With summer in full swing, you might be thinking about firing up the grill or meat smoker for a good old-fashioned backyard barbecue. Before you create your menu, get to know the regional styles of barbecue and your meal just may earn the title of best barbecue in the neighborhood.
The four main varieties hail from Memphis, the Carolinas, Texas, and Kansas City. Despite regional differences, the meats remain consistent among pit masters with beef brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, and chicken being the most common.
“Barbecue, by definition, is the simple grilling of any kind of meat or meat product,” says Chef Justin Leo of American Q at the B Resort. Smoke, a byproduct of grilling, is an important component because the natural wood smoke enhances the flavors of the meat through natural processes, says Leo. Typically, pit masters may use hickory, oak, pecan, mesquite, apple wood, beech wood, or cherry when smoking meats.
Each regional style of barbecue tends to focus on a specific kind of meat. In Texas, beef brisket is the meat of choice, whereas the Memphis and Carolina styles typically focus on pork. In Kansas City, no meat is safe from the sauce or smoker. The rubs and sauces that complement barbecued meats also set each style apart.
Leo says that a traditional barbecue rub recipe consists of salt, pepper, sugar, paprika, chili powder, dry mustard, and other herbs. Experiment with different flavor profiles at home by adding your favorite herbs to the base recipe or subtracting the ingredients you don’t like. If you want to make a good rub that pairs well with pork, try adding white sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger powder, and rosemary powder to the traditional recipe.
The base ingredients for a traditional barbecue sauce start with butter, sugar, vinegar, and tomato, says Leo. From there, you can add any other ingredient you want, making your sauce possibilities endless. Turn up the heat by throwing in some chopped Serrano or Habanero peppers. If you like sauces on the sweet side, try adding a dark soda like Dr. Pepper or a puréed fruit like pineapple into the mix. You can also kick things up and give your sauce a nice depth of flavor by adding bourbon or whiskey.
“[Sauces] all depend on regionality,” says Leo. “Kansas City [sauce] is the one that pretty much everyone knows. It’s a sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauce. I’d say that the KC is pretty much the all-around sauce that goes fairly well with everything.”
Kansas City sauce can take on any meat, complementing a variety of flavors. For your next backyard get-together, try your hand at making Chef Justin Leo’s version of this sweet barbecue favorite. For the full recipe, visit our website at CentralFloridaLifestyle.com.
• 1 pound of butter
• 2 heads of finely chopped garlic
• 6 cups of brown sugar
• 2 2/3 cups of lemon juice
• 3/4 cups of white vinegar
• 1/8 cup + 2 teaspoons of celery seed
• 1 1/3 cups of horseradish mustard
• 1 1/3 cups of Worcestershire sauce
• 1 1/3 cups of chili sauce
• 1/2 cup of Tabasco sauce
• 44 ounces of ketchup
To prepare the sauce, you must first sweat the garlic in the butter. Once you’ve got a good sweat going, add in the brown sugar, lemon juice and white vinegar. Mix the ingredients well and cook them together until the sauce become syrupy. When you’ve achieved a syrupy texture, add in the remaining ingredients and cook the sauce on a low heat for an hour. Once you’ve finished, the recipe should yield a gallon of American Q’s Kansas City style sauce. Slather the sauce on your favorite barbecue and enjoy!