The Great American Barbecue

BASIC BBQ RUB IMAGEWe give the Americans a hard time about many things: over sized cars, beauty pageants for 7 year olds and replacing S’s with a Z, but one thing they seemed to have top trumped us on a mammoth scale is Barbecues.

Sadly for us Brits, we come in fairly low down on the scale of “countries that barbecue brilliantly”. We’re outdone done by the Aussies on a regular basis and of course Brazil and Jamaica often give us a run for our money.

The barbecue tradition is a long standing one and began when the American explorers brought back pigs from their travels from areas such as Spain. In America, the two different techniques used to cook the meat are smoking and barbequing. Usually the meats are first marinated and smoked using either the hot smoking or the smoked method. Both smoking methods cook the meat for long periods of time to ensure a soft texture. Hot smoking uses indirect heat at temperatures of 49-82 degrees C, whilst the smoked method uses higher temperatures.

The cold smoking process is a completely different process and takes exposure to the meat for several days.

BARBECUED RIBS AND SAUCE IMAGEBecause the barbecue tradition is such a huge part of American culture, many of the Southern states of America have adopted their own specific methods. Each southern state has their own specific meat that they are renowned for serving and whether they consider sauce a priority is also something that is very specific to that particular area as well.

If you ever find yourself in any of the following states, then you can expect to see a particular style of meat cooked and served in a very specific way.

Below is a rough guide to the barbecue methods meats of the southern states.


The main meat in central Texas is Beef brisket. They smoke this and then divide the fatty and lean beef; a whole brisket includes layer of fat between the two layers of meat

The process of smoking the beef is very labour intensive, the process is low and slow and the fire wood needs to be constantly checked.

Sauce is not important in central Texas, in fact it’s deemed unnecessary and unbecoming of a real central Texas barbeque.

East Texas

Serve a different meat, they use ribs and pork which is derived from Southern African/American Soul-food traditions.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago are renowned for the style of Smoker they use. They are known as aquarium smokers, as they are glass containers with a compartment underneath where the smoking wood goes.

The aquariums are filled with meat and the meat drips its juices and flavours onto the wood

The main dish served is Rib tips. Sauce is king and considered important and the ribs are covered with it. French fries are served as part of the dish and the dish is assembled so the ribs are laid ontop of the fries. This is a classic Illinois Barbeque dish.

Other Illinois alternatives to the ribs are called Hot links. This is beef and pork sausage, sometimes served with with sage, it’s not hot and spicy. This is a dish associated with Chicago Illinois and you would be hard pushed to find this anywhere else on the planet.

Kansas City, Missouri

The traditional dish of Kansas City, is a combo of meat and sauces.

Essentially, Kansas is a melting pot of different BBQ’s, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, turkey the sauce is a thick tomato sauce sweetened with molasses, a classic sauce we are all familiar with and probably have in our cupboards at home.

This sweet red sauce is important in Missouri but mainly they are renowned for how many different things they cook.

A side dish with beans is a classic Missouri dish and is served with the barbeque meats – baked beans or black eyes peas are put in the smoker underneath the meats so that bits of meat juices drop into the beans and given them a delicious meaty smoky flavour. These beefy smoky beans are part of a traditional Kansas city Barbeque.

Memphis, Tennessee

The Main method in Memphis is to dry rub a herb and spice mix onto the rib on the bone. Generally sauce is not the main part of the barbequing, but some people believe sauce is important and this is the argument in Tennessee.

The rub is usually a sweetness such as brown sugar mixed with salt and some sort of colouring such as cumin or cayenne.

North Carolina

North Carolina Barbequing is characterised by pork shoulder. It is slow cooked in a rub marinade and then cooked for 8-12 hours to create a delicious moist pulled pork which is served in a bap with sauce.

South Carolina

Characterised by a whole hog barbeque with a mustard based sauce, the entire pig is used including the dark meat and white meat

One hog weighs approximately 200lbs and everything is used from the ham to the loins

A hog is smoked for approximately 20 hours

The finished product is a meat that has been 50% smoked and 50% BBQ

Sauce in South Carolina is very important


The dish of Kentucky is Mutton of lamb that is more than a year old

The Kentucky combination is lamb served with burgoo; a spicy stew made with a combo of lima beans, corn, okra. Potatoes are served with it.

Have a go yourself

AMERICAN BBQ IMAGEIf you fancy trying your hand a bit of American style barbequing then use these two recipes.

If you have a smoker and you know how to use it then after you have marinated the meat you can smoke your meat for several hours. Alternatively, a nice long slow cook in the oven or slow cooker will suffice; although you won’t get that smoked taste that the American barbeques are renowned for, but you will have a lovely piece of meat that is soft and tender, ready to be barbequed and slathered in sauce


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