Trends Across The Country: Southern BBQ

When it comes to Southern BBQ, styles vary not only from state to state, but city to city.
By: Roberto Ferdman

To celebrate this year of the Olympics and a presidential election, Cooking Channel asked fans what dishes represent their states and then worked with our kitchens to create original recipes for each of the 50 states. (Read all about the project here.) Each state has its own unique food scene, but we couldn’t help but notice some trends across the map from coast to coast

When regional pride comes smoked, piled high and served alongside a variety of slaws and sides, things can get a bit tasty — and a bit testy, too. For example, try serving dry-rub ribs to a friend from Kansas City and you're bound for a lesson in proper Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. When it comes to Southern BBQ, styles vary not only from state to state, but city to city.

Being neither a Southerner nor a pit master myself, my appreciation for BBQ knows no allegiances. I crave all regional specialties and styles.

Texas is a hotbed of barbecue, home to a variety of cooking styles and regional favorites. But when we asked our Texan fans which one dish represents their state, the answer was a traditional Texas Brisket — and by a landslide. Del King's brisket recipe calls for the meat to be coated with yellow mustard and a spicy rub and then smoked for over nine hours. The resulting flavorful beef brisket meat is well worth the wait.

Kansas City is something of a melting pot when it comes to barbecue traditions and styles, so it's no surprise that its same-named pork ribs start with spicy rub, but are finished with a complex, 15-ingredient barbecue sauce. The sign of a perfectly done rib? While extremely tender, it should not fall off the bone; you should be able to see where you took a bite out of the meat.

Don't slather sauce on your ribs before smoking if you aim to cook them in true Tennessee fashion. To make our Memphis Dry Rub Ribs recipe, apply a complex rub — coriander, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne and more — marinate overnight and then cook until the ribs develop a rich, dark crust. Barbecue sauce is optional, but our sweet-tangy apple cider vinegar and sugar forms a perfect glaze to seal in the ribs' flavor.

When it comes to regional barbecue arguments, pulled pork is one of the most-discussed subjects. North Carolinians will tell you that pulled pork is prepared with a vinegar-based sauce, of course, and the more tangy the vinegar, the better. This North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich has perfectly tuned barbecue sauce with balancing sugar and honey, crushed red pepper for some heat and a whole cup of cider vinegar.

Love these state dishes? Browse America’s best foods and more BBQ recipes:

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