Menuism Dining Blog
Dining education for foodies

bbqWhen it comes to the word “barbecue”, confusion arises as to the exact use of the term.  For some, the definition of barbecuing means to grill food directly over high heat (400 degrees and more) and over a relatively short amount of time.  Grilling at such high temperatures means that the meat itself will be charred on the surface which could lead to it having a tough shoe leather texture, if you aren’t already cooking with more tender cuts of meats.    That’s why the direct grilling method is more appropriate for burgers, hot dogs, steaks and chicken because they won’t toughen that much when exposed to high heat.

Barbecue afficinados have a differing opinion as to what it means to barbecue.  To them, traditional barbecue is the process of cooking meat in indirect heat at very low temperatures.  This process accomplishes four things.  First, the long exposure to low heat renders the fat out of the meat.  Second, the collagens and connective tissues dissolve making the meat more tender.  Third, the surface of the meat caramelizes and becomes a flavorful crust. Finally, the juices aren’t cooked out, which makes for meat that’s both tender and juicy.  As you can see, there really is quite a distinction between “grilling” and “barbecuing.”

Now that you’ve learned the difference between “grilling” and “barbecuing”, let’s talk a little about 4 popular regional styles of barbecue in the US.

Carolina BBQ

The emphasis for Carolina-style BBQ is on shredded or pulled pork.  In this instance, the pork comes from the shoulder cuts or even from a pit-roasted whole hog and is slow-roasted for hours for a meat that has a deep smoky flavor.  Once cooked and tender, the pork is pulled into shreds, sauced and served in a sandwich topped with coleslaw.  While both North and South Carolina focus on pulled pork, there are major differences in regards to the bbq sauce. Eastern North Carolina BBQ uses a vinegar-based sauce.  In Western Northern Carolina, their bbq sauce is tomato or ketchup-based while South Carolina bbq sauce is mustard-based.

Memphis BBQ

When it comes to quintessential Memphis barbecue, it’s all about pork ribs, whether it’s the spare ribs come from the pig’s belly or from underneath the its loins.  Generally, Memphis-style BBQ ribs are slow-cooked in the smoke of a wood fire, but these days many rib recipes also call for braising the ribs until tender, then giving them a quick heating on the grill. Memphis style BBQ ribs are served “dry” (just as they come out of the smoker or off the grill) or “wet” (slathered with some sort of BBQ sauce before serving)

Kansas City  BBQ

Kansas City, Missouri claims to have more barbecue restaurants per capita than any city in the country. No one meat predominates; the style is typified by a rather sweet sauce, but even here differences prevail from neighborhood to neighborhood and restaurant to restaurant.  These sauces are rarely used on beef dishes but are common in pork and poultry dishes; therefore, Kansas City is ften associated with dishes like BBQ chicken or sticky smoked ribs.

Texas  BBQ

There’s a distinct German influence on Texas style barbecue reflects a distinct German influence which includes food items like smoked sausages along with beef brisket and pork ribs.  When it comes to brisket which tends to be on the tough side, Texans have made the cooking of it an art form.  Texas-style barbecue brisket involves just the right rub (a mixture of sugar, salt, and spices that is rubbed into the meat before smoking), a good smoker and up to 20 hours of cooking time. The beef brisket is never sauced during the smoking/cooking process. If at all, the sliced brisket will be served with sauce on the side, to be applied in whatever manner and quantity the diner desires. In other parts of Texas, you’ll find lots of BBQ joints that don’t serve sauce at all.  When it is served, Texas bbq sauce is tomato based and leans towards being spicy and tangy; yet, with a moderate level of sweetness.

Even with this information, there’s still lots of confusion to be had about the word “barbecue” which can be used in many contexts like “Let’s  have a BBQ” or “Let’s BBQ some steaks on the grill” or “Throw some more BBQ on my chicken.”  But you know what?  In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  Sit down and enjoy your ‘cue because whether grilled or slow-cooked, bbq is a true carnivore’s delight.  If you’re not in the mood for cooking your own barbecue, look below for some bbq joints you can check out for yourself.

Bludso’s BBQ
Texas-Style BBQ
811 S Long Beach Blvd
Compton, CA 90221
(310) 637-1342

Dillard’s Bar-B-Que
Carolina BBQ
3921 Fayetteville St
Durham, NC 27713
(919) 544-1587

Payne’s Bar-B-Que
Memphis BBQ
1762 Lamar Ave
Memphis, TN 38114
(901) 272-1523

LC’s Bar-B-Q
Kansas City BBQ
5800 Blue Pkwy
Kansas City, MO 64121
(816) 923-4484

Sneaky’s BBQ
Carolina-Style BBQ

1383 Utah Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Hill Country
Texas-Style BBQ

30 W 26th St
New York, NY 10010
(212) 255-4544

Honky Tonk BBQ
Memphis-Style BBQ
1213 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 226-7427

Ribbins Bar B Que
Kansas City-Style BBQ
4435 A St SE, Ste C
Auburn, WA 98002
(253) 288-2019

Posted by on July 19th, 2009

Filed In: BBQ

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