When one thinks about American barbecue, they're thinking about one of four styles: Kansas City, Carolina (both North and South), Memphis, and Texas. It's these four regions that have the most recognized and influential traditions in smoking meat. Let's get into it...
Kansas City Barbecue
The Wizard of Oz may have been a blockbuster, but they're not what Kansas is most known for. It needs no introduction: Kansas-style Barbecue! Spreading across the continent, Kansas City flavours have made their name in burnt ends. Also known as "meat candy," Kansas City burnt ends are covered in sweet seasonings and thick sugar-based sauces. In fact, brown sugar is the base ingredient of Kansas City rubs with traditional recipes being a 2:1 ratio of brown sugar to paprika.
Barbecue Tip #1: With that much sugar (a single serving may have up to 15 grams of sugar), it'd be wise to cook your food low and slow in order to not caramelize or char the sugar, which would blacken your food.
Barbecue Tip #2: You may have had pork belly burnt ends, but did you know burnt ends were originally made of the fatty part of a smoked beef brisket? Barbecue fans, like us, started using pork belly to make them in larger quantities and by themselves, without having to cut them off the beef brisket.
Ever had a pulled pork sandwich? Pulled pork is just one staple of Memphis-style barbecue. Another favorite food you can attribute to the famous Tennessee city is pork ribs. Prepared wet and dry, pork ribs let delicious smokiness combine with flavours of ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and other spices.
The last dish that marks the authenticity of a Memphis-styled barbecue joint is their barbecue spaghetti - a dish that has spaghetti noodles tossed with sauce that's half marinara and half barbecue sauce, pulled pork with peppers and onions. Barbecue spaghetti has been a regional weekly supper staple since the 1970s. Basically, Memphis-style barbecue is predominantly pork.
Barbecue Tip #3: Sure, it's obvious that wet ribs are wet and dry ribs are dry in texture; however, the difference comes out in the cooking - not just the coating. When cooking wet ribs, be sure to sauce the ribs with a basting brush brush or sauce mop before, during, and after smoking them. Meanwhile, dry ribs should be coated completely in a Memphis-styled dry rub (a mix of brown sugar and white sugar, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic, ginger, onion, cayenne, and rosemary) and served without sauce.
North and South Carolina Barbecue
One of America's oldest ways to cook meat is to slow-roast a whole hog over 12 to 24 hours. Take that roasted hog and butcher it into it's best parts: the shoulder, belly, and neck.
The two Carolinas do have a difference in style. While both focus on pork, North Carolina prefers a thin vinegar-based sauce, while South Carolina prefers mustard-based. You can actually dig deeper into South Carolina's sauce preferences. They get more complex than just mustard-based. Mustard-based is more centrally located, tomato-based is northern-based (northern South Carolina that is), light tomato-based is preferred in a small section of the west, and vinegar-based is preferred on the very south west corner and the eastern corner of the state (see the map here). Either way, we're huge fans here.
Barbecue Tip #4: The typical Carolina mop sauce is tangy with a vinegar, apple cider, tomato juice, or beer-based.
With Texas being so large, covering hundreds of thousands of kilometers, there are many different traditions that have come out of the southern state and impacted the world. Just like the Carolinas, it has various regions with different styles. These regions are Central Texas, East Texas, South Texas, and West Texas. Since we're keeping these descriptions simple, we'll summarize Texas-barbecue for you (although, we'll get back to it more deeply in another blog post).
When it comes to general Texas barbecue, you probably think BRISKET. Everyone has heard about low and slow smoked beef brisket and you can thank Jewish immigrants from the early 1900s for it. It spread in popularity when Jewish delis offered smoked brisket across Texas. Nowadays, brisket is considered the "National Dish of Texas".
Barbecue Tip #5: Brisket is derived from the lower pectoral muscle of the cow. That being said, it's naturally super tough and chewy. When you smoke it for long enough (over 18 hours), the meat becomes so tender that it falls apart.
Other American Styles Worth Mentioning
Alabama Barbecue - famous for their white mayonnaise-based sauce
St. Louis Barbecue - famous for their fatty and tender spareribs
Santa Maria Barbecue - focused on oak wood-fire grilled beef tri-tip steaks
Kentucky Barbecue - famous for mutton (mature sheep) stew, a.k.a. burgoo
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