The BBQ that you'll eat in Texas is completely different than that which you'll find in Kansas City. And the BBQ you eat in eastern Texas will probably be completely different than what you'll find in western Texas. So, if you haven't figured out already that America's wide range of BBQ styles can get pretty confusing, well... here's the proof. Of course, that's not to say that it's not all delicious in its own right. Some lean on vinegar-based sauces to give that classic tang while others take advantage of rubs to create a smoky and sweet flavor. No matter how the meat for barbecuing is flavored, chances are, it's going to be one heck of a meal.


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Across the country, every state and even multiple regions within a state have different styles. Therefore, when you walk into a BBQ restaurant, it could mean anything from Memphis style to Central Texas BBQ. Rather than trying to figure it out at random, we've got a helpful guide that will help you determine exactly what you're getting, and where you can get it.


Memphis-style BBQ has a huge emphasis on spices rather than sauces. It's also likely to feature more pork than any other BBQ style with pulled pork and ribs being the name of Tennessee's barbecue game. Rather than leaning on sauces for hefty flavor, Memphis-style BBQ relies heavily on the spice rub which, traditionally, contains up to 40 different spices.

This is a key feature of Tennessee's BBQ and if there is any sauce, it's usually served on the side and has a tomato base. The two key spices in any spice blend will be paprika and garlic; the first adds a nice smoky flavor while the second adds natural heat and spice. Hickory wood is also used during the smoking process which is where most of the distinct smokiness comes from.

Kansas City

If you're a fan of BBQ sauce then, chances are, you're accustomed to eating that which is inspired by Kansas City. This BBQ is hefty and there are no holds barred when it comes to both the spice blend and the thick, tangy sauce that gets mopped over the top of every piece of meat. Unlike Memphis-style BBQ, Kansas City has no specific type of meat in its style, likely due to the fact that multiple cuts became widely available when the city was a meatpacking hub.

However, Kansas City BBQ will be coated in a spicy rub prior to being smoked, which is a signature move. Similar to Memphis-styles, the meat is cooked with hickory but when it's finished, it gets a copious dousing of tomato and molasses-based BBQ sauce. This coats the meat and adds a nice sweet and tangy balance to the spicy rub that cooks with the meat.


Both North and South Carolina have deviations in their BBQ styles and while they're altogether similar, North Carolina prefers pork shoulder while South Carolina is perfectly fine cooking the whole pig. North Carolina also tends to lean toward mopping the meat as it cooks with a spiced, vinegar-based sauce. When the meat is finished cooking, it's then served with another sauce that's ketchup-based. This makes for an intricate flavor when the tang from the vinegar mop meets the sweetness of the ketchup-based BBQ sauce, and it's also easily identifiable with just one bite.

In South Carolina - which is the BBQ style most people are familiar with from the Carolinas - there's an introduction of mustard. Since the state is known for its mustard seed, it's not surprising to see it used in either the spice rub, BBQ sauce, or both for a cut of meat. The addition of mustard adds a hefty tang that also makes South Carolina's BBQ easily recognizable, but by scent as well as flavor.


Texas is somewhat of a can of worms when it comes to BBQ, in the best way possible. You won't find one consistent style in this state and that's what makes its BBQ restaurants so unique and diverse. Additionally, the art BBQ is something that has been handed down through generations which means many establishments have entire families of pitmasters. As a whole, Texas is known for its brisket and sausage, both of which, obviously, are made, rubbed, filled, and smoked in-house.

Texas-style brisket is very simple and starts with a spice rub that usually consists of only salt and pepper, and possibly a few extra 'secret' ingredients. The trademark flavor of Texas' meat comes from the smoking process, during which pecan or oak wood is used, and meat is never smoked for anything less than 12 hours.

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