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BBQ (or barbecue) is one of our most all-American foods. Barbecue most likely began in the area that later became the state of North Carolina. Regional styles of BBQ vary in the U.S. but the top four great schools of barbecue are: Carolina, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City. To be fair Virginia is sometimes considered as having a distinguished regional style of its own but we will concentrate on the top four regional styles of BBQ.

Top Four Styles of BBQ- by Region

While there are bbq spots around the country and nearly every major metro area in the U.S. has its own claim to BBQ fame,

Carolina BBQ

Carolina's most popular meat for BBQ is pork, both whole hog and shoulder. This makes immanent sense, as pigs were prevalent in colonial times, the time of the original BBQ, which most likely originated in the Carolinas. Pulled and chopped pork cozy up to vinegar-based sauces and the meat is pit-cooked over direct heat. The pork in the Carolinas is cooked slowly for about 6-8 hours (depending on the size of the meat) at 250 degrees or less. NC-style "pig-picking” can be a home-cooking phenomenon. Pigs cooked in pits in the ground, metal cookers or brick pits, are accompanied by charcoal or wood.

Memphis BBQ

Pork ribs and pork shoulder dominate the Memphis BBQ scene. There are two kinds of ribs: wet and dry. The wet ribs offer a tomato, vinegar and mustard sauce and the dry is just that as they are cooked without a sauce. The ribs are smoked over indirect heat but finished over direct heat. Ribs came into favor after the Civil War as former slaves migrated from rural states to the urban South and Midwest in the early half of the twentieth century. A world-famous BBQ cook-off is held in Memphis annually, called “Memphis in May.” The 2013 dates are May 17th to May 19th.

Texas BBQ

Beef brisket is king in the Lone Star cattle state, where there seems to be a BBQ restaurant in every small town and big city. Pork ribs run a close second, and both are served with a tomato–based sauce on the side. You’ll also find chicken, sausage, ham, beef ribs and, at times, turkey and cabrito (goat). The meat is smoked over indirect heat using woods such as hickory, mesquite (native to the state), and oak. The meat is traditionally served on a large piece of butcher paper with the requisite sides.

Kansas City

Pork ribs and beef brisket reign supreme in Kansas City. The ribs are sticky with a tomato-based sauce but this same sauce is served on the side of the brisket.  Like in Memphis and Texas, the meat is smoked over indirect heat but finished over direct heat. Midwestern traditions came to Kansas City from both Texas and the South. It is the middle ground for the beef traditions of Texas and the pork traditions of the South. Sauce is very important to Kansas City diners and the Kraft brand of commercial sauce, the world’s first mass produced sauce, is a Kansas City style full of tomatoes, a bit of a sweet taste and somewhat spicy.

For more on BBQ and other delicious foods, check out www.sallybernstein.com

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