History of BBQ

Regional BBQ Styles


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The Origins of Barbecue Tradition

The first ingredient in the barbecue tradition was the meat. Pigs came to the Americas with the Spanish explorers, and quickly turned feral. This provided the most widely used protein used in most barbecue, pork ribs, as well as the pork shoulder for pulled pork. The techniques used in barbecue are hot smoking and smoke cooking. Hot smoking is where the meat is cooked with a wood fire, over indirect heat, at temperatures between 120 and 180 F (49 and 82 C), and smoke cooking is cooking over indirect fire at higher temperatures. Unlike cold smoking, which preserves meat and takes days of exposure to the smoke, hot smoking and smoke cooking are cooking processes. While much faster than cold smoking, the cooking process still takes hours, as many as 18. The long, slow cooking process leaves the meat tender and juicy.

The next ingredient in barbecue is the wood. Since the wood smoke flavors the food, not just any wood will do; different woods impart different flavors, so availability of various woods for smoking influences the taste of the barbecue in different regions.

  • Hard woods such as hickory, mesquite, pecan and the different varieties of oak impart a strong smoke flavor.
  • Maple, alder, and fruit woods such as apple, pear, and cherry impart a milder, sweeter taste.

Stronger flavored woods are used for pork and beef, while the lighter flavored woods are used for fish and poultry. More exotic smoke generating ingredients can be found in some recipes; grapevine adds a sweet flavor, and sassafras, a major flavor in root beer adds its distinctive taste to the smoke.

The last, and in many cases optional, ingredient is the barbecue sauce. There are no constants, with sauces running the gamut from clear, peppered vinegars to thick, sweet, tomato and molasses sauces, from mild to painfully spicy. The sauce may be used as a marinade before cooking, applied during cooking, after cooking, or used as a table sauce. An alternate form of barbecue sauce is the dry rub, a mixture of salt and spices applied to the meat before cooking.

Regional styles

While the wide variety of barbecue styles makes it is difficult to break barbecue styles down into regions, there are four major styles commonly referenced (though many sources list more). The four major styles are Memphis and Carolina, which rely on pork and represent the oldest styles, and Kansas City and Texas, which utilize beef as well as pork, and represent the later evolution of the original Deep South barbecue. Pork is the most common protein used, followed by beef and veal, often with chicken or turkey in addition. Lamb and mutton are found in some areas, such as Owensboro, Kentucky, and some regions will add other meats.

In addition to the main four traditional styles we’ve added Hawaiian and of course, Californian Styles.

Carolinas Style BBQ

The Carolinas use primarily pork, both pulled and ribs, normally rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and often mopped with a spice and vinegar liquid during smoking. There are three main varieties of Carolina barbecue in different areas of the Carolinas.

In South Carolina, barbecue is characterized by the use of “Carolina Gold” sauce, made from a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and other spices, creating a unique yellow sauce.

Two styles predominate in different parts of North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina barbecue is made by the use of the “whole hog”, where the entire pig is barbecued and the meat from all parts of the pig are chopped and mixed together. Eastern North Carolina barbecue also uses a thin sauce made of spices and vinegar. Western North Carolina barbecue is made from only the pork shoulder, which is mainly dark meat, and uses a thicker tomato-based sauce. Western North Carolina barbecue is also known as Lexington barbecue, after the town of Lexington, North Carolina, home to many barbecue restaurants and a large barbecue festival, the Lexington Barbecue Festival. back to top

Kansas City Style BBQ

Kansas City is sometimes referred to as the “world capital of barbecue.” There are more than 100 barbecue restaurants in the city and the American Royal each fall claims to host the world’s biggest barbecue contest.

Kansas City barbecue typically consists of brisket and burnt ends, pork, lamb, and beef ribs, steaks, chicken, and turkey. Meat is more often sliced than shredded. Kansas City barbecue is served with the sauce on the side, or mixed into the meat, depending on the establishment or personal preference. Kansas City style uses a sweet, spicy sauce with a tomato base.

The classic Kansas City-style barbecue was an inner city phenomenon that evolved from the pit of Henry Perry from the Memphis, Tennessee area in the early 1900s and blossomed in the 18th and Vine neighborhood. Arthur Bryant’s was to take over the Perry restaurant and added molasses to sweeten the recipe. In 1946 Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q was opened by one of Perry’s cooks. The Gates recipe added even more molasses.

In 1977 Rich Davis, a child psychologist, test marketed his own concoction called K.C. Soul Style Barbecue Sauce. He renamed it KC Masterpiece and in 1986 he sold the sauce to the Kingsford division of Clorox. Davis retained rights to operate restaurants using the name and sauce. Only one of the restaurants remains in the suburb of Overland Park, Kansas. back to top

Memphis Style BBQ

Memphis barbecue is primarily ribs, which come “wet” and “dry”. Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before and after cooking, and dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub. Pulled pork, from the shoulder, is also a popular item, which is served smothered in a hot, sweet, tomato based sauce.

Memphis-style barbecue is known for wet ribs, made with a mild, sweet barbecue sauce that’s basted on the ribs before and after smoking; dry-rub crusted ribs, made with a spice rub that forms a crust on the surface, applied during or right after they’ve been cooked; and pulled or chopped pork sandwich topped with sweet, finely chopped coleslaw and served on hamburger buns, which some locals insist is Memphis barbecue’s highest form.

For people who simply can’t get enough barbecue, there’s also barbecue spaghetti, barbecue pizza, and barbecue nachos. back to top

Texas Style BBQ

Texas has four main regional styles of barbecue, all with different flavors, different cooking methods, different ingredients, and different cultural origins.

East Texas barbecue is an extension of traditional southern barbecue, similar to that found in Tennessee and Arkansas. It is primarily pork-based, with cuts such as pork shoulder and pork ribs, indirectly slow smoked over primarily hickory wood. The sauce is tomato-based, sweet, and thick. This is also the most common urban barbecue in Texas, spread by African-Americans when they settled in big cities like Houston and Dallas.

Central Texas was settled by German and Czech settlers in the mid 1800s, and they brought with them European-style meat markets, which would smoke leftover cuts of pork and beef, often with high heat, using primarily native oak and pecan. The European settlers did not think of this meat as barbecue, but the Anglo farm workers who bought it started calling it such, and the name stuck. Traditionally, this barbecue is marinated but served without sauce, and with no sides other than saltine crackers, cucumber pickles, and onions. This style is found in the Barbecue Belt southeast of Austin, with Lockhart, Texas as its capital.

The border between the South Texas Plains and Northern Mexico has always been blurry, and this area of Texas as well as its barbecue style, are mostly influenced by Mexican tastes. The area was the birthplace of the Texas ranching tradition, and the Mexican farmhands were often partially paid for their work in less desirable cuts of meat, such as the diaphragm, from which fajitas are made, and the cow’s head. It is the cow’s head which defines South Texas barbecue, called barbacoa. They would wrap the head in wet maguey leaves and bury it in a pit with hot coals for several hours, and then pull off the meat for barbacoa tacos. The tongue is also used to make lengua tacos. Today, barbacoa is mostly cooked in an oven in a bain-marie.

The last style of Texas Barbecue also originated from Texas ranching traditions, but was developed in the western third of the state by Anglo ranchers. This style of “Cowboy” barbecue, cooked over an open pit using direct heat from mesquite, is the style most closely associated with Texas barbecue in popular imagination. The meat is primarily beef, shoulder clods and brisket being favorite cuts, but mutton and goat are also often found in this barbecue style. back to top

California Style BBQ

In Northern California, Oakland is a center for traditional BBQ and other soul food side dishes that are popular in other regions of the country such as Kansas City and Memphis. In Southern California, the African American communities of the Southern Los Angeles are the home to many a storied barbecue restaurant.

Santa Maria has a style involving a 2-3 inch cut of top sirloin or tri-tip steak. More popular is the whole cut of the tri-tip rump, which resembles a roast, smothered with barbecue sauce and served with pinquito pink beans, plantains, grilled French bread, and salsa as a garnish. The tri-tip is rolled in garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper just prior to grilling over red oak wood or coals. Some old timers soak their tri-tip in a flat beer marinade the night before grilling, while others use a red wine vinegar, tomato, and oil basting barbecue sauce during the grilling.

Other common items grilled on a Californian barbecue include chicken, ribs, and other types of beef steaks. The barbecue sauce used in this state is tomato-based, as with all other western states. Pork baby back ribs are popular for barbecue in the Western region in comparison to the popular use of spare ribs in the Southern United States. The California barbecue scene is influenced by the southwestern regional styles from Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as the national cuisines of Australia and Mexico.

P Train’s in opening a new chapter in California barbecue with our unique approach that includes grilled hot wings, California style smoked pizza as well as the traditional cuts of meat.

Find out more about P Train’s sauces and approach to barbecue. back to top

Hawaiian Style BBQ

In Hawaii, the local barbecue style is mainly influenced by those of the South Pacific Islands of Oceania. However, many immigrants from the mainland, as well as other immigrants from Australia and the Caribbean, brought their own styles into Hawaii and mixed it into the Hawaiian barbecue scene. In addition to meats, plantains are also grilled, glazed with honey. Likewise, the meats are glazed with sauce, cooked over Kiawe and Guava wood, and decorated with fruits when it is served. Overall, Hawaiian barbecue is best described as a mix of mainland American, Australian, Caribbean, and Pacific Island barbecue styles. back to top

source – wikipedia