When charting cultural elements by American-ness, barbecue is right up there with football. And much like football, each state is extremely competitive about the way they cook their Q. Wonder no more about who does it best. After sampling every BBQ style from sea to shining sea, I’ve compiled a list guaranteed to leave everyone angrier, hungrier and more firmly set in their beliefs than before. Read up, find a shack smoking on the side of the highway, and dig in.
7. Kansas City
KC smoke joints will throw any kind of meat in their cookers. Whether it’s pork shoulder or ribs or their favorite cut, burnt ends (the fatty ends of a slice of brisket), expect the meat to be smoked over hickory wood, which adds a strong and slightly bitter accent. Everything is slopped in a sweet molasses and tomato sauce, which compliments the hickory-kissed flavor of the meat wonderfully. In the ensuing battle between sweet and savory, you win.
Memphis is big on the pig, and they rub their pulled pork in paprika and garlic. Some natives like it with a thin, tangy ketchup-based sauce. Some like it dry, and consider saucing up their Q a sin that would make Elvis turn in his grave.
5. North Carolina
North Carolina barbecue masters don’t pride themselves in giving you the finest cuts of meat (not that it holds them back). They prefer what is known as the “whole hog” approach: Just chop up the whole damn pig (minus the hooves) and mix that shit together. The sauce is minimal, nothing more than vinegar and some cayenne pepper.
The folks in Bama are known for sharing two different types of white sauce with family. One leads to inbreeding. One leads to deliciousness. They drench their meat (usually pulled pork or chicken) in a signature mayonnaise-based white sauce. It’s unusual to see your BBQ plate doused in porcelain, but its tangy, creamy flavor is so tasty and so versatile, it would be right at home in a bowl next to a bag of potato chips as well as the middle of a meaty BBQ sandwich.
3. East Texas
East Texans dig their brisket, but unlike the middle of the state, they also really like their hot sauce. The buns of their chopped brisket or pulled pork sandwiches are painted in a tangy, firey goodness that’ll kick you square in the dick. Unlike the southeast, there’s no slaw to be found.
2. South Carolina
They got a mad sweet tooth down in the Palmetto state. The tea is sweeter, and the barbecue is lathered in a sweet and delicious mustard-based sauce that usually includes brown sugar and vinegar. There’s a reason the waiter calls you “sugah” – the substance makes up 50 percent of your blood by the last bite. I recommend the pulled pork with mac ‘n’ cheese and an epipen on the side
1. Central Texas
The sauces at barbecue joints in the heart of Texas are merely an afterthought to the moist, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, which can hold its own without any kind of assistance (save for a little salt and pepper). The quality of the brisket, ribs, and sausage, usually cooked over pecan or oak wood, consistently place central Texas BBQ places at the top of food critics’ charts, and for good reason. The first time I took a bite of the barbecue in Austin, I fell to my knees and began sobbing inconsolably..
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