BBQ is one of America’s great gifts to the world, but let’s get one thing straight at the beginning: BBQ is not throwing meat on the backyard grill. BBQ is slow cooking over wood or hardwood charcoal. There are many styles of this type of cooking that I will cover in this article.
Georgia – BBQ is slow-smoked hickory flavor. The meat choice is pork, mainly ribs and pork butt (which comes from the pork shoulder). The rib is sweet and spicy with brown or turbinado sugar, cayenne, and garlic powder. All this creates a dark brown almost black crust called bark. The sauce has a tomato base with vinegar, sugar, and a hot pepper like cayenne. These meats are slow cooked from 225 to 275 degrees, and are cooked on a combination of hickory and peach wood from 3-10 hours depending on the type of meat. This style was made famous by Myron Mixon.
Carolina style – This is slow-cooked goodness but with some wrinkles. Pulled pork is the star hear with a “mop” containing vinegar and red pepper. The rubs are as different as the pit masters, but the consistent ingredients are salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper. The classic serving is a bun with the pulled pork and either a vinegar or creamy mustard sauce, topped with coleslaw, and vinegar and pepper sauce. Baked beans are the most popular side; they have the additional goodness of some of the pulled pork in the beans. The Skylight Inn is one of the most renowned places for BBQ in North Carolina.
Texas – Beef is king here and brisket (my favorite) is the meat of choice. Simplicity is another hallmark: salt, pepper, maybe some garlic powder, and some cayenne pepper. Mesquite is the wood of choice, and you are looking at a 10-12 hour cook. The brisket is divided into 2 parts: the flat and the point. The point is used for burnt ends and the flat for slices. Some people inject the beef with broth or other liquids to keep the beef moist. Sauce may be used at the table but not in cooking. Now , they don’t do burnt end in South Texas, just in the north.
Alabama- They use both pork and chicken in Alabama. They share many traits with Georgia until it comes to a curiously local sauce. The white sauce is a combination of buttermilk and mayonnaise with vinegar and spices. Pulled chicken and pulled pork are equally popular.
Saint Louis- Sweet and sticky is the hallmark of Saint Louis BBQ. Ribs are king, and Saint Louis cut ribs are the meatiest of ribs. Most of the sauces have brown sugar or molasses for sweetness, and there is a savory mustard element with cayenne and other spices. These ribs are cooked at 250 for 4 to 5 hours and are smoked with a combination of hickory, cherry and apple wood. They are bathed in a sweet sauce. Pappy’s Smoke House has been rated highest for years by Saint Louis residents.
Memphis – Memphis has made dry rub ribs an art form, with its spicy brown sugar rub and the magnificent corn bread. No sauce allowed. The bark is wonderful, and these ribs are finished with a coating of the rub and cooked for an additional 15 minutes. This traditionally is cooked hotter than other styles, at 300 degrees to seal the crust, and has a hot, savory and sweet flavor profile. Corky’s and the Rendevous are the most famous places for this BBQ.