Barbecue in the United States is a staple in American tradition, since colonial times. In the South, pork became an essential ingredient to the barbecue since the 18th century, because of the ease of raising pigs compared to cattle.
The three ingredients to a USA barbecue, are: meat, wood smoke, and a barbecue sauce/seasoning. The secret is in the sauce; every region uses a different sauce to serve, creating their own regional variety. The four most popular styles – which we’ll explore – are Kansas City, Texas, the Carolinas, and Memphis.
Kansas City barbecue uses a wide selection of meals, including pork, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, and fish. It is rubbed with spices before being slow-smoked, and served with a thick sweet and tangy sauce with a ketchup and molasses base.
Their sauce is found at McDonald’s, and incorporates a liquid smoke flavour to mimic coals. Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and other spices may also be included. A range of sauces include very vinegary to very peppery. Side dishes include mashed sweet potatoes, baked beans, and sweet corn casserole.
Texas barbecue was inspired by 19th century German immigrants, and their love of meat. There are four general Texan barbecue styles: East Texas, Central Texas, South Texas, and West Texas. Central and East are the best known.
In Central Texas, salt and black pepper is rubbed into the meat, and cooked over heat from oak, mesquite, or pecan wood, or a combination of woods. Sauce is often omitted but could be served on the side. Steven Raichlen, who wrote The Barbecue Bible, describes the sauce as a “thin glaze”, used to moisten the meat and add flavour.
In East Texas barbecue, meat is cooked over hickory wood and immersed in a tomato-based sweet sauce. The meat is cooked until is it practically “falling off the bone”. Sides include pinto beans, potato salad and white bread.
Carolina barbecue is pork, served shredded, pulled, or chopped. Before smoking (on a hardwood like hickory or oak) it is often rubbed with a spice mixture, and “mopped” with a spices and vinegar liquid. Spices include cayenne, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and hot sauce.
In North Carolina there are two styles: East and West. Eastern North Carolina barbecue uses the whole pig, and parts of the pig are chopped and mixed together. Western North Carolina barbecue is made from the pork shoulder, served with a vinegar-based and tomato sauce.
South Carolina uses a yellow “Carolina Gold” sauce, which is made from vinegar, brown sugar, yellow mustard, and other spices.
Like Caroline barbecue, Memphis barbecue is mostly made from pork, usually the ribs and shoulders, though chicken and beef is sometimes used. Memphis barbecue is prepared in two ways: dry or wet. Dry ribs are covered with salt and spices before cooking, and is eaten without a sauce. Wet ribs are covered in a sauce before, during, and after cooking. It is normally served on a bun with barbecue sauce, and coleslaw on the side.
Each May, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held in Memphis, the largest pork barbecue competition globally.
What our consumers think
We asked our consumer community whether they would try the four different American barbecue styles. We used four “Yes/No” steers. Here are the results:
The results show that all four barbecue options proved favourable among our consumers, with at least 75% of people willing to try them. A promising 82.69% of people would try the Texas barbecue beef.
Barbecue in the USA is a long-standing tradition that remains popular to this day. In the UK, restaurants such as Bodean’s BBQ in London, and Red’s True Barbecue in Leeds, bring the USA-style barbecue to the British public.