BBQ is unique in the United States in that so many different parts of the country have quite a different take on what makes the perfect BBQ. The differences range from what goes into the sauce, to the types of meat, and even in using rubs instead of sauces. Tell someone from Texas that Carolina-style is the best, and you are best served to run for cover!
The Difference between Rubs and Sauces
This is where the battle begins... rub or sauce. Some regions will tell you that using a sauce is amateur hour. You need a nice rub that will tenderize and flavor the meat all at the same time. Other areas will tell you the sauce is everything, but the difference is when they apply it and how they serve it. Of course, there are BBQ hedonists that will use a rub while cooking and then slather on the sauce before removing the meat from the grill.
A rub is a mixture of various spices that serve different purposes. Some of the spices are meant to specifically tenderize the meat, while others infuse flavors and heat. When a rub is done properly, there is no need for anything else. Sauce lovers beg to differ and believe a quality sauce will take good BBQ to the next level. The makeup of the sauce, however, will differ from region to region.
Types of BBQ Sauces
When it comes to sauce, four regions are generally noted that present distinct types and flavors of sauces: Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, and Carolina. Texas-style sauce will have a thinner consistency as the tomato is often thinned out with Worcestershire and vinegar. The sauce is often served on the side and used for dipping. For those of you that have a sweet tooth for BBQ, this would not be a wise choice.
Kansas City-style is one of the more famous and one of the two that most BBQ restaurants will use on their menu. The sauce itself is very thick and very sweet. Memphis is another popular style and found on plenty of menus. It is another thick and sweet sauce, but it not as bold as Kansas City-style Bar-B-Q. These sauces are commonly used throughout the cooking process. Finally, we have Carolina-style. This is very popular for pork and is loaded with flavorful spices to complement the meat.
Pork or Beef?
Again, this is often defined by the region. For instance, beef if King in Texas, so it is not too difficult to figure out their favorite type of meat. Brisket is always on the grill at local establishments, but it will not be hard to find a healthy order of beef ribs, either. Kansas City is like Switzerland in BBQ, as they enjoy both beef and pork.
Carolina and Memphis BBQ lovers lean a bit more towards pork than they do beef. Both styles of sauces are loaded with spices and are very sweet, so the pork is really the perfect type of meat for this style of cooking. Unlike beef, the pork flavor is actually enhanced with flavors such as molasses and brown sugar.