Regional Tastes of American Barbecue

Summer might be approaching its end, but the true barbecue season isn’t even remotely over. If anything, colder weather makes it much more pleasant to stand by the grill! So, don’t retire your BBQ equipment just yet, but feel free to spice up your grilling technique and widen your repertoire of different barbecue recipes before winter. Let’s get to know all the different tastes of American BBQ!

North Carolina

This is, more or less, where it all started for the American barbecue. Once upon a time, the settlers of the state used an ancient technique of roasting pigs in pits, which they adopted from the indigenous people of the Caribbean. However, the flavor of NC barbecue we know and cherish today came with the British colonists. They added the marinade made of vinegar, pepper, and other spices to make the meat of the entire hog more tender and juicy. If you move a bit inland towards Lexington, you can find barbecue aficionados also putting tomato into the sauce and using only the pork shoulder instead of the whole pig. There was a lot of controversy about the one and true North Carolina BBQ, but we can all agree it all tastes amazing!

Texan style

As the news of the barbecue traveled west, German cowboys liked the idea of this new meat-prep style and tried it on their cattle. Soon, Texans couldn’t get enough of the beef BBQ! They usually used the beef brisket as their meat of choice and they also invented their own variation of the sauce. The dry rub is very simple (salt, pepper, paprika, onion, and garlic powder) but the sauce is quite bold, spicy and tangy with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar! Another thing Germans introduced to Texan BBQ is sausage. It’s usually grilled over very aromatic wood like hickory and oak for a very smoky taste.


With Memphis, we go back to pork, with ribs and pulled pork is the most popular dish for all barbecue lovers. Most people from Memphis choose the dry technique where the rich flavors come from the dry spices used before grilling and the specific wood used in the process. Apple and cherry wood give the smoked meat a faint sweet aroma which is very specific to the region. The sauce is added after the cooking or served on the side for those who want it and is usually vinegar-based with tomato ketchup and molasses.

Kansas City

Kansas City is the meatpacking center of the country, which means there are no snobbish rules concerning meats that go on the grill and specific sauces and rubs. Simply put, no meat, no wood, and no sauce are off limits! Today, Kansas-City-style BBQ uses pork, beef, game, mutton, chicken, turkey, and even fish—no wonder it’s probably the most popular and bellowed barbecue style in all the US! The sauce is very thick, based on molasses that it is sweet and sticky. All in all, when you look at all the BBQ styles by region, Missouri BBQ combines all the best things from the western and eastern cuisine, which makes it very unique and beloved all over the States. And with Kansas City, we conclude the four big pillars of American barbecue.


Somewhere between Texas and North Carolina, the two extremes of American BBQ styles lies Alabama. Its barbecue style is heavily influenced by these two aforementioned states, but it has something quite unique— its sauce. The “white sauce” is made of mayonnaise mixed with vinegar and it goes perfectly with all types of sandwiches, especially the Alabama favorite, pulled pork!


The most popular style of barbecue in Kentucky is the so-called western style that’s known for its specific choice of meat—mature mutton. The love for mutton began in the 19thcentury when the wool production was at its strongest, so naturally, Kentuckians started experimenting with the meat and came up with a unique BBQ style. The mature mutton is usually served with a “mutton dip” or a vinegar-based sauce. On the other hand, the southern part of the state is more famous for its pork shoulder thinly sliced and dressed with a tangy vinegar-and-pepper sauce.

Sure, there’s more to American BBQ than this, but if you’re new to the scene, these six players will serve as a perfect introduction. So, choose your meat, fire up your grill and try your hand at one (or all) of these American barbecue styles!

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