American BBQ Styles by Region

Low and slow barbecue in Memphis is the soul of their distinctive flavours and taste.

American BBQ is a cultural tradition that has evolved and transformed over the years. It is divided into four distinct regional styles.

These styles range from the type of meat used to the sauces applied, and even the techniques used for grilling. Let’s dive in and explore these distinct regional styles and the unique flavours they have to offer.

BBQ wings sauce

Kansas City Style BBQ

For centuries, the people of Kansas City have indulged in the unique flavour and culture of barbecue, every bite a reminder of their traditions, art, and rich history. This city is renowned for its unique style of slow-smoking meats over wood coals which has been perfected over generations.

From pork, beef, chicken and sausage to an array of delicious sides, each bite is an experience of succulent, smoky and juicy flavour – truly a celebration of Kansas City-style BBQ.

But it’s the sauce that really sets this city’s barbecue apart from the rest. That unique blend of tomato, molasses, spices, and vinegar creates a flavour like no other, perfectly offsetting the slow-smoked meats with a sweet and tangy kick. If you’re looking to cook something with this type of BBQ taste and flavour profile, check out our range of BBQ meat rubs & spices.

We haven’t forgotten the sides! Traditional Kansas City BBQ side dishes include baked beans, corn on the cob, fries, coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese, offering a great-tasting combination that matches all those delicious smoky meats.

It’s no wonder why this style has become so popular among barbecue enthusiasts. Imagine biting into a perfectly slow-cooked pork shoulder that melts in your mouth, paired with a sweet and tangy sauce that dances on your taste buds.

Carolina Style Burger

Carolinas Style BBQ

The Carolinas are no strangers to cooking and serving up absolutely delicious pork, usually cooked over hardwood coals or hickory or oak wood and flavoured with a vinegar and pepper-based sauce. In Carolina barbecue, you’ll find two main styles; wet and dry – and they both pack a punch!

Wet style refers to barbecue cooked with sauce, either basted on the meat while it smokes or added after it has finished cooking. This is the most common style in Western North Carolina, where pulled pork is the preferred meat and a sweeter sauce made from ketchup, vinegar, and sugar is used.

Dry style barbecue doesn’t muck around, trading sugary sauces for a blend of spices like our Big Tex Rub or our Loaded Burger Rub/Seasoning applied to the meat before cooking. Eastern North Carolina takes this style seriously, focusing on the whole hog and a vinegar-based sauce served on the side.

Memphis style American BBQ

Memphis Style American BBQ

It’s low and slow in the soul of the South with bold and distinctive flavours of Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis-style barbecue is renowned for its exceptional pork dishes, especially ribs and pulled pork. To elevate the flavour of the meat, a blend of spices is combined to create a dry rub, which is applied prior to the smoking process, or if you like your meat with moisture, a wet rub can be slathered with sauce after smoking.

The low and slow smoking method, using woods like hickory or apple, generates a strong smoky taste in the meat. This process can take several hours, resulting in tender and succulent pork that effortlessly comes off the bone.

I love to experiment with my spices, so I’ve opted to use the Memphis Red rub in my recipe video below instead of Kansas Kick – my usual staple. The results were delicious!

If you’re after for some good old-fashioned Southern sides to go along with your Memphis BBQ, then potato salad, mac and cheese and green beans will hit the spot. You could even try making cornbread if you can get your hands on some cornmeal.

Texas BBQ brisket

Texas Style American BBQ

Barbecue holds a significant place in Texas’ cultural heritage, famous for its focus on beef, particularly the celebrated sliced brisket, and its historical practice of pit-smoking BBQ.

Unlike other American BBQ styles, pitmasters tend to blend post oak, mesquite, and hickory woods to add a smoky flavour to the meat, seasoned only with salt and pepper to bring out the smoke’s taste rather than relying on dry rubs and spices.

Aside from brisket, other cuts of beef such as ribs, link sausage, and pulled pork are also popular in Texas BBQ, but brisket is considered the king of the pit. Tip: try our Texas style smoked pulled pork recipe.

Simple yet tasty sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans are often enjoyed with classic Texan favourites like pickles, onions, and white bread.

No sauce? Well, Texans often serve up the sauce on the side, focusing solely on the taste and texture of the meat itself. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of sauce options to choose from that will enhance your Texas BBQ experience should you choose to, including tangy tomato sauces, zesty vinegar blends, and bold mustard-based sauces.

Spice Pairing Guide

No matter which American BBQ style you pick, these four regions have got you covered!

Get ready for some delicious and genuine flavours that will blow you away, and don’t forget to check out our dry rubs, spices and seasonings to create the perfect mix that will take your American BBQ experience to the next level.

For spice pairing guidance to take your cooking game to the next level, check out our handy spice guide.

Spice and meat pairing guide with recommendations for beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and vegetables

Summary

American BBQ is a rich tapestry of flavours and traditions, deeply rooted in four distinct regional styles.

In Kansas City, the art of slow-smoking meats over wood coals is paired with a signature sauce that’s a delightful blend of tomato, molasses, spices, and vinegar.

The Carolinas, on the other hand, are all about pork, with two main styles: wet and dry, each offering a unique taste experience.

Memphis BBQ is all about the soul, emphasising pork dishes like ribs and pulled pork, seasoned with dry rubs or wet sauces post-smoking.

And then there’s Texas, where beef, especially brisket, reigns supreme, smoked over a blend of woods and often seasoned just with salt and pepper.

Whichever style you gravitate towards, there’s a world of flavours to explore, and we’ve got the perfect range of rubs, spices, and seasonings to elevate your BBQ game!

 

Learn to Cook with Spices

Spice up your cooking game with our free Beginner's Guide to Cooking with Spices