Cats and dogs. Mars and Venus. Liberals and conservatives. All of these long-standing divisions pale in comparison to the storm of heated rhetoric that surrounds one of our nation’s most important issues: barbecue. Friendships have ended, families have broken up and drinks have been thrown during many a spirited debate over which kind of ’cue is the one true ’cue.
In many parts of the country, “barbecue” is a verb for any outdoor cooking. “We’re barbecuing at the pool this weekend.” But in other places, it’s always a noun that refers to a specific style of meat cooked and served in a specific manner. “Our barbecue [fill in the blank] is the best! Wanna fight about it?!” For the sake of discussion, let’s hit a few of the most recognized styles (and these are just a few, because there’s no way we could fit all of the regional variations, and then the variations within those variations):
In the Carolinas, it’s all about pork. In the western part of N.C., the pork shoulder is sliced, chopped and pulled—whereas eastern folks prefer to hack up the whole hog. Eastern sauces are more vinegary, the middle of the state favors vinegar with some ketchup thrown in, and the west goes wild with the tangy tomato base. It’s typically served with hushpuppies and slaw (which also varies from traditional mayo-based cole to vinegary and red). In South Carolina, it’s whole hog, a mustard-based sauce and a mystifying (and delicious) product called “corn sticks” as an accompaniment.
Memphis is as swine-dedicated as the Carolinas, but their big thing is ribs. They’re usually served with a well-spiced dry rub, but there’s often tomato-and-vinegar sauce to go with. The thing that gets us about Memphis BBQ is an odd concoction known as “barbecue spaghetti,” which is really just pulled pork and barbecue sauce served … well, on top of spaghetti. Sounds weird, eats great. Hey, we thought Cincinnati-style chili (also served over spaghetti) was nuts, too, till we tried it.
KANSAS CITY (Missouri)
The tomato-based sauce in this area is thicker and sweeter (containing molasses). And as far as their favorite meat—just throw a dart at the butcher’s board. Pork, beef, sausages, ribs, brisket, chicken, turkey, fish … if it walks, flies, swims or crawls, some dude from K.C. has thrown it in a smoker and let it sit in there long enough to become delicious. Their signature item, burnt ends, is the well-blackened tips carved from a beef or pork brisket. These things are super-smoky, super-meaty chunklets of barbecue love.
As one might expect, Texans love beef, and the mighty brisket rules the roost in the central part of the state. Seasoned with little more than salt and pepper, the slow-cooked stuff can also come with a thin tomato-and-vinegar sauce. The barbecue you find in eastern Texas is more similar to that in the Carolinas, with lots of pork shoulder and ribs, and a thicker and sweeter sauce. There are also places where you can snag what’s referred to as “barbacoa,” which is a slow-smoked cow head. Strangely, the word “barbecue” reportedly comes from “barbacoa,” which means “sacred firepit” in the language of some indigenous Caribbean and Floridian tribes.
What’s your fave BBQ flave? And for that matter, what’s your fave flave of blu™ electronic cigarettes? Use #FaveFlave and tag us @blucigs on Twitter and Instagram and let us know.
BBQ Places to Stuff Your Faces
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, Kansas City, MO
Franklin Barbecue, Austin, TX
Speedy’s Barbecue, Lexington, N.C.
Scott’s Bar-B-Que, Hemingway, S.C.
Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous, Memphis, TN
Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, TX
Danny Ammons is a Senior Editor at Pace Communications. He is a fan of the outdoors, a rabid opponent of flip-flops and a writer of (sometimes coherent) words.