A Tasty Barbecue Tour

American barbecue tradition at CHEFScatalog.com

Grilling is a uniquely American phenomenon—or is it?

An argument could be made that the history of grilling goes back to the discovery of fire, and that would place it firmly before the existence of America. However, according to the website How Stuff Works, we have a man named George Stephen Sr. to thank for changing the American weekend for the better back in the early 1950s.

“Barbecue is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent sauce.”

Vince Staten, co-author of Real Barbecue: The Classic Barbecue Guide to the Best Joints

Back then, Stephen, a worker at Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Company in Mount Prospect IL, cut one of the company’s products, a metal harbor buoy, in half. He then installed vents, added a grate, used the other half as the lid, and turned our weekends (and more) delicious!

Not surprisingly, the idea quickly spread. Soon backyards across the country were filled with those trying their best to duplicate the best BBQ sauces of their region—or invent their own. So, join me today on a 5-stop tour of the best of American barbecue tradition, including recipes from each region. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Feel free to share about your favorites in the comments.

Now, let’s get grilling!

Memphis, TN

Memphis loves its barbecue—and rightly so, since they’re famous for it. Memphis barbecue usually refers to slow-cooked pork (though any kind of meat can be used), with a mild dry rub or a sweet sauce. Memphians don’t rely on their seasoning alone, though it is legendary. They also use only the highest quality of meat and let the slow smoking process do its magic.

Not only is Memphis known for some of the best barbeque, it is also the location for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May, where tens of thousands of people come to pit their barbecue against each other.

Memphis BBQ highlight: Barbecue sandwich of slightly sweet pulled pork with coleslaw. Use the recipe below and a favorite coleslaw to create your own.

Memphis Style Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Sauce, Memphis Style at CHEFScatalog.comServes 4-6 (or more)


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ½ cup yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


Combine brown sugar, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, celery salt, cayenne, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce in medium saucepan.

Heat over medium until boiling.

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

After sugar is fully dissolved and sauce has simmered, whisk in canola oil, adding a little at a time, until it is all combined.


Texas is big! And Texas barbecue is also big—so much so that you have to talk about it in four styles: East Texas (slow-cooked until it falls off the bone over hickory chips), Central Texas (rubbed with spices and cooked over pecan or oak chips), South Texas (thick, molasses-like sauce), and West Texas (over mesquite chips, Cowboy Style using direct heat).

Regardless of style, in Texas barbecue refers to beef—beef brisket specifically. The beef is dry rubbed and then smoked with mesquite wood, and the resulting flavor is extremely smoky. Texan barbecue sauce is tomato based, and its matching slaw—when used—is usually mayonnaise based.

Texas BBQ highlight: Just the beef, ma’am. Thank you!

Texas Barbecue Brisket Rub Recipe

Brisket Rub Recipe at CHEFScatalog.com(Covers 4 briskets)


  • 2 cups pickling salt
  • 1 cup paprika
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup coarse black pepper
  • ¼ cup fine black pepper
  • ½ cup onion powder
  • ½ cup garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)


Combine all dry spice ingredients.

Rub all over briskets, applying liberally.

Refrigerate briskets overnight coated in rub before cooking.


While North and South Carolinians don’t agree on everything about barbecue, they do agree that it’s pork. Carolina barbecue is usually pulled pork served with a tangy vinegar based sauce. Like Memphis, Carolina barbecue is also usually served with coleslaw—but it’s vinegar-based, not mayonnaise.

North Carolina calls itself “The Cradle of ‘Cue,” because, according to the North Carolina Barbecue Society, the state originated barbecue. But even the state is divided about what kind of barbecue reigns supreme. There are two primary types: Lexington and Eastern. Lexington use a vinegar-based red sauce, while Eastern is also vinegar-based (and pepper-based), it uses no tomatoes.

South Carolina claims there are four types of barbeque in the country—Vinegar and Pepper, Mustard, Light Tomato, and Heavy Tomato—and that only their state has all four.

Carolina BBQ highlight: Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar—in the ‘cue and in the slaw.

Carolina Style Slaw

Carolina Cole Slaw at CHEFScatalog.comServes 8-10


  • 1 16 Ounce package of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sugar


Empty cabbage or slaw mix into large mixing bowl.

Slice red bell pepper into thin slices. Chop onion into small pieces. Add onion and red bell pepper to cabbage.

Mix oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Add oil and vinegar mix to vegetables. Toss to coat evenly.

Let rest five minutes, then toss again. Refrigerate overnight before serving.


Kentucky Barbecue is hickory-smoked. An extremely wide range of meats are considered Kentucky barbecue—turkey, pork, chicken, and more. Kentucky barbecue isn’t famous for its sauce, but most sauces are vinegar based. Burgoo is a popular Kentucky barbecue dish – a hearty, tangy barbecue stew.

Western Kentucky has an unusual distinction. They prefer to use mutton in their barbecue. This kind of mutton barbecue is often used in communal events in Kentucky, such as political rallies, county fairs, and church fund-raising events.

Kentucky BBQ highlight: Mutton but the best for Kentucky!

Kentucky Mutton Barbecue MarinadeMutton Barbecue Marinade at CHEFScatalog.com


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup light beer
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder


Combine vinegar, beer, water, and Worcestershire sauce in small saucepan.

Add brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and onion powder to saucepan.

Heat over low heat. Using brush or mop, slather mutton with marinade.

After mutton has finished cooking, bring marinade to boil and use it for a sauce to pour over mutton.

Kansas City, MO

Kansas City barbecue refers to the specific style of slow smoked meat that evolved from the pit of Henry Perry in the early 1900s in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City barbecue is slow smoked over a variety of woods first and then covered with a thick tomato- and molasses-based sauce.

Enthusiasts in Kansas City are less tied to any particular meat than Memphis or Texas enthusiasts. This likely stems from the city’s history as a center for meat packing. Hickory is the primary wood used for smoking in KC, while the sauces are typically tomato based with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor profiles and are added after cooking. Burnt ends, the flavorful pieces of meat cut from the ends of a smoked beef or pork brisket, are also popular.

Kansas City BBQ highlight: Coleslaw that is onion and vinegar based.

Kansas City Classic Sauce Recipe

Kansas City Ribs at CHEFScatalog.comMakes 6 cups


  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ½ cup yellow mustard
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup steak sauce
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)


In mixing bowl, combine chili, pepper, and salt.

In another bowl, combine ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, and brown sugar.

Mix wet ingredients thoroughly.

Heat large saucepan over medium heat, add onions and a splash of canola oil, until golden.

Add garlic to pan and cook 5 minutes.

Add dry ingredients and stir to combine well.

Add the wet ingredients to the pan.

Simmer for 15 minutes with no lid, until thick.

Bottle and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Want to know more about grilling? Check out our other blogs on the subject here at CHEFS Mix:

Your Turn: Where were you when you ate the best barbecue ever?

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