How Location Affects One's Definition Of Old Fashioned BBQ


by Grace Rivera


Barbecue refers to slow cooking cuts of meat that may be tough when cooked quickly. The process began over an open pit in the ground, but today, most of the restaurants have an indoor structure that is used to hold the fire and allow meats and sometimes vegetables to cook over coals. One's definition of old fashioned BBQ often depends on the region in which he or she grew up.

Several nationwide chains have increased the awareness of Memphis style barbecue. There, pork ribs and shoulders are slow cooked. They are lightly sauced using a molasses based sauce that is applied lightly to the meat to allow it to cook in before removing from the grill. It is often paired with sweet coleslaw.

Most of the time, the barbecue joints in Alabama follow the Memphis tradition and use a molasses based sauce. Connoisseurs may notice that the sauce is slathered a little thicker on the ribs. However, when visiting the northern region of Alabama, it is possible to find a special white sauce barbecue sauce. This is made with vinegar and mayonnaise and certainly worth a try.

Up in Kentucky, the hickory is used to create the smoke for flavor and the heat to cook the meats. Hickory offers a fairly strong smoky flavor reminiscent of bacon. It is much stronger than one gets at home using briquettes. When visiting this state, be sure to ask for burgoo as a side. This hearty meat stew is often served at the Kentucky Derby.

Texas uses beef to make their barbecue. The meat is smoked with earthy flavored Mesquite wood. Look for sliced beef brisket that is served without sauce. If you must have some sauce on the meat, it is probably a tomato/molasses concoction that is found sitting on the table in a bottle.

Kansas City barbecue mixes the eastern and western styles. It uses the flavorful meats from Texas and the sauce from Memphis. Look for ribs, briskets and steaks drenched in a spicy-tomato based sauce.

North Carolina is actually divided into two regions. In the east, there is no tomato in the vinegar based sauce that is used on every part of the hog. In the Piedmont area, the sauce is still thin and loaded with vinegar, but includes tomatoes. Instead of using the whole hog, the most likely cut is pork shoulder and the meat is chopped or pulled.

South Carolina also offers several traditions. One of the best known is their mustard based sauce. This yellow or orange sauce is perfect for dipping bits of pork pulled from whole hogs. Real mustard sauce contains no tomatoes.

Regardless of your own definition of old fashioned BBQ, when visiting different regions, see what they have to offer. If you love good meats with or without sauce, you are not likely to be disappointed. You might even pick up a jar of the local eateries sauce to take home and enjoy.




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