As the warm weather approaches, many of us are heading outside to grill our meat and other favorites. When it comes to BBQ in the United States there are a variety of methods and favorite flavors that people like more than others.
Can you tell we are hungry?
While the wide variety of barbecue styles makes it difficult to break barbecue styles down into regions, there are four major styles commonly referenced (though many sources list more). The four major styles are Memphis and Carolina, which rely on pork and represent the oldest styles, and Kansas City and Texas, which utilize beef as well as pork, and represent the later evolution of the original deep south barbecue. Pork is the most common meat used, followed by beef and veal, often with chicken or turkey in addition. Lamb and mutton are found in some areas, such as Owensboro, Kentucky, and some regions will add other meats.
Memphis barbecue is primarily two different dishes: ribs, which come “wet” and “dry”, and barbecue sandwiches. Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before and after cooking, and dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub. Barbecue sandwiches in Memphis are typically chopped pork served on a simple bun and topped with cole slaw. Of note is the willingness of Memphians to put this chopped pork on many non-traditional dishes, such as pizza or nachos.
Carolina barbecue is usually pork, served pulled, shredded, or chopped, but sometimes sliced. It may also be rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and mopped with a spice and vinegar liquid during smoking.
Two styles predominate in different parts of North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina barbecue is made by the use of the “whole hog”, where the entire pig is barbecued and the meat from all parts of the pig are chopped and mixed together. Eastern North Carolina barbecue also uses a thin sauce made of spices and vinegar. Western North Carolina barbecue is made from only the pork shoulder, which is mainly dark meat, and uses a thicker sweetened tomato-based sauce. Western North Carolina barbecue is also known as Lexington barbecue, after the town of Lexington, North Carolina, home to many barbecue restaurants and a large barbecue festival, the Lexington Barbecue Festival.
South Carolina has three regional styles. In western parts of the state, along the Savannah River, a peppery tomato or ketchup-based sauce is common. In the central part of the state (the Midlands), barbecue is characterized by the use of a yellow “Carolina Gold” sauce, made from a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and other spices. In the coastal “Pee Dee” region, they use the whole hog, and use a spicy, watery, vinegar-and-pepper sauce. In Piedmont area of the state shoulders, hams, or Boston butts are used.
Kansas City has a wide variety in meat, but the signature ingredient is the sauce. The meat is smoked with a dry rub, and the sauce served as a table sauce. Kansas City style sauce is thick and sweet (with significant exceptions such as Arthur Bryant’s, which is significantly less sweet than others in the region, and Gates, notably spicier than other KC-style sauces) based on tomatoes and molasses. This is perhaps the most widespread of sauces, with the Kansas City recipe K. C. Masterpiece being a top-selling brand.
There are four generally recognized regional styles of barbecue in Texas: East Texas style, which is essentially Southern barbecue and is also found in many urban areas; Central Texas “meat market style,” which originated in the butcher shops of German and Czech immigrants to the region; West Texas “cowboy style,” which involves direct cooking over mesquite and uses goat and mutton as well as beef; and South Texas barbacoa, in which the head of a cow is cooked (originally underground).
The original use of buried cooking in barbecue pits in North America was done by the Native Americans for thousands of years, including by the tribes of California. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries eras, when the territory became Spanish Las Californias and then Mexican Alta California, the Missions and ranchos of California had large cattle herds for hides and tallow use and export. At the end of the culling and leather tanning season large pit barbecues cooked the remaining meat. In the early days of California statehood after 1850 the Californios continued the outdoor cooking tradition for fiestas.
In California a well known barbecue dish is grilled tri-tip beef rump, sometimes cut into steaks. The Santa Maria Style BBQ, originally from the Central Coast of California, uses a portable ‘towed’ trailer version frequently seen at Farmers markets.
The cooking customs of the indigenous peoples of Polynesia became the traditional Hawaiian Luau of the Native Hawaiians. It was brought to international attention by 20th century tourism to the islands.