For some folks there may be knowledge of just a few of the different traditions, and I think that’s just a shame. So I’m taking this chance to highlight some of the various styles of barbeque we have. I’ve broken them down by state.
This is often referred to as “Memphis-style” and focuses slow pit-cooked ribs and barbeque sandwiches. There are wet ribs (which are sauced) and dry ribs (where a rub is applied) and the sandwiches are made of chopped pork on a bun, and can be served with a variety of sauces depending on the joint you’re eating at, or whose back yard you’re in.
North and South Carolina
This is another pork tradition, which sometimes even goes “whole hog” and lets none go to waste. Barbeque in this region can be coated with vinegar-based marinades that include loads of spices, or are sometimes drenched with ketchup or mustard-based sauces as they’re cooked. Some people call this “Low Country” style.
Usually referred to as “Kansas City-style”, this tradition has spawned the biggest competitive barbequing organization in the nation. Fortunately, they aren’t to snobby, and every style of barbeque is judged at their competitions!
The actual KC-style consists of, as you might imagine, a lot of emphasis on sauce served as a condiment, as well as the dry rub used on the meat. Speaking of meat, they tend to use just about everything they can get their hands on in KC style!
Texas is big, and it has a lot of influence. The variety of barbeque in Texas is impressive, and you can see a number of different meats used (though beef remains the signature Texas meat of course), as well as sauces, rubs, and more.
The type of wood used in different parts of Texas also has a big influence on the taste. Mesquite, hickory, pecan, and oak all have their places. Down towards Mexico way there’s of course a lot of interesting influences, with barbacoa adding in a lot of goat and sheep, as well as using an underground oven.
With a tradition of large pit barbeques and a beef base which arises from the days of cattlemen in the state, Californian barbeque also involves a lot of towed trailers which can be found at events across the state.
Pork and chicken dominate the Virginian scene, with heavy influences from both the Carolinas and Tennessee meaning there’s a lot of vinegar involved, but also bourbon, and tomato-based sauces, and it tends to be quite smoky. In Virginia you can sometimes find game animals being barbequed as well, which is quite a treat.
This one sure is a special part of America. The Polynesian roots of the native Hawaiians have given us one of the most fantastic experiences available in event barbeque. The luau is a whole evening of entertainment and food which features kalua pig, a whole swine cooked in an underground oven pit. If you ever go to Hawaii, this is not to be missed as it is absolutely unique among all American barbeque.
So there you have it. A great variety of barbeque traditions from all across the nation. If you’re passing through a region, try and make sure to sample some of the local flavor. You’re bound to find something worthwhile!