Whether you prefer pig or cow, there is always a BBQ style that is considered superior. From Kansas City down to Alabama and Austin, Texas to Eastern North Carolina, every specific region seems to boast a specific style. Eight regions in particular however have stood-out among the rest as truly superior. Here is the breakdown of the 8 best BBQ styles across America.
Eastern North Carolina BBQ Style
This perfect flavor of vinegar and pork has been considered the originator for American BBQ. Like its deep-rooted tradition of smoking a whole pig, this style uses no tomato but instead relies on a combination of cider vinegar and crushed red peppers. Don’t get this style confused for their western counterparts however. Although they both serve pork with hush puppies and coleslaw, they have slight differences that make for huge outcomes.
Signature Dish: Chopped pork sandwich with Texas Pete and slaw
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Wilber’s Barbecue (Goldsboro), B’s Barbecue (Greenville), Skylight Inn BBQ (Ayden)
Lexington North Carolina BBQ Style
Although in the same state, the western North Carolina BBQ style could not be considered more different by fellow tar heels. This style gets its name from Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina and instead of using the whole hog, Lexington smokes just the shoulders. The biggest difference between the two styles however is the tomato base Lexington adds rather than simply vinegar and crushed peppers in the east.
Signature Dish: Pork shoulder
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Lexington Barbecue (Lexington), Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge (Shelby), Stamey’s Barbecue (Greensboro)
Central Texas BBQ Style
Although it may not be as old as the vinegar style in Eastern North Carolina, the Central Texas style dates back to the 19th century of German immigrants to the Wild West. Like the cowboy stereotype Texas still holds today, this BBQ is purely beef based and focuses on quality smoke and cuts of the meat rather than the sauce. The Texas brisket might arguably be the most well-known of all the BBQ styles.
Signature Dish: Moist brisket
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Franklin Barbecue (Austin), Snow’s BBQ (Lexington), Black’s Barbecue (Lockhart)
East Texas BBQ Style
Most people only know of the Texas brisket but do not be confused; there is actually more than one style of BBQ in Texas. Like its geographic location, East Texas BBQ is more of a Texas and Southern hybrid. Rather than focusing solely on beef, East Texas equally appreciates pork, sausage and even boudin like you would find in Louisiana. They also aren’t afraid of the sauce like their centrally located neighbors and like the rest of the south; they serve their meats chopped rather than sliced.
Signature Dish: Chopped Beef Sandwich
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Bob’s Bar-B-Que (Henderson), Ray’s BBQ (Houston), Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q (Houston)
Memphis BBQ Style
Memphis, Tennessee is specifically known for baby back ribs. They serve traditionally dry rub ribs that are slow smoked over hickory and coated with paprika. Although pretty much famous for just their ribs, Memphis will smoke just about anything pork and it will be served with a tangy, thin tomato-based sauce.
Signature Dish: Baby Back Ribs
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Rendezvous (Memphis), A&R BBQ (Memphis), Germantown Commissary (Germantown)
Alabama BBQ Style
Probably the most forgotten on the BBQ list, Alabama actually has their own distinct BBQ style that is criminally underrated. Although not the most original, Alabama loves meaty sandwiches filled with anything from pulled pork to BBQ chicken with coleslaw. What separates them from the rest however, is their distinct white sauce that combines mayonnaise and vinegar.
Signature Dish: Pulled pork sandwich with white sauce
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (Decatur), Dreamland Bar-B-Que (Tuscaloosa), Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q (Bessemer)
South Carolina BBQ Style
The battle for the superior Carolina BBQ style doesn’t just end at the North Carolina state line. South Carolina actually boasts their own style of BBQ as well. Not straying too far from the original, South Carolina sticks mostly to chopped pork or BBQ chicken like their northern neighbors. The biggest difference however is their mustard based sauce. That’s right; the entire Carolina’s are completely separated by ketchup, mustard and vinegar; and they couldn’t be more serious about it.
Signature Dish: Pork sandwich
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Carolina Bar-B-Que (New Ellenton), Scott’s Bar-B-Que (Hemingway), Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Q (Leesville)
Kansas City BBQ Style
Like Central Texas; Kansas City derives their BBQ traditions from their history with cattle but they don’t limit themselves to just beef. As the only region outside of the south that has a renowned BBQ style, KC embraces all meats. They are probably most known for burnt ends however, which is the fatty end of a cut of brisket.
Signature Dish: Burnt ends
Must-Try BBQ Joints: Oklahoma Joe’s (Kansas City), Gates Bar-B-Q (Multiple Locations), Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque (Kansas City)