Mention the word “barbecue” anywhere in the United States and you’ll get a range of reactions. Mostly, though, you’ll see people oozing with hunger and pride. What many people don’t know is that different parts of the U.S. have their own unique take on barbecue. From different sauces to different preferred cuts of meat to different grilling methods, each region will have its own (heated) opinion.
What better day to show their opinions and to place their pride and joy on display than on Labor Day: the third most popular day of the day year to barbecue.
Didn’t realize Americans were so passionate about their barbecue? It’s been a staple in American culture since colonial times so you’d better believe it’s taken seriously!
While you may not know what to expect when you roll up to your Labor Day barbecue, expect this: to stuff your face with the best grilled goods all across the country.
Dallas’s BBQ Specialty: Slow-cooked beef (chopped, not sliced) served on a bun. Unlike other southern barbecue, Texas barbecue does not include coleslaw. The meat is usually cooked over hickory wood and the sauce of choice is tomato-based, sweet and thick. Chopped brisket sandwiches are also popular.
Fun Fact: Different parts of Texas- central, west, south, east and deep south- each have their own take on barbecue. Dallas falls in the east.
How it Started: The barbecue was originally an African American method for cooking with poor quality cuts of meat, as they were unable to acquire higher quality cuts. Hot sauce was used frequently as it covered the flavor of poorer meats.
Memphis’ BBQ Specialty: Basically, pork in any size, shape or form. Slow-cooked ribs or shoulder cooked in a pit is the most popular, as is pulled pork. Beef? Sometimes. Chicken? It’s possible but not popular. Memphis BBQ is prepared one of two ways:
- dry, covered prior to cooking with a rub of salt and a variety of spices like garlic and paprika.
- Wet, with a tangy, thin tomato sauce that is brushed on before, during and after cooking.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis’s BBQ Specialty: Heavily sauced spare ribs that are grilled rather than slow cooked over indirect heat, and cut in a way that a rectangular-shaped rack can be created. Don’t throw out the burnt ends of the meat – those are a delicacy here! St. Louis is also popularly known for its barbecue sauce, which is very sweet but slightly acidic, sticky, tomato-based and smokey.
Fun Fact: St. Louis is said to consume more barbecue sauce per capita than any other city in the United States.
Louisville’s BBQ Specialty: Louisville pit barbecue, with a hearty dose of vinegar-based sauces, often served with pickles, onions, potato salad and coleslaw. You have the option of cooking up some chicken, pork, mutton and sometimes beef. However, burgoo is a main specialty. Not sure what burgoo is? Research with caution.
Chicago’s BBQ Specialty: Boiled and smoked ribs and/or sausage that is covered in sauce and is served on white bread with french fries.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston’s BBQ Specialty: Charleston bbq is similar to that of North Carolina in terms of the meat used, which is usually ham or pork butt. The sauce here, however, is usually mustard-based and includes brown sugar and vinegar as well.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte’s BBQ Specialty: Charlotte barbecues often see a mix between Lexington and Eastern-style bbq, both of which typically use pork, brush the meat with a spice and vinegar mixture while the meat is cooking, and serve with a ketchup-based sauce.
What are the differences? Eastern-style is when the entire pig is barbecued. Lexington-style is just the shoulder or ribs.
Fun Fact: Barbecue is an important part of the heritage and history of North Carolina, and over the years has been quite a politically-charged issue resulting in a series of bills and laws being introduced.
Baltimore’s BBQ Specialty: Much like Memphis and Louisville, Baltimore barbecuers use a pit to prepare their beef.