Smoky. Tangy. Yummy. That’s barbecue in a nutshell. May is National Barbecue Month—a call for celebration. But that’s where the agreeable fun ends.
Barbecue typically refers to meat cooked “low and slow” away from direct heat and with the help of smoke. According to Wikipedia,
In the United States, to grill is to cook meat relatively quickly using the direct heat imparted by a charcoal or propane fire, while barbecue is similar to baking and is a much slower method utilizing the indirect heat imparted by the smoke of a wood-fueled fire, often requiring an extended period of several hours.
Beyond that, regional disparities make barbecue a cadre cuisine if there ever was one. Here’s a quick tour of some of the more infamous barbecue variations:
Barbecue in North Carolina can be broken down even further into two distinct sects: Lexington and Eastern. Lexington barbecue, popular in the state’s central and western regions, employs a sauce of vinegar, ketchup, and pepper. Only the pork shoulder is used. Eastern barbecue, on the other hand, makes use of the entire pig. In addition, ketchup is dropped from the sauce.
Pork ribs are the most ubiquitous barbecued meat in Memphis. Both the “dry” (rubbed with spices) and “wet” (with sauce) methods are acceptable here. Memphis denizens love pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw.
Many meats are fair game in this fair city—pork, chicken, beef, fish, you name it. The common theme shared by all KC BBQ is the use of wood instead of or in addition to charcoal as a cooking fuel. Kansas City’s sauce is sweet and viscous; essential ingredients include tomato and molasses.
While there are many variations, Texas barbecue is generally characterized by the use of beef as a meat, wood as fuel (hickory, mesquite, etc.), and comparatively thick, sweet sauces. Common side dishes in the Lone Star state include potato salad and pinto beans.
There are countless other variations beyond these four. In my opinion, no matter how you do it, it’s preposterously tasty.