Exploring American Barbecue: How to Make 5 Regional Styles

Forget politics — the issue that really divides the country is barbecue. In states like Texas and North Carolina, the residents can’t even agree on which style should reign supreme. As a result, the nation is served a mouthwatering plate filled with differed barbecued meats to sample. Keep reading to see five regional varieties and how you can imitate that particular style of cooking at home.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdn/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdn/

1. Texas Oven Roasted Beef Brisket

For some in the Lone Star state, barbecue means brisket. Although regional varieties certainly exist, notably East and South, Texas Monthly attributes the popularity of brisket and Central Texas barbecue to the deep flavor, richly blackened exterior, and the process of smoking the brisket. Since a smoker isn’t likely to be a feature many homes have, the Food Network has this recipe for roasting brisket Texas-style in your oven. It won’t be quite the same as what you’d find in a restaurant in Texas, the meat is still tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned. It makes 10 servings.


  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • 4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1½ cups beef stock

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add beef stock and enough water to yield about ½-inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender. Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

2. Kansas City-Style Spareribs With Barbecue Sauce

Visit Kansas City explains that in Kansas City, barbecue starts with slow-cooking a dry-rubbed meat, which is then covered in sauce, and sometimes returned to the smoker for a second round of slow-cooking. To get a taste of this region’s barbecue tradition, make this recipe from Saveur; it yields 4 to 6 servings of sweet, spicy ribs. For more information about grilling and methods, see this guide.



  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 racks St. Louis-cut pork spareribs (about 3 pounds each)


  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne
  • 1½ teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions: First, make the rub. Mix sugar, paprika, pepper, salt, chili, garlic, onion powders, and cayenne in a bowl. Rub onto ribs. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a bowl, whisk together ketchup, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and lemon juice; set aside.

Prepare your grill using oak wood chunks or chips (for flavor.) Place ribs, meat side up, on grill grate. Maintaining a temperature of 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook, turning once and basting with sauce the last 45 minutes of cooking, until the tip of a small knife slips easily in and out of the meat, 2–4 hours. Serve with remaining sauce.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/5wa/8124889998

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/5wa/8124889998

3. Slow-Cooked Memphis Ribs

For ribs like they make them in Memphis, you’ll season your ribs with a rub, and have an optional sauce on the side. According to BBQ Geeks, barbecue in Memphis can be “wet” — served with sauce — or “dry,” without sauce. Fine Cooking leaves the wet vs dry decision up to you with the following oven-cooked ribs, which will serve between 4 and 6 people.


  • 2 full (13-rib) racks of St. Louis-cut pork spareribs (about 3 pounds each)
  • Kosher salt

Spice Rub

  • 2½ tablespoons hot chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • ½ tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne

Barbecue Sauce

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne

Directions: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle and press ¼ cup of the rub on both sides of each rib rack. Put the racks, meaty side up, on a broiling pan or a wire roasting rack set over a baking sheet. Lightly season the ribs with salt and put them in the oven. After the first hour, rotate the pan every 30 minutes (Note: If you use two baking sheets, switch their position in the oven, too.) The ribs will sizzle gently as they cook, and they’ll become tender after about 2 hours in the oven.

To test for doneness, pick up the center of the ribs with tongs; the ends of the ribs should flop downward (this means the fat and cartilage have broken down), and a skewer inserted between the ribs should meet little resistance. If the meat between the ribs is still tough, keep cooking, checking every 15 minutes and rotating the pan.

To make the sauce, heat the oil and add the onion to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Season lightly with salt and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato purée, brown sugar, tomato paste, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, mustard, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne and stir well. Turn down the heat to low and let the sauce simmer until it thickens slightly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, season to taste with salt, and let cool to room temperature. The sauce will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

Remove the rib racks from the oven, put them on a cutting board meaty side down (so they’re easier to slice), and slice them into individual ribs. Arrange the ribs on a platter and serve with the sauce on the side.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/southernfoodwaysalliance/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/southernfoodwaysalliance/

4. Eastern North Carolina Barbecue

North Carolina is a state divided when it comes to barbecue. The North Carolina Barbecue Society explains that the state has two styles for barbecue. In the East, it is a vinegar-based sauce that generally involves cooking down sugar and pepper. You can try the Eastern variety out for yourself with this recipe for pulled-pork and barbecue from Gourmet via Epicurious.


  • 3½ cups cider vinegar (20 fluid ounces)
  • 1½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 (8- to 10-pound) bone-in pork shoulder roast (preferably butt end) with skin

Directions: Bring vinegar to a boil with sugar, red-pepper flakes, 2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in a small nonreactive saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Set aside 2 cups vinegar sauce to serve with sandwiches. While sauce cools, score pork skin in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife (forming 1-inch diamonds), cutting through skin and fat but not into meat. Pat meat dry and rub all over with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.

Prepare grill for indirect-heat cooking over low heat, leaving space in middle for disposable roasting pan. When coals have cooled to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (45 minutes to 1 hour; when most coals will have burned out), put disposable roasting pan on bottom rack of grill between the 2 remaining mounds of coals, then fill pan halfway with water. Add a couple of handfuls of unlit charcoal to each charcoal mound, then put grill rack on so hinges are over coals.

Oil grill rack, then put pork, skin side up, on rack above roasting pan. Grill pork, with lid ajar (for air, so coals remain lit), basting meat with sauce and turning over every 30 minutes (to maintain a temperature of 250 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, add a couple of handfuls of coals to each side about every 30 minutes), until fork-tender (a meat fork should insert easily) and an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into center of meat (avoid bone) registers 190 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 to 8 hours total.

Transfer pork to a cutting board. If skin is not crisp, cut it off with at least ¼-inch fat attached (cut any large pieces into bite-size ones) and roast, fat side down, in a 4-sided sheet pan in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. When meat is cool enough to handle, shred it using 2 forks. Transfer to a bowl. Serve with reserved vinegar sauce on the side.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/arndog/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/arndog/

5. Piedmont-Lexington Barbecue Dip

On the other side of the state is the Piedmont-Lexington tradition for barbecue. Here, barbecue is a dip, not a sauce, and has tomato added to the base, and uses brown sugar, not white. The society provides this recipe, from The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, Manteo to Murphy by Jim Early, for anyone eager to make the dip at home. It yields three cups.


  • 1½ cups distilled white or cider vinegar
  • 10 tablespoons tomato catsup
  • salt to taste, if desired
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool. Spoon a small amount of the sauce over barbecued meats.

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