The Different Types of Barbecue

Barbecue, also known as grilling, is one of the favorite ways of cooking food for Americans. Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the sales of barbecue grills as well as the demand for grilled food. While many countries have a single style of barbecuing meat, there are several different ways to cook food using the barbecue technique. The wide variation is based on how people from different regions 

The American Culture of Barbecue

Barbecue is considered one of the best foods in America. Sometimes, people prefer barbecue because they enjoy the process of cooking meat directly via a grill. Unlike cooking on a stove, the process of slowly heating the meat gives it a better taste as well. The most preferred types of meat used for barbecue include chicken, beef, turkey, deer, and lamb as well. The culture of barbecue came from the south and is now most popular in North America. 

The culture of barbecuing dates back to the colonial times when it was first seen in 1672. Earlier, it was considered as a feast for the royals only but eventually, it became a common food item for common people as well. The first president of America, George Washington, also mentions barbecue and said that he really enjoyed it. Gradually, the American culture of barbecue went on to Texas and Oklahoma while in the north, it went up to Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Different locations in America had their ways of barbecuing which eventually led to multiple styles of barbecue in America. States such as Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis, California, Texas, Hawaii, and St. Louis all have distinctive ways of barbecuing. The four most common types of barbecue styles include The Carolinas, The Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas Style.

Barbecue feasts should be held every once in a while.

Carolina Style Barbecue

Carolina-style barbecue includes any meat that could be pulled or chopped. It may also be sliced such as in the case of a beefsteak. Prior to smoking the meat, the Carolina-style barbecue requires the use of a spice mixture to give it a taste. In addition to that, while grilling the meat, there is extra spice and vinegar added to it. Expect a spicy taste with this kind of barbecue because of added spices. 

Keep in mind that instead of charcoal, the wood used in Carolina-style barbecue is usually hardwood like oak. This is because the Carolina-style barbecue is one of the earliest forms of barbecue when charcoal was not commonly used for grilling. Further, there is a slight difference in the type of barbecue prepared in North Carolina vs South Carolina. 

In parts of Eastern North Carolina, the whole meat is barbecued as well. For example, a whole lamb or a whole chicken could be barbecued. This dish can be served with rice or gravy. In Western North Carolina, the pieces of meat are used for barbecue purposes instead of the whole meat. For example, a beefsteak, boneless chicken, minced meat kebabs, and other such items could be grilled on a barbecue. 

Learn more about the technique of barbecuing whole meat here – What is Barbacoa?

Beef is one of the most commonly consumed meats for barbecue.

On the other hand, Western North Carolina uses the same meat but also uses a vinegar-based sauce mixed with tomato as well. You might have heard someone calling for a Lexington-style barbecue which is the same as the Western North Carolina barbecue. This is because the town of Lexington in North Carolina has some of the many barbecue restaurants as well as it has barbecue festivals multiple times around the year.

While barbecue is quite popular in North Carolina, one difference that we see in South Carolina is that they use a different type of sauce known as the Carolina Gold Sauce. The ingredients of this sauce include yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and other spices which give it a spicy flavor as well as a great aroma too. 

Kansas City Style Barbecue

Another major style of barbecue is followed in Kansas City. This state had the first form of barbecue introduced by Henry Perry, a food artist. Kansas City barbecue is not based on any particular kind of meat but the major focus is on the side items. Unlike other states, fries are a must-have item with the Kansas City-style barbecue. Furthermore, people also use a tomato-based barbecue sauce which is quite thick. Keep in mind that this sauce is not salsa. 

One of the main similarities between Kansas City barbecue and Carolina barbecue is that both states mostly rely on wood, although charcoal does not seem to be a bad idea either. Cumin and celery salt are two of the most important ingredients which are used in chicken marination. There are plenty of restaurants in Kansas City which you should explore on your next trip.

Barbecue tastes the best with the barbecue sauce.

Memphis Style Barbecue

The third most common style of barbecue practiced in the United States is the Memphis Style. Unlike the ones mentioned above, this style of barbecue is quite different. People who follow Memphis style would cook meat for barbecue either when it comes to eating ribs or when it comes to eating sandwiches. While many states eat barbecue with bread and cook many items including chest, steak, boneless, kebabs, and others via barbecue, the Memphis style is most famous for using barbecue meat in sandwiches. 

Barbecue sandwiches may sound weird to those who haven’t tried them but they certainly taste quite delicious. Memphis barbecue also has the differentiation between wet ribs or dry ribs. You need to apply the sauce on ribs before cooking to make them wet ribs and you need to apply the sauce on ribs after cooking to make them dry ribs. It is our recommendation to use the wet ribs because the sauce is infused in the meat making it juicy and tastier. However, those people who may not like spicy food or want to adjust the sauce according to their own taste would prefer cooking dry ribs. Other dishes such as barbecue spaghetti, pizza, and barbecue salad are also a part of the Memphis-style barbecue. 

The Memphis-style barbecue is famous for cooking ribs. 

Texas Style Barbecue

The state of Texas is known for several food items and barbecue is among the popular ones. However, there are four subcategories of the Texas-style barbecue as well. The East Texas-style is that the meat is cooked on a low heat up to the point that it is fully ready and could fall off the bone. The meat needs to be marinated in a sweet and tomato-based sauce as many people don’t like to have a spicy barbecue in East Texas. 

Secondly, there is the Central Texas-style which is the easiest among all types of barbecue in the United States. This is because the meat is only marinated with salt and black pepper while no other spices are added. It is cooked on a grill with mesquite or oak food while there is no sauce served with it. One can say that this is the basic level of barbecue that anyone can prepare at their home as it does not have any side dishes. 

The West Texas style requires the meat to be cooked on direct heat from the wood rather than using the process of slow heating. This is most common to grilling as well. Lastly, the South Texas-style is one of the most complex ones but you would surely love its taste. This is because it has to be marinated in a thick sauce which keeps the meat moist after cooking. You can feel your meat be juicy and full of flavor as well as the aroma that would help in enhancing your food experience. 

Enjoy the various types of barbecue.

Find out more about the various kinds of barbecued meats as well as their pros and cons – Guide to the Types of Barbecue Meats


Wake up the foodie inside you and try out these popular ways to make barbecue. If you regularly make barbecue via the same technique, change it and see how it goes. Just make sure that you follow the technique in the precise way to come up with the most authentic taste. Our top picks include the Western North Carolina barbecue-style as well as the South Texas-style. We hope you enjoy a great barbecue experience.