If you say “barbecue” to someone from the American South, that might mean something totally different than it does to someone from up North. Most of us recognize one type or another, depending on where we live. We rounded up the top 10 most delicious barbecue styles from across the country. Check ‘em out and see which one you call finger lickin’ good. You probably know the last one best (Page 10).
10. Alabama white sauce
You might have seen this unusual sauce in an episode of Master of None. Aziz Ansari’s character falls in love with the sauce and subsequently misses a flight back to New York. White sauce enjoys a strong following in the small region around Decatur, Alabama. This pasty mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar, and pepper tastes best on smoked chicken, although pork will also work. Most places serve it either thick or creamy, and it both looks and tastes very different from other varieties.
Next: The following barbecue variety gets its name from how pitmasters apply it.
9. Texas-style mop sauce
In the Lone Star State, beef barbecue cuts often get cooked with savory “mop sauce” or “basting sauce.” Yes, pitmasters really do apply it with a mop. Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible, describes the sauce as a thin “glaze” that moistens the meat and adds flavor as it smokes. Mop sauces often feature beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire, and spices like salt, pepper, and garlic.
Next: This barbecue style does not necessarily need sauce.
8. Memphis-style barbecue
In Tennessee, you will find just about any meat. That said, traditional Memphis barbecue usually consists of smoked pork served either as a slab of ribs or pulled. Dry Memphis barbecue uses a dry rub, which ends up less messy than sauced. The ribs get coated with a rub made from garlic, paprika, onions, cumin, and other spices. Additionally, Memphis sauce features tomatoes, vinegar, and a huge variety of spices. In general, the sauce comes out thin, tangy, and a tad sweet.
Next: A famous condiment gave this variety its base.
7. Lexington dip
When Heinz ketchup hit shelves in 1876, it marked a major turning point in the history of barbecue sauce. One of those results came in the form of Piedmont-style or “Lexington Dip” — named for the city where it originated. Pork shoulder gets cooked with a tangy, vinegar-based sauce that adds ketchup for color and sweetness.
According to North Carolina’s Our State magazine, five men of German descent developed the Piedmont variety, based on Bavarian recipes.That same sauce also frequently gets incorporated into a specialty red slaw.
Next: The following barbecue sauce tastes like a cross between two others.
6. St. Louis barbecue sauce
In Missouri, we find a cross between two other close neighbors’ sauces. There, locals like a tomato and vinegar-based sauce. It does not have the same sweetness and thick texture as Kansas City-style. It also does not feature the same spicy kick and runny texture as Texas style. But you can expect to find lots of sauce at a St. Louis barbecue, with its own distinctive flavor.
Next: A variety of barbecue sauce styles show up in this state.
5. Kentucky mutton dip
Sauce styles vary county by county in the state of Kentucky. Hickman County serves meats without sauce. Instead, they offer a vinegar and cayenne pepper concoction at the table. Meanwhile, in McCracken County, sauces tend to favor vinegar and chili powder. Union and Henderson Counties also prefer a savory, Worcestershire-based dip. And in Christian County, the sauces feature lots of vinegar and cayenne.
The most distinctive trait in the great state of Kentucky? Mutton. In addition to pork, beef, and chicken, you will find this sheep protein. Some chop it, some slice it, but it all tastes great.
Next: Check out the following technique in Kentucky.
4. Monroe-county style
Locals refer to this Kentucky favorite as “shoulder.” Boston Butts get frozen and cut into thin slices, bone in, with a meat saw. Pitmasters burn down hickory slabs and shovel the coals through iron grates that hold dozens of slices of shoulder, as well as chickens and pork tenderloins. As they cook, pitmasters sop them with a “dip” of vinegar, butter, lard, cayenne, and black pepper.
Now, eaters have a choice. If you like spice, order a shoulder plate “dipped.” If not, ask for “sprinkled,” for a little less zest. And if you really feel feisty, try it “suicide.” That means they skim a ladle of sauce right off the top of the pot, where the fat and spices all mix.
Next: You might also recognize this more common flavor.
3. North Carolina vinegar sauce
Spicy and acidic African notes fit right into eastern North Carolina’s favorite flavor profiles. This sauce might rank as the first barbecue sauce to emerge in the Americas, dating back several centuries. Unlike many modern sauces, the eastern-style uses no tomato. Instead, its base consists of vinegar — usually the cider kind — with spices like cayenne, black pepper, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, salt, and sometimes water. Most North Carolina barbecue comes in the form of whole hogs.
Next: Further South, things get low and slow.
2. South Carolina slow sauce
Many of us know Carolina barbecue best for its slow cooking mode. Down South, you might find beef, chicken or lamb on the menu. A traditional rub consists of salt, sugar, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika. To make the sauce, pitmasters blend distilled white vinegar and cider vinegar. Then they add sugar, hot red pepper flakes, salt and ground pepper for a real taste treat.
Next: The following sauce ranks as the most popular in the country.
1. Kansas City sauce
Kansas City, Missouri’s thick, sweet, and tangy sauces dominates when it comes to American barbecue sauce. You will probably find this sauce at your local supermarket, at chain restaurants, and in the barbecue sauce containers at McDonald’s. The thick sauce uses ketchup and molasses for a sweet, sticky consistency. Worcestershire, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and other spices may also find their way into the recipe.
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