket, the ends are cut off and placed in the smoker for a flavorful char on the outside.

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Almost all types of meat are smoked in this area of ​​the barbecue, be it pork, chicken, beef, sausage and turkey. The fish is also commonly smoked.


2. Memphis-style barbecue.

The staple of barbecue in this region is pork, although you can still get chicken and beef dishes.

Any meat, especially pork, is slowly cooked in a marinade with 20 to 40 spices added, according to this website.

The Memphis-style barbecue philosophy is to cook the meat more slowly in order to achieve a rich, moist sauce.

The sauce is also a bit spicier than Kansas City barbecue.


3. Texas-style barbecue.

Since Texas is such a large state, different regions have their different methods for preparing barbecue dishes.

In general, the state is best known for its brisket, which can be smoked for around 18 hours, according to webstaurantstore.com.

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Ribs and East Texas Hot Links are also popular dishes, but the centerpiece is beef brisket. The main type of meat used statewide is beef, although there are exceptions in some areas.

Here’s how four Texas regions cook a barbecue, according to traveltexas.com.

  • Central Texas style barbecue. This is where the brisket is smoked in a dry rub for 12-24 hours over mesquite, oak and walnut woods.

  • West Texas style barbecue. The meat is grilled in the open, with a higher heat, which means faster cooking times.

  • South Texas style barbecue. The brisket is smoked for 12 hours in an underground pit, oven or steamer.

  • East Texas BBQ. Sausages and sandwiches are the main staples in this area of ​​Texas, so the emphasis is on making quality sauces for these foods. Pork is also used more in this region than beef in other parts of the state.


4. Caroline-style barbecue.

According to webstaurantstore.com, one of the oldest methods of cooking meat, Carolina-style barbecue, involves cooking a whole pig for 12 to 24 hours.

The pig then produces three kinds of meat: the stomach, the neck and the shoulders.

The stomach meat is tender, while the neck and shoulders are tougher.

From there, a variety of sauces are prepared in the region to make the meat tasty. The most popular type of sauce is mop sauce, which is applied to the meat as it cooks.

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Mop sauce is usually vinegar-based, in Carolina-style barbecue.

Mustard-based sauces and sauces that are a combination of vinegar and ketchup are also popular.

What style of barbecue do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.

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