Barbecue is a typically American cooking method, but the actual method varies from one state to the next. Here are some of the most famous barbecue destinations, along with an overview of their methods and the best restaurants to try.
St. Louis, Missouri
While St. Louis may not be the first city that comes to mind when you hear "great barbecue," it has earned its spot on the list. In fact, Kingsford charcoal ranked St. Louis No. 1 on their "Top 10 Grilling Cities" list. St. Louis barbecue typically features pork dishes that are grilled, not smoked. After grilling, meats are covered in a sauce, which is typically a sweet tomato-based sauce. Sauce is used generously in St. Louis, while dry rubs are rare. In fact, St. Louis residents consume more sauce than any other city in the United States. If you're looking for the best restaurant for BBQ in St. Louis, try Pappy's Smokehouse. It is ranked No.1 on a variety of local food lists.
Kansas City, Missouri
While you're visiting Missouri, you might as well make a stop in Kansas City, one of the top four BBQ destinations in the states. Unlike St. Louis BBQ, Kansas City's version is slow-cooked rather than grilled. The meat is then covered with a rich tomato sauce with just a hint of molasses for flavor. Since the area is famous for its BBQ, there are more than 100 different restaurant options within Kansas City limits. Most locals recommend Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que for the most authentic stuff.
Memphis BBQ is also known as one of the top four varieties across the nation. Any meat can be used, although pork is most common. It's almost always slow-cooked, but it can be prepared with a dry rub or with a sauce. If a dry rub is used, no sauce is added. If sauce is used, it can be added before, during or after smoking (and usually all three). Memphis is also the host of the world's largest pork BBQ competition, The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Looking for the best BBQ in Memphis? Try Central BBQ. Simple in its decorations, Central BBQ knows how to whip up a good BBQ feast.
Unlike most barbecue, Texas-style BBQ usually includes beef rather than pork. The method of preparation differs from one region of the state to the next, and it may include rubs, sauces, slow-cooking or grilling. The most popular method is East Texas, where the meat is marinated in a sweet sauce, and then slow-cooked over hickory until incredibly tender. Central Texas-style is also quite common and is usually referred to as simply "Texas style." This method is based on traditional "barbacoa" recipes, which were brought over from Mexico. With this style, the meat is cooked for long periods of time over indirect heat. To get the full Texas BBQ experience, you'll need to hit several restaurants for a variety of styles. Lucky for you, the Texas Monthly released a list of the top 25 to try.
People in the Carolinas go about their BBQ a bit differently than the rest of the states. They're perhaps most famous for cooking the pig whole in North Carolina, where it is smoked over a large, open pit, and then chopped up. The sauce is a bit different, too. It's mostly vinegar-based, with a variety of peppers, salt and water added. Some areas do add a bit of tomato sauce and brown sugar to sweeten the pot, though. South Carolina also focuses on pork BBQ, although they have a large variety of sauces, including lighter tomato-based sauce, heavier tomato-based sauce, vinegar-based sauce and mustard-based sauce. Germans brought mustard sauce to South Carolina, and the area they settled is well-known as "The Mustard Belt." You'll find the best places for all the Carolina styles on this list from Time magazine.