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A Brief History of BBQ

bbq_hotgrill

Barbecue, no matter how you slice it, always means a hunk of meat cooked painfully slowly over a low flame. It’s a stubborn old art form that won’t be rushed by the hungry masses in our instant-gratification society.

It’s ready when it’s ready. It’s gone when it’s gone.

And Southeners — known for deliberating over their food — are experts at this ever-evolving art form. The Mississippi-based Southern Foodways Alliance has pages and pages devoted to barbecue, they’ve created a barbecue trail and done oral histories with old pitmasters from here to Carolina.

According to the Southern Foodways Alliance’s barbecue primer, the craft can be dated back to the Caribbean when the Europeans landed on their shores and tasted their spiced meats dried over a smoky fire. That technique was combined with the British practices of basting and buttering to keep the meat moist while cooking.

“But it was in Virginia and in the Carolinas that barbecue as we know it would begin to evolve. In Virginia, British colonists observed the Native American method of drying meat on a grill of green sticks over a smoking fire and soon married this method to their own interest in spit-cooking hogs and other small animals,” said the Foodways Alliance’s primer.

The method of cooking a whole hog is still practiced all over the country, but it’s a tradition based largely in the Carolinas. There they also stick to the methods of adding vinegar and mustard sauces to flavor the meat. When the Germans arrived, they brought sweet and spicy cole slaw, and it quickly became an accepted accompaniment.

Today, each region primarily has a specialty, though the methods are merging, “The whole-hog style that developed along the Atlantic seaboard has drifted into western Tennessee, and the Piedmont style, with some variations, can be uncovered in northeast Alabama and, with American-style coleslaw, in Memphis. Mustard-based barbecue, though still centered in South Carolina, can be found as well in Georgia and eastern Alabama, where one can also find an orange sauce that combines mustard and tomato-based sauces, as if to say, Does one really have to choose?

“Of course, Kentucky has its barbecue mutton and its burgoo, which resembles Georgia’s own Brunswick Stew, a traditional barbecue accompaniment. In Texas, German settlers in a cattle-friendly land developed barbecue sausage and the holy brisket, where today Mexican influence directs the emergence of barbacoa and other delicacies.”

Today, these cooking styles and flavors have integrated themselves into restaurants across the South. And it continues to transform with cultural influences shaping sauces and smoking methods in ways both subtle and overt.

“There are still new barbecue plates being dreamed up by the hungry and the resourceful. How about north Alabama’s white-sauce chicken, northwest Mississippi’s taste for goat, or the barbecued gator that turns up in Louisiana and Florida?” says the SFA.

The only way you can experience it all is to travel — or maybe have bottles of red and gold sauce delivered to your door. But ideally you’d take the barbecue trail set out by the Foodways Alliance, or hit the road and create your own using our restaurant guide. It’s a noble venture for only the stout of heart and stomach, but completely worth undertaking.

 

sauces

Breakdown of Regional Styles

BBQ Regions of the United States

Barbecue … or is it BBQ? No, wait it’s Bar-B-Q.

No matter how many vowels you include, the South is one big, saucy barbecue family, and though we may argue and fight around the dinner table, ultimately, we love each other.

Yes, if America is a melting pot of culture, the South is a fiery pit of meat. Each region has its own approach to ‘cue. Over in the Carolinas, they revere their mustard as much as their Kansas City kin adore their ketchup, and somewhere in between there’s barbecue cousins kissing in the Kentucky burgoo.

So, break out the genealogy book, and get ready for a virtual barbecue tour of our family tree.

We’re not actual historians, but the first in this family is arguably the eldest child of barbecue: Memphis. If it’s not the first-born, it’s definitely the squeakiest wheel. The city boasts one of the biggest barbecue competitions around. Memphis in May showcases hundreds of teams and almost as many different styles, but pork shoulder rules this town. Slow smoked and smothered in a sweet and thick sauce it is not hard to find great sandwiches and pulled pork. Thick, dry-rubbed ribs are also a Memphis specialty. The city’s getting innovative with menu items like barbecue spaghetti. Well, innovative, or maybe a poor-man’s way of extending the caloric value of the meat. Either way, we approve. Barbecue spaghetti is exactly how it sounds: pulled meats and noodles drizzled with barbecue sauce. When in Memphis, these dishes are can’t-miss items, and all you need to round out the meal is a dab of slaw. Ignore the purists, and put it on your sandwich. It’s right and proper.

Tennessee’s barbecue twin, born roughly one minute after its older sibling is west toward the Smokey Mountains in Nashville. It’s one of the hottest food cities in the South, and with heavy-hitters like Tyler Brown, Sean Brock, and Philip Krajeck, you’d better believe this brother is serious about his barbecue. Nashville seems to incorporate a little bit from the region’s various styles, but when in Music City, you’ve got to have the Boston butts. The sauce here is sweet but not as sticky as Memphis. Nashville barbecue shops excel at their sides, so get a “pick three” with granny-style green beans, mac and cheese, and a soft yeast roll.

Further north, the crazy uncle of the barbecue family lives in Louisville. Crazy uncle Louie. The city has no real barbecue specialty — you can get ribs, brisket, and definitely pork — but Louisville is all about a very special side dish called Kentucky burgoo. It’s an epic mix of chicken or pork, and always has tomatoes and okra. In Crazy Uncle Louie’s town, dig into a plate of smoked chicken and a big bowl of burgoo. If you’re in the right spot, you can even find burgoo made with trimmings from the barbecue, which is a taste of heaven.

Heading east to the coast are the parents of barbecue: The Carolinas. We find whole hog dominating the South Carolina scene. Roadside shacks that have homemade pits filled with two to three hogs are a common sight here. There’s hardly anything here but pork, and the area is also widely known for its sauce. Thin, vinegar-based peppery sauces, or mustard-based mixes, the goal here is not to mask the pork but kick the flavor up. When in the Carolinas, dine on pulled pork shoulder with mustard sauce and brown beans and slaw. Another Carolina oddity: They like to put barbecue on a buffet. It’s an interesting take, and probably a welcome idea for those who can’t decide on a side — or a sauce for that matter. Just eat them all! Few other restaurants in the country take that approach, but it’s probably just the area’s parental, hospitable way of making sure hungry travelers get enough to eat.

Since we’ve hit the coast, let’s take a plane back west to Kansas City. This town is barbecue’s aunt. Maternal. Peerless. She’s a pillar of the family who always remembers your birthday, sending you a card with $5 and a bottle of Masterpiece. Aunt KC has a long history of storied barbecue shops and also lays claim to one of the most solid barbecue sauces in history. Kansas City smokes many different cuts but holds true to one thing — the sauce. It’s tomato-based and made thick with molasses and brown sugar. When visiting this devoted aunt, try the baby back ribs. Your aunt KC is basting them with sauce while cooking to give them “that bark.” The crispy bark is a big part of KC barbecue, and with these ribs all you need is a cold beer. Kansas City has one more specialty — the burnt ends. It’s the spiced, charred fatty ends of brisket that are typically used to flavor baked beans. They’re a delicacy, and truly a must in this city.

Further south is the home of your black sheep brother with his barbecue cry, “You can have my beef brisket when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” Texas brisket has everything that is sacred about barbecue. When it’s done right, a delicious cap of fat brisket is as wonderful as pork — we might be a little biased. Yet, brisket in the capital city of Austin is a really simple affair. Usually rubbed with nothing but salt and pepper, it is all about low and slow, and Austin has mastered this technique in the Texas barbecue landscape. On the menu here is moist smoked brisket, German-style potato salad, brown beans, Shiner Bock, and a thick slice of honey-wheat bread. Simple, no frills and delicious. We’d brave the heat and the Texas gun-ownership for a taste. Those are the pillars of the family.

The second-cousins and twice-removed extended kin can be found across the South in Louisiana, where they spice and smoke gator, and Mississippi, where they’ve developed a taste for barbecued goat. Other step-children in this family include Alabama, with a mayo-based white sauce that they smear on chicken. The vinegary, peppery, horseradish-y sauce was invented by a man named Big Bob Gibson, who has restaurants operating under his name in Decatur. Over in Georgia, Atlanta is a haven when it comes to barbecue, welcoming and incorporating the styles of surrounding states with gusto. Yes, the South is a strange barbecue brood, but as they say, you can’t pick your family. It’s heated, it’s contentious and it’s our tribe. And in the end, we would all agree, sauce is thicker than water.

Now that you’ve met the whole family, here’s a handy-dandy list of the must-try places in the South. Don’t forget your wet wipes.

ARKANSAS

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner
219 W. Louisiana St., Marianna
A side trip off of Interstate 40, South of Forrest City, is Jones Bar-B-Q, which was declared a national treasure by the James Beard Foundation back in 2012. The only thing on the menu: pork. Sides include chips or slaw. It’s all to-go and it’s usually gone by the afternoon.

Craig’s Bar-B-Q
15 W. Walnut, De Valls Bluff
Located in a shack south of Interstate 40, the smoky pork topped with a mild sauce and sweet slaw with apples make a fine pairing for the hungry traveler. There’s also beef, chicken, ribs and polish sausage on the menu.

Sims Barbeque
2415 S. Broadway, Little Rock
(501) 372-6868
Serving barbecue since 1937, Sims has pulled pork down to a science, along with its spicy, thin, vinegary sauce and only white bread to accompany your meats, it’s practically a legend. Don’t miss the greens and cornbread.

McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant
505 Albert Pike Road, Hot Springs
(501) 624-9586
Famous for begin a favorite of Arkansas native President Bill Clinton, McClard’s has a complex, tomato-based sauce that’s bottled and sold on Natural State shelves. If you go, try the pork sandwich or tamales.

Lindsey’s Hospitality House
207 Curtis Sykes Drive, North Little Rock
(501) 374-5707
The hospitality here is certainly top-notch, but so are the St. Louis-style ribs, cooked to melt-in-your-mouth consistency and doused in the house sauce. It’s a family business and an institution “serving up a tradition of delicious.”

KENTUCKY

Old Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q
338 Washington Ave, Owensboro
(270) 926-9000
Slow-cooked meat, specializing in chopped pork and mutton. Meals come with raw onions and pickles. And if you’re in Kentucky, you have to try the burgoo.

Mark’s Feed Store
11422 Shelbyville Road, Louisville
(502) 244-0140 Great wings and baby back ribs. They tend to give away bottles of barbecue sauce to first-timers. Try the fried corn on the cob an the buttermilk pie.

Pop’s Southern Style BBQ
110 Hwy 801, Morehead
(606) 784-6378
Cooking up pounds and pounds of pork shoulder and pairing them with fried green tomatoes and fried moon pies. What’s not to like?

Big Bubba Buck’s Belly Bustin’ BBQ Bliss
1802 Main St., Munfordville
(270) 524-3333 A great name that will compel travelers off the interstate and through the doors to sample fried cornbread, ribs, banana pudding and cobbler.

Pig in a Poke
341 University Drive, Prestonsburg
(606) 889-9119
Great barbecue sliders, sweet potato fries and pretty good brisket — for Kentucky. Can’t go wrong with ribs and wings.

Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse
127 W. Main St., Louisville
(501) 587-1626
Named a Best New Barbecue Restaurant by Food & Wine magazine, the place is run by Vietnamese brothers who grew up in Texas and gained cooking experience in North Carolina.

LOUISIANA

Bear’s Restaurant
128 W 21st Ave, Covington
(985) 892-2373
Best known for barbecue beef poboys. You’re in Louisiana. Don’t question it. Just go and get one.

Reds Ribs
501 Texas St., Natchitoches
(318) 214-0901
Ribs are in the name, so you best go with that. And since you’re in Louisiana, better get it all with the dirty rice. It’s what they do best. (And if you see Natchitoches meat pies on the menu anywhere, order those.)

OKLAHOMA

Van’s Pig Stand
717 E. Highland St., Shawnee
(405) 600-6363
Two locations in Shawnee, and is known for pork ribs, beef brisket and Carolina-style barbecue. Also makes a mean smoked turkey.

Swadley’s BBQ
2233 W Memorial Road, OKC
(405) 413-7333
With three other locations, one in a huge, shiny red barn, Swadley’s is almost chain-like in its demeanor. They’re not afraid of the heat with a spicy barbecue sauce and jalapeno-infused sides of beans.

Leo’s Barbecue
3631 N Kelley Ave., Oklahoma City
(405) 424-5367 Housed in an old gas station, Leo’s gained even more fame when the Food Network’s Guy Fieri visited on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and had the ribs. Also notable: Fried bologna

Elmer’s
4130 S Peoria Ave., Tulsa
(918) 742-6702
Best known for the Badwich, a sandwich with hot link sausage, chopped beef and bologna on the bottom. Everyone raves about it. Seems legit.

MISSISSIPPI

The Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint
7501 Hwy 57, Ocean Springs
and 15094 Mills Road, Gulfport
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the barbecue and blues joint has lots of personality as well as fine baby back ribs and live music. Regulars are called Shed Heads. Maybe.

Abe’s Bar-B-Q
616 N State St, Clarksdale
(662) 624-9947
A legend dating back to 1924, Abe’s makes an honestly good double-decker pork sandwich. Also tamales, because it’s what they do in those parts.

E&L
1111 Bailey Ave, Jackson
(601) 355-5035
One of those hole-in-the-wall joints with inexpensive plates. It’s an institution. Try the super hot links, the wings and barbecue sauce on the fries.

Leatha’s BBQ Inn
6374 U S Hwy 98, Hattiesburg
(601) 271-6003
Easily the most beloved barbecue place in Mississippi because they concentrate on cooking. Try the mustard-based slaw, sweet sauce and tender ribs.

ALABAMA

Bunyan’s Bar-B-Que
901 W College St, Florence
(256) 766-3522
Very simple menu. Probably best known for the sandwiches and hot dogs with sauce and hot slaw. Seriously. Go hot slaw or go home.

Price’s Barbecue House
345 S. College St, Auburn
(334) 826-8277
Pretty good barbecue, but the sides of Brunswick Stew and Que Stew steal the show. Also has spectacular breakfast.

Hancock’s Country Bar-B-Que
New Orrville Road, Selma
(334) 872-5541
The place was featured by Garden and Gun as a “secret south” spot known only to locals. The dark barbecue sauce is sold by the bottle.

Dreamland Bar-B-Que
5535 15th Ave., Tuscaloosa
(205) 758-8135
A chain based in Tuscaloosa, it’s a legend, a place that must be visited at least once. Bang-up ribs and sausage. And they sell banana pudding by the pint.

GEORGIA

Heirloom Market BBQ
2243 Akers Mill Rd SE, Atlanta
(770) 612-2502
Not enough space because it’s so popular. It has some Korean-fusion barbecue with great brisket and mac and cheese. It’s a dive, but nobody can stay away.

Hickory Pig
3605 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
(770) 503-5235
This place was named the best in the state by Atlanta magazine. Best with smoke-flavored pulled pork and brisket, the smallish dining room makes for intimate seating.

Southern Soul Barbecue
2020 Demere Road, St. Simons
(912) 638-7685
Great ribs. Kool-Aid is on the menu here. Along with fried green beans. And fried Oreos. Are we there yet?

Swallow at the Hollow
1072 Green St, Roswell
(678) 352-1975 Made the top three of Atlanta magazine’s best barbecue issue back in 2010. Swallow has three different sauces — mustard, vinegar and hot — and they put chocolate chip cookies in the banana pudding.

Sams House
108 Alabama St, Carrollton
(770) 214-5077
Purveyors of Memphis-style barbecue in Georgia, with sweet cornbread, collard greens and a spicy mustard-based sauce.

Sam’s BBQ1
4944 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
(770) 977-3005
Best at pork and brisket — good enough to make Texas smile — and has two house sauces — a thin, vinegary North Carolina Sauce and a sweet, smoky Kansas City version.

Community BBQ
1361 Clairmont Road, Decatur
(404) 633-2080
Everyone raves about the mac and cheese. You can also get your meats on a kitchen sink salad, which is nice.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Que
467 W Church St, Batesburg-Leesville
(803) 532-3354
Jackie Hite has served people through politics and pork, according to one website. He’s into the German tradition of cooking meat. You can get it wet or dry from the buffet. Just get it.

McCabe’s Bar-B-Q
480 N Brooks St, Manning
(803) 435-2833
Unassuming little joint with pitchers of sweet tea, vinegar-based sauce and velvety sweet potatoes. Excels at pulled pork. Bring cash.

Music Man’s Bar-B-Que
112 E. Railroad Avenue, Moncks Corner
(843) 899-7675
It’s a barbecue buffet with ribs, chicken and pulled pork with a mustard-based sauce and a kicky vinegar one. Try the mac and cheese, hash and yams.

Scott’s Bar-B-Que
2734 Hemingway Highway, Hemingway
(843) 558-0134
Southern Living says the “whole hog, ordered with a side of skins, is second to none in South Carolina.” Try the kettle-fried skins and homemade sauce.

Sweatman’s BBQ
1427 Eutaw Road, Holly Hill
(803) 496-1227
Widely regarded as some of the best barbecue in South Carolina, it’s a destination spot that’s maybe gone downhill since it changed hands. Decide for yourself, I guess.

NORTH CAROLINA

Lexington Barbecue
101 W Center Street Extension, Lexington
(336) 249-9814
Southern Living named it the best barbecue in North Carolina — quite the honor — for its sauce-free pork shoulder, the red barbecue slaw and the side of ketchup-y sauce.

Skylight Inn BBQ
4618 S Lee St, Ayden
(252) 746-4113
Situated under a faux-capitol dome, the chopped pork plates come with a thin cornbread topping and sweet slaw. Arguably one of the best barbecue places in America.

The Pit Authentic Barbecue
328 W Davie St, Raleigh
(919) 890-4500
Whole-hog, pit-cooked ‘cue with stellar hush puppies and honey butter, tender smoked meats and even decent tofu, if you’re into that sort of thing. This place stays so busy, you might need reservations.

Wilber’s Barbecue
4172 U.S. 70, Goldsboro
(919) 778-5218
Venerable old Eastern N.C. barbecue place with vinegar-based dip. It’s seasoned with apple cider vinegar and red chile flakes, according to Southern Living, and it’s “the perfect indulgence.”

12 Bones Smoke House
5 Riverside Drive, Asheville
(828) 253-4499
(Second location in Arden)
Best known for slow-cooked baby back ribs, and when doused in blueberry chipotle sauce it’s a taste of heaven. Prepare to wait in long, long lines.

Bunn’s Barbecue
127 N King St., Windsor
(252) 794-2274
Iconic Eastern North Carolina barbecue place with good portions and great prices. Famous for the cornbread sandwich.

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
2000 East Dixon Blvd., Shelby
(252) 482-8567
Pit-cooked meats cooked overnight on coals, owned and operated mainly by women. Ask for it white or brown, the brown gives it a smoky flavor — perfect for connoisseurs.

B’s Barbecue
751 B’s Barbecue Road, Greenville
An institution. Vinegar-based, house-made sauce in a small shack that always runs out of food. A top contender for the best barbecue in N.C.

TENNESSEE

A&R Bar-B-Que
1802 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis
(901) 774-7444
Smoky, dry-rubbed rib tips and the chopped pork sandwich with a dollop of slaw on top.

Payne’s Bar-B-Que
1762 Lamar Ave, Memphis
(901) 272-1523
Excellent pulled pork sandwich with mustard-based slaw on top. It’s a mess of delicious. Great fried bologna sandwich, too.

Cozy Corner
745 N. Parkway, Memphis
(901) 527-9158
Try the ribs and rib tips but the smoked Cornish hen with crispy skin and a tangy sauce is the house specialty, according Southern Living.

Interstate Barbecue
2265 S. Third St., Memphis
(901) 775-2304
Crowds flock for the ‘cue and the “big as hell” smoked sausage. They’ve also got barbecue spaghetti on the menu, which makes sense.

Central BBQ
147 E. Butler Ave., Memphis
(901) 672-7760
The pulled pork sandwiches with creamy slaw are worth the trip alone, but also try the barbecue nachos on house-made chips.

Hog Heaven
115 27th Ave., Nashville
(615) 329-1234
Small little place with great barbecue selections, but also makes a pulled chicken sandwich with white sauce.

B&C Melrose BBQ
2617 Franklin Pike, Nashville
(615) 457-3473
Smoking delectable ribs as well as things like salmon with an Alabama-style white sauce. Known for a rotating menu of grits, from pizza to cheesy to Buffalo chicken.

Edley’s Bar-B-Que
2706 South 12th Avenue, Nashville
(615) 953-2951
Usually a wait for this place with stellar pulled pork and bang-up mac and cheese and cornbread. Brisket quesadillas are also a hit.

Scott’s-Parker’s Bar-B-Que
10880 Highway 412 W, Lexington
(731) 968-0420
Hickory-smoked whole hogs are the specialty here. No chicken or sausage. The sauce is spicy and vinegary. And they have fried pies. So, there’s that.

Papa Kayjoe’s Bar-B-Que
119 W. Ward St., Centerville
(931) 729-2131
Garden and Gun named it one of the 21 finest barbecue sandwiches in the South for swaddling some boston butt in between corn-cakes. Looks delicious.

FLORIDA

4 Rivers Smokehouse
1600 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
(407) 474-8377
Always a long line at this establishment, for good reason. Get the pulled pork or burnt brisket ends and the cheese grits. One online reviewer summed it up best: If you’re fat you will love this place If you’re skinny you will love this place If you are a pretentious asshole nothing will make you happy not even GODLIKE bbq.

Blu Que Island Grill
149 Avenida Messina, Sarasota
(941) 346-0738
Beef brisket with goat cheese? We’re not in Kansas City anymore. But it’s barbecue fusion, and people love it. Pig roasting is on Sundays.

Akins Bar-B-Q
Main Street, Bell
(352) 463-6859
Maybe one of the best places to get barbecue in north-central Florida. A few sauces to choose from, including a mustardy Carolina sauce.

Shiver’s Bar-B-Q
28001 S. Dixie Hwy., Homestead
(305) 248-2272
They’ve been smoking meat over a pit for 50 years, serving up pulled pork, brisket, ribs and chicken. They’ve got a sweeter sauce than most.

Bulldog Barbecue
15400 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
(305) 940-9655
It was named one of the 10 best new barbecue joints in the nation by Bon Apetit. It’s a little more upscale than most, with Carolina-style barbecue.

Shortys Bar-B-Q
9200 S. Dixie Hwy, Miami
(305) 670-7732
The old standard by which everything else in Florida is measured. Two sauces — one sweet, one vinegar — that you can take home in bottle.

TEXAS

Franklin Barbecue
900 E. 11th St., Austin
(512) 653-1187
A fairly young establishment, operating since 2009, Franklin Barbecue was named the best barbecue establishment by Texas Monthly magazine for its perfectly smoked brisket and espresso sauce. It’s a thing of beauty.

Pecan Lodge
920 S. Harwood, Dallas
(214) 748-8900
Opened in 2010 this purveyor of succulent, mesquite-smoked meats and hand-stuffed pork links in a food court.

Snow’s BBQ
516 Main, Lexington
(979) 542-8189
It was named the best barbecue place in Texas in 2008 by Texas Monthly, and it’s renowned for its velvety brisket and transcendent pork steak.

Louie Mueller Barbecue
206 W. Second St., Taylor
(512) 352-6206
This place has been in business for 64 years, according to Texas Monthly, and has huge beef ribs that are worth their weight in gold.

John Mueller Meat Co
2500 E. Sixth, Austin
johnmuellermeatco.com
A large pit, tables and a food truck make up this eatery. The pork shoulder is best, but the sauce will make you cry tears of joy.

Fargo’s Pit BBQ
720 N. Texas Ave., Bryan
(979) 778-3662
Thick spare ribs, crispy, moist chicken and fatty brisket with a generous smoke ring.

VIRGINIA

Alamo BBQ
2202 Jefferson Ave, Richmond
(804) 592-3138
Barbecue platters with brisket, ribs and sides like jalapeno macaroni and cheese. The Alamo sauce is the stuff of dreams. Only outdoor seating.

Barbeque Exchange
102 Martinsburg Ave., Gordonsville
(540) 832-0227
A little out of the way, but most good barbecue places will require a drive. Beef brisket, pork and Carolina gold mustard sauce make it worth the trip.

Q Barbecue
2077 Walmart Way, Midlothian
(804) 897-9007
Pulled barbecue style meat with the trophies to prove it’s legit. Also known for legendary, home style collard greens and the pineapple hot dish.

Saucy’s Walk-Up BBQ
Bollingbrook St & 5th St. Petersburg
(804) 504-3075
Located in a reclaimed shipping container, it was named one of the best by Southern Living. Try the mustard-jalapeno sauce.

The Galax Smokehouse
101 N Main St, Galax
(276) 236-1000
Memphis-style barbecue and St. Louis-style ribs with a variety of sauces. Sets itself apart with smoked mashed potatoes.

Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Q
447 E Rochambeau Dr, Williamsburg
(757) 565-2955
The sauce recipe goes back 80 years. They’re serving up pulled chicken and pork, ribs, collards, corn bread and more.

KANSAS CITY

Gates Bar-B-Q
3205 Main St., Kansas City
(816) 753-0828
Burnt ends sandwich, anyone? Spicy sauce and fatty meats. Be prepared for some yelling.

Arthur Bryant’s
1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City
(816) 231-1123
Famous. Famous. Famous. A hole-in-the-wall, but a necessary stop on any Kansas City barbecue tour.

Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ & Catering
3002 W 47th Ave., Kansas City
(913) 722-3366
Much-loved by everyone, including Mr. Anthony Bourdain himself, it’s in an old gas station and may not be much to look at, but it’s the best at pulled pork, burnt ends and brisket.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
13441 Holmes Road, Kansas City
(816) 942-9141
A more upscale barbecue experience. Best with burnt ends, cheesy corn and stacked onion rings.

Danny Edwards BBQ
2900 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 283-0880
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for the Old Smokey brisket sandwich.

LC’s Bar-B-Q
5800 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 923-4484
Smokey meat. You’ll leave smelling like a smoker, which is just fine with us. Great brisket with the bark still attached.

B.B’s Lawnside BBQ
1205 E 85th St., Kansas City, Mo.
(816) 822-7427
Blues and barbecue spot pairing smoked meats, battered fries, and Cajun-style foods like boudin balls.

 

bbq_history

Charcoal vs. Gas

Before we get into the big debate about grilling with charcoal or gas, I feel as though I should talk about the time I nearly killed myself with a gas grill. The story is my disclaimer, you see, because maybe I can’t be entirely objective on this topic.

Whereas the old stereotype about grilling is the alpha male losing his eyebrows to an overzealous application of lighter fluid, mine was more like the clueless, doe-eyed girl saved by some guardian angel of dunces.

My mom asked me to light the grill. She gave me the vague instructions of a harried woman trying to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. I followed them to the best of my half-hearted teenaged ability and ended up only turning on the gas. I went back a few minutes later to check that it was lit. It wasn’t.

For some reason, I lowered the lid before I began jamming my finger onto the “ignite” button. The second push, and the ensuing fireball blew the top halfway up. I stepped back from the heat. Shaken, but amused, I went inside to announce to my family that the loud thump they just heard outside was my latest and greatest near-death experience. They were utterly unfazed.

But I’ll always remember that moment and the gas grill that almost took me out.

Now that you’ve heard my long-winded disclaimer, or maybe skipped it all to get to the meat of this article — I wouldn’t blame you — here’s my thoughts on gas versus charcoal, after lots of research and backyard shenanigans.

Oh, you want to hear from an expert? Well, we tried to contact the Food Network’s Bobby Flay for this story, but he wasn’t responding to our Tweets. No matter, he has posted this on his website on the subject.
“I use both [gas and charcoal] and each one has its advantages. Gas is easy to light, control and clean. Charcoal is a lot more work, but it gives food a smokiness that gas can never quite imitate. If you use charcoal, you also need a chimney starter: don’t even talk to me about lighter fluid!”

Now, let’s get into the pros and cons. Unfortunately, it all shakes out about the same. Let the gas vs. charcoal debate flame up in the comments section.

Charcoal:
Cons:

  • Tending to coals makes this grill more high maintenance.
  • The coal-firing prep time can be agonizing if you’re starving.
  • Coals are usually more expensive than propane.
  • Clean-up can be a pain.Pros:
  • Gives a nice smokey flavor to the meat.
  • Usually less expensive than gas grills.
  • The ability to play with fire.
  • Small charcoal grills can be hauled to the park or a picnic.

Pros:

  • Gives a nice smokey flavor to the meat.
  • Usually less expensive than gas grills.
  • The ability to play with fire.
  • Small charcoal grills can be hauled to the park or a picnic.
Gas:
Cons:

  • Gas grills are generally more expensive.
  • Won’t give food that smoke flavor.
  • It’s too heavy to take off the porch. Not very portable.Pros:
  • Probably best for serving large amounts of people, especially in staggered groups.
  • The temperature is more consistent as is the heat distribution.
  • Propane is typically cheaper than charcoals.
  • No ashes means easy clean-up.

Pros:

  • Probably best for serving large amounts of people, especially in staggered groups.
  • The temperature is more consistent as is the heat distribution.
  • Propane is typically cheaper than charcoals.
  • No ashes means easy clean-up.

bbq_chicken

BBQ Menus

Maybe you don’t have the time or money to sample barbecue from across the country, but with these menus and recipes, you could do a fairly accurate job of recreating the flavors of Memphis, Kansas City, the Carolinas and Texas in your own backyard. So, hit the grocery store, fire up the grill, invite your friends and virtually travel to new barbecue destinations.

MEMPHIS MENU

Memphis Dry Rub
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp granulated garlic
2 tsps onion powder
1 tsp allspice
3 tsps red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground coriander

Mop Sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup Kansas City barbecue sauce (recipe in the Kansas City section)

Greens
8 cups mustard green picked with stems discarded
1 ham hock
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsps brown sugar
1 Tbsp bacon fat
In a stock pot, brown the onion in the bacon fat. When the onions are brown, add the greens in stages. Letting each batch wilt before adding the next. When all the greens are added, throw in the garlic and cook for two minutes. Deglaze with the chicken stock. Add the ham hock and a small pinch of salt. Simmer until ham hock is tender and the broth has reduced. When the greens are finished, add the brown sugar and a splash of cider vinegar.

Memphis Ribs
3-4 slabs of baby back ribs
1/4 cup dry rub
Light a charcoal grill and let the coals heat for 20 minutes until ashy looking. While the grill is preheating, rub the ribs with the dry rub. Scoop all the coals to one side of the grill. Place the ribs bone side down on the indirect side away from the coals. Place the lid on the grill and regulate the temp at 350-400 degrees. Use the vinegar mop to wet the ribs every 10 to 15 minutes. Cook the ribs for about 45-50 minutes. Let them rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little more dry rub and serve.

Barbecue Spaghetti
2 racks baby back ribs
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 cup Kansas City BBQ Sauce
Using two of the baby back racks from above, pick all the meat off the bones. Bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil. Add your noodles and cook for eight minutes. Drain noodles and add sauce and picked meat. Stir until hot and serve with yeast rolls.

THE CAROLINAS MENU

Charlotte Vinegar Mop Sauce
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tsp hot sauce
1 Tsp soy sauce
1 Tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ketchup
Combine all ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Charlotte Pork Shoulder
1 pork shoulder, 5-6 lbs.
1 cup dry rub
1 cup vinegar mop sauce
Light a charcoal grill and preheat until charcoal is ashy. Move all the coals to one side of the grill. Place a double piece of foil on the indirect side of the grill. Rub the shoulder liberally with the dry rub and place on the grill fat side up. Add a quarter of the wood chips to the coals and place lid on the grill. Cook for 5 to 6 hours adding a quarter of the wood chips every 90 minutes During the last hour of cooking, brush the shoulder with some of the bbq sauce every 15 minutes. Serve with extra vinegar sauce and coleslaw.

Carolina Gold Sauce
1 1/2 cups prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsps chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsps butter
Bring these together in a sauce pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with smoked pork or grilled chicken.

Vinegar Cole Slaw
1 head cabbage shredded
2 grated carrots
1 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1Tbsp yellow mustard
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 10 minutes before serving.

Creamy Mac and Cheese
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cream
1 Tbsp mustard
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup American cheese, shredded
In 8 cups boiling salted water cook the macaroni for 8 minutes. Drain and reserve. In the same pot melt the butter over medium heat until it foams. Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream along with a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. Slowly stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Add the macaroni and serve immediately.

THE TEXAS MENU

Texas Brisket
Dry rub
1/4 cup paprika
3 Tbsps ground black pepper
3 Tbsps coarse salt
3 Tbsps sugar
2 Tbsps chili powder
1 untrimmed whole beef brisket, 7 1/2- to 8-pound

Mop sauce
12 oz shiner bock
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 jalapeño sliced
2 Tbsps Worcestershire

5 lbs. 100 percent natural lump charcoal
4 cups oak or hickory wood smoke chips, soaked in cold water at least 30 minutes

Preparation: Spread dry rub all over brisket. Cover with plastic; chill overnight.
Make mop: Mix first 6 ingredients plus reserved dry rub in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat 5 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup mop into bowl; cover and chill for use in sauce. Cover and chill remaining mop.
The brisket: Following manufacturer’s instructions and using natural lump charcoal, start fire in smoker. When charcoal is ash gray, drain 1/2 cup wood chips and scatter over charcoal. Bring smoker to 200°F. to 225°F., regulating temperature by opening vents wider to increase temperature and closing slightly to reduce temperature.
Place brisket, fat side up, on rack in smoker. Cover; cook until tender when pierced with fork and meat thermometer inserted into center registers 185°F., about 10 hours (turn brisket over for last 30 minutes). Every 1 1/2 to 2 hours, add enough charcoal to maintain single layer and to maintain 200°F. to 225°F. temperature; add 1/2 cup drained wood chips. Brush brisket with chilled mop in pan each time smoker is opened. Transfer brisket to platter; let stand 15 minutes. Thinly slice brisket across grain. Serve, passing sauce separately.

Texas Brisket Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup minced onion
3 stocks celery, chopped
3 Tbsps Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsps spicy mustard
2 Tbsps honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsps chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beef stock
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add garlic, onion, and celery. Saute until lightly browned. Add beef stock. Add remaining ingredients, stir and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Potato Salad
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup pickle relish
2 Tbsps dry rub
2 Tbsps dijon mustard
In 8 quarts boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until tender but not mushy. Cool until steam stops coming off them. Combine all ingredients and let sit for a least an hour before serving.

Texas Brown Beans
1 lb. pintos, soaked
12 cups water
1 sliced onion
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 sprigs thyme
1 Tbsps chili powder
1/3 cup mustard
2 Tbsps Worcestershire
2 ham hocks
Combine all ingredients and cook two hours until ham hock is tender and beans are sauce. When hocks are done remove and chop finely. Return hocks to beans and season with salt, pepper and serve.

KANSAS CITY MENU

KC Barbecue Sauce
2 cups water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsps molasses
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until mixture thickens. Cool and then store in a covered container in the fridge overnight so that flavors can develop. This is great on all barbecue, but I like it on ribs or pulled pork sandwiches.

Kansas City Pulled Pork
1 pork shoulder, 5-6 lbs.
1 cup Memphis dry rub (recipe in the Memphis section)
2 cups KC barbecue sauce
1 lb. hickory wood chips
Light a charcoal grill and preheat until charcoal is ashy. Move all the coals to one side of the grill. Place a double piece of foil on the indirect side of the grill. Rub the shoulder liberally with the dry rub and place on the grill, fat side up. Add a quarter of the wood chips to the coals and place lid on the grill. Cook for 5 to 6 hours, adding a quarter of the wood chips every 90 minutes. While adding wood chips, trim any of the ends of pork that have begun to crisp saving them as you go. During the last hour of cooking, brush the shoulder with some of the bbq sauce. During the last 15 minutes take the collected “burnt” ends and cook directly over the coals turning often until crispy and browned. Serve the “burnt ends” on yeast rolls with slaw and bbq sauce. Let the shoulder rest for 10 minutes. After rested use two forks to pull the shoulder apart. Serve alone or on buns with extra sauce.

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