The Best American BBQ Styles




man in red and white plaid dress shirt cooking meat

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American BBQ is considered to be one of the nation’s most important culinary traditions. But where do you begin with four primary regional styles, as well as substyles, and an increasing number of other states that are becoming increasingly popular?

From Texas to the Carolinas, our BBQ style guide will assist you in creating the perfect meal.

American BBQ styles that are the best

Since the turn of the nineteenth century, the spirit of American BBQ has extended far and wide, including to locations that you may not typically identify with it, such as the Caribbean.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the four uncontested kings of barbeque, as well as a few more regions that are known for their excellent pit game.

North Carolina barbecue ribs cooked on a grill

Many food historians believe that North Carolina was the likely home of barbecue in the United States, which explains why the cuisine is so popular in the region.

If you happen to be traveling through the Carolinas and develop a craving for barbecue, your exact location will provide a significant amount of information about what you may expect to find at any particular stop along the way.

Whenever someone from North Carolina hears the phrase “barbecue,” they immediately think of pig that has been smoked for hours over a bed of hardwood chips in a pit.

After that, they’re plucked or sliced, and a thin vinegar-based sauce is poured over them thickly. Whatever method of consumption you choose (fork, bun, etc.), its smokey, savory, tangy flavor is nothing short of legendary.

“Whole hog” barbecue is a specialty of pitmasters in the eastern portion of the state, in which all of the meat from the pig is broken down together into one heaping, delectable pile.

In western North Carolina and many other parts of the southern United States, people prefer the leaner shoulder cut, which can be pulled or sliced with equal success.

To keep their smokers supplied, South Carolina, like its northern neighbor, relies mostly on the production of pig. Although there will be plenty of smoked chicken and brisket to choose from as well.

Regional styles are distinguished mostly by their sauces in this context.

A traditional western South Carolina barbecue sauce is heavy on the tomato and sugar, with only a slight trace of spice to balance it out.

As you travel eastward into the midlands, the condiment of choice is “Carolina Gold,” a zingy mixture of mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and a variety of spices that is popular throughout the region.

By the time you reach the “Pee Dee” district, which is near the ocean, the sauce begins to resemble the thin, vinegary variety that is common throughout the state of North Carolina.


Barbecued brisket of beef Smokehouse in the traditional Texas style

Everything is bigger in Texas, as the saying goes. That is most definitely the case when it comes to grilling.

In fact, Texas barbecue has become such a cultural institution that there are at least four unique varieties of barbecue that are widely enjoyed.

Despite the fact that each of these styles has its roots and evolution in a different region of the Lone Star State, one thing they all have in common that distinguishes them as truly Texan is their fondness for substantial cuts of beef.

East Texas is a region in the U.S. state of Texas.

East Texas barbecue begins with a marinade of sweet tomato sauce and culminates with an hours-long smoking session over rich hickory wood to bring out the best flavors.

When the meat (usually beef or pork) is cooked this way, it becomes extremely tender and succulent. A broad variety of flavors are used by East Texans, including smoky undertones as well as sweet, savory, and salty notes.

East Texas BBQ, along with barbecue from the rest of the state, is considered to be representative of the state’s barbecue culture.

In the center and southern United States, these two types are well-known and liked by the public.

The preferred way of preparation in the central part of Texas is to coat the meat—again, generally beef brisket, pig butt or shoulder, or smoky sausage—with a thin coating of dry spices before cooking it. They cook it low and slow over fresh-cut oak or pecan wood, similar to how barbecue is prepared in Memphis, Tennessee.

Central Texas barbecue is all about bringing the flavor and texture of the pork to the forefront of the plate. As a result, it’s commonly served without sauce in restaurants. Instead, they are served with unnoticeable sides such as white bread, dill pickle chips, sliced onion, or jalapeo peppers, among others.

South of Austin, the barbecue sauce becomes a crucial component of the meal itself. Cows and pigs are marinated for hours in a viscous, sweet, molasses-based marinade before being placed inside a pit to be slaughtered.

The marinade helps to keep the meat wet during the extended smoking process, while also enhancing its taste.

As a result of its proximity to the Mexican border, South Texas barbecue has a great deal in common with traditional Mexican barbacoa.

As a result, it is not uncommon to see dishes on the menu such as lingua (beef tongue) and cabeza (head).

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