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Slow-cooked meat comes in many forms across the United States. Writer Elizabeth Trovall takes us on a culinary tour.
Text: Elizabeth Trovall
Photos: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Country: USA

arbecue is a meat lover’s delight and a cherished American tradition, a favorite pastime for family and friends, especially for spring and summer. There’s also a long list of barbecue contests and cook-offs all around the United States. Barbecue is also a common tradition in Korea, Argentina, and other countries around the world.

Unlike grilling, barbecue requires a very slow smoking process over low heat to give the meat a unique texture and flavor. The process can sometimes take 24 hours. Cooking at low temperatures helps the meat stay tender and moist as it cooks from the center.

The Birth of Barbecue

People all over the world have been slow-cooking meat for centuries. However, the roots of American barbecue are thought to have come from the Caribbean. One of the first records of barbecue comes from Spanish explorers when they discovered Haitians slow-roasting meat over a wooden grill. After that, in the Southern United States, barbecued pork became quite popular as hogs were plentiful. Before the American Civil War, the Cajun people of the American South would gather for boucheries, where wild pigs were caught, slaughtered, and barbecued. From there, the tradition of barbecue spread throughout the south, especially among the African-American community.

North Carolina: A State Divided

The American state of North Carolina boasts two distinct barbecue traditions. The preferred meat is pork and it’s usually cooked in a pit. Locals still feud over which style is best: Lexington or Eastern. Lexington-style barbecue is with slow-cooked pork shoulder dipped in a special red sauce made of vinegar, ketchup, pepper and other regional spices. Lexington style is also usually served with hushpuppies (deep fried cornmeal-based dough balls) and red slaw. Like coleslaw, red slaw is a shredded cabbage salad, but instead of serving it with mayonnaise, it’s prepared with the same tangy red dipping sauce used for the meat.

By comparison, North Carolina’s Eastern style of barbecue is tomato-free. The entire hog is used for these barbecues, which is served with vinegar and pepper. Meat is accompanied by coleslaw, which is made with the more typical mayonnaise.

Kansas City Barbecue: Finger-licking Good

Kansas City, Missouri, is most famous for its finger-licking barbecue, which all started with local resident Henry Perry back in the 1900s. As “father of Kansas City barbecue,” Perry, a Tennessee native, got his start serving smoked meats in downtown Kansas City. He later started serving up tender hickory- and oak-smoked beef and wild game out of an old trolley barn, which grew to be a staple of Kansas City eating. After Perry’s death, an employee, Charlie Bryant, continued the wildly popular business that has even attracted visits from multiple U.S. presidents.

Since Perry’s start, Kansas City barbecue has been known for being wood-smoked with lots of spices and served with a thick and distinctive tomato-y, sweet barbecue sauce that often has a molasses or brown sugar flavor. Also, all types of meats are used in Kansas City barbecue.

“Kansas City barbecue is characterized by its eclectic menu,” said Doug Worgul of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, one of the city’s top-rated barbecue joints.

“Carolina barbecue is all pork. In Memphis, it’s mainly ribs. And in Texas, it’s brisket and sausage. But in Kansas City, it’s all of those things, plus chicken, turkey, and Kansas City’s own invention, burnt ends.”

Burnt ends are the fatty ends of brisket, a cut of beef, which have an added crunch and smoky flavor. Locals take pride in this original, tasty barbecue dish.

The Lone Star State of Barbecue

Many of Texas’ barbecue traditions come from German and Czech settlers in the 1800s. Central Texas is especially crazy about its beef barbecue, especially brisket cooked up pit-style for hours. Texas barbecue is no frills —it’s first and foremost about the meat itself, served with sauce only sometimes and always on the side for dipping.

“What makes our barbecue unique is that we don’t use barbecue sauce to cook it with, nor do we suggest you even use sauce,” said Kreuz Market BBQ Pitmaster Roy Perez. Kreuz Market is a Texas barbecue institution, drawing customers from around the state.

“Sauce only covers the good taste of the meats,” said Perez. He wakes up at 8 a.m. each morning to start smoking brisket and other meats. Besides beef brisket, Texas barbecue usually includes smoked sausage and ribs.

The Taste of Memphis, Tennessee

Another famous type of American barbecue is the Memphis style. This kind of barbecue, like Carolina barbecue, uses pork shoulder and pork ribs. Memphis barbecue is slow-cooked in a pit. Ribs are smoked both wet (with sauce) and dry (salt and spices).

A good time to try Memphis-style barbecue would be during the city’s world-famous event, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which attracts tens of thousands of attendees to downtown Memphis. Contest categories include Whole Hog, Rib, and Shoulder.

Fact Box

· The most BBQ- crazed states are: Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Missouri.

· Alabama has the most barbecue restaurants per capita listed in the Yellow Pages.

· May 16th and July 4th are both recognized as National Barbecue Day.

· Don’t confuse Southern BBQ (long process requiring smoke from wood) with grilling, which is putting meat to be cooked on a grill.

· Garlic and sugar are the two most used ingredients in Southern BBQ




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The Flavors of American Barbecue


Barbecue is a meat lover's delight and a cherished American tradition, a favorite pastime for family and friends, especially for spring and summer. Barbecue is also a common tradition in Korea, Argentina, and other countries around the world.

Barbecue is the process of slow-cooking meat over low heat to give the meat a unique texture and flavor. The process can sometimes take 24 hours. Cooking at low temperatures helps the meat stay tender and moist as it cooks from the center.

The process of slow-cooking meat is very old all around the world. One of the first records of barbecue is from Spanish explorers who discovered Haitians slow-roasting meat over a wooden grill. In the Southern United States, barbecued pork became quite popular as there were many hogs.

There are many different types of barbecue in the United States. In North Carolina there are two types. Lexington style is with slow-cooked pork shoulder dipped in a special red sauce made of vinegar, ketchup, pepper and other regional spices. Eastern style is tomato-free; the whole hog is cooked and served with vinegar and pepper.

In Kansas City they use all types of meat and smoke them with different woods and lots of spices and serve it with barbecue sauce. In Texas they mostly eat beef barbecue, especially brisket cooked in a pit for hours. They usually don’t serve any sauce. In Memphis they use pork shoulders and ribs and slow-cook them in a pit. Ribs can be smoked with sauce or dry (without sauce).

 

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The Many Flavors of American Barbecue

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