What Are the Different Types of Barbecue That Exist Today?

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America rides on the backs of little piggies. Americans will eat more than 10.6 million tons of pork in 2029. 

One reason why pork consumption is so high is barbecue. Americans cook in several types of barbecue, with each type representing a different region of the country. 

What are the most popular types of barbecue? What meats, sauces, and spices do cooks use? What should you try out if you want to cook barbecue on the best BBQ grill? 

Answer these questions and you can master this all-American form of cooking. Here is your quick guide.

Alabama Style

Alabama has a small yet important BBQ community. Alabama BBQ is based around sandwiches with chopped meat in them. You can eat a pork or chicken sandwich. 

The meat is cooked on a few types of BBQ grills using recipes found in other types of barbecue. What makes the sandwiches distinct is the sauce that goes on them. It is a mayonnaise-based sauce that contains black pepper, lemon juice, and vinegar. 

You can also order a sandwich with red sauce. The sauce contains tomato paste and other ingredients, complementing the savory meat with spices. 

If you prefer meat on its own, you can order pork shoulder and pork ribs. These meats tend to have sauces on them, though you can find dry meat at some restaurants.

California Style

California-style barbecue is another less-common yet delicious BBQ. Chains like Hickory Hanks restaurants serve California barbecue for takeout and catering operations. 

Chefs rely on outdoor grilling. They use red oak wood from central California that creates high temperatures without too much smoke. This cooks the meat in very little time and does not impart smoky flavors onto the food. 

Spice rubs are minimal. Some chefs will only use salt and black pepper, while others sprinkle some garlic powder on top. You will taste the natural flavors and juices of the meat in their purest forms.

California-style recipes can accommodate any kind of meat. But many chefs like to prepare tri-tip and thin cuts that cook quickly.

This means that dishes may not be as fatty as other styles of BBQ. Yet you can replicate recipes easily at home, making them good if you want to learn the basics about cooking.

Carolina Style

Carolina style involves roasting the entire pig. A chef may roast the whole pig in an oven for up to 24 hours, allowing the meat to soak in its juices and spice mix. The chef then divides the pig into several sections. 

Stomach meat is tender, making it ideal for sandwiches. Shoulder and neck meat must be cut with a knife, as they are very tough and sinewy. 

Mop sauce is the sauce that chefs put onto their meat. Each chef comes up with their own sauce, though most contain vinegar and apple cider. This can add sweet touches without overpowering the taste of the meat.

Some restaurants distinguish between different regions of Carolina. Many South Carolina restaurants like to put mustard-based sauces on their dishes, while restaurants in the west like to use ketchup. 

Kansas City Style

Kansas City-style BBQ is one of the most versatile styles. Chefs like to serve several kinds of meat at once, including pork and poultry together. Burnt ends are the most popular meat, being small pieces of beef chopped from the end of a brisket. 

Sauces are sweet and thick. Many of them contain ketchup, with chefs adding molasses and other sweeteners into the mix. 

Platters can contain several different sides. Coleslaw, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese are especially popular. Some restaurants combine BBQ with soul food, serving fried okra and collard greens.

Kentucky BBQ

Eastern Kentucky BBQ is reminiscent of other styles. It relies on pork shoulders and vinegar sauces, similar to Carolina BBQ. 

But Western Kentucky offers a completely distinct style. Chefs cook with sheep or mutton meat, smoking it for hours on end. Chefs use their own mop sauces, usually containing water and vinegar. 

The meat is then served inside buns. People can put barbecue sauce on their sandwiches and eat sides like potato salad. 

Memphis Style

Memphis barbecue centers around pork ribs. You can order wet ribs that are cooked in sauce over many hours, and you can order dry ribs with unique spice mixes. 

Chefs like to use hickory, but some restaurants experiment with pecan and other fruitwoods. These woods burn slowly and impart subtle notes of sweetness onto the meat. 

One unique side dish from Memphis is barbeque spaghetti. Chefs toss spaghetti noodles in a mixture of marinara and barbecue sauces. But you can also order green beans, baked beans, and hush puppies.

Texas Style

Texas-style BBQ is another versatile style of barbecue. Chefs across the state like to serve several kinds of meat, including sausages and beef brisket. 

Within the state, you can find different regional practices. Central Texan chefs specialize in smoked brisket, which they serve without sauce. Eastern Texan chefs like to serve beef sandwiches with a vinegar-based sauce. 

Brisket and other cuts can be marinated inside mop sauces. These sauces can contain meat drippings, hot sauce, and spices like cumin. 

The Best Types of Barbecue

You can find many types of barbecue sprinkled throughout the United States. Alabama offers some great sandwiches, including ones with poultry. If you really want to taste the meat by itself, you should try California-style barbecue. 

Carolina and Kansas City chefs use the whole pig. If you like mutton, you should try out Kentucky-style recipes. 

Memphis recipes offer great ribs and side dishes. Texas recipes are versatile, and you can study different regions of Texas and compare their styles to each other.

Barbecue is one great part of American food. Read more American food guides by following our coverage.

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