For some Americans, summertime means vacation, professional baseball games, spending the day outside…and for many others, it means cooking, eating and enjoying a barbecue. Although it’s celebrated throughout the USA, not all barbecue is the same; there’s a wide variation between regions and a fierce rivalry as to which is best. If you’re a barbecue buff, here are some tasty tidbits to share at your next backyard BBQ.
Q: What is barbecue?
A: Barbecue, also called barbeque, bar-b-que and BBQ, is a style of cooking meat—low and slow, with indirect heat rather than directly over the flames as with grilling (yes, there is a difference!). Charcoal or wood are commonly used as the heat source for cuts of meat like ribs, pork shoulder, beef brisket, or whole chickens or turkeys…and different types of wood give off various smoky flavors that enhance the taste of the meat.
Q: Where did this method originate?
A: BBQ, the way most Americans know it now (meat covered in spices and basting sauce), originated in the Caribbean. In fact, the word barbecue comes from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is barbacoa.
Q: Where should I go for good BBQ?
A: Different regions, different styles. You’ll find BBQ to die for in Memphis, North Carolina (Lexington or Eastern Carolina style), South Carolina, Kansas City, Alabama, and East or Central Texas-style BBQ. Due to different varieties of woods and methods of smoking, and the different types of sauces, the tastes will vary (deliciously so).
Q: What’s so special about BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee?
A: Trust us on this: If you’re in Memphis, try the ribs or shredded pork. Interstate Barbecue in Memphis uses a specially built barbecue pit that utilizes a combination of natural gas and hickory wood. This unique pit slowly cooks the meat without a flame ever touching it. What’s even more impressive is that they can cook up to 500 slabs of ribs at a time!
Q: Where did white BBQ sauce originate?
A: Big Bob Gibson’s in North Alabama is famous as the birthplace of white BBQ sauce in the 1920s. Recently, white sauce has gained popularity across the region, but there’s nothing like the original.
Q: I’ve heard of mutton…but BBQ mutton? Really?
A: Yes! Kentucky is known for its mutton, and Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro goes through more than 10,000 pounds of the gamey, fatty meat per week—dousing it with vinegar-based dip and hickory-smoking it for hours.
Q: Where’s the oldest BBQ restaurant in Texas?
A: Southside Market & BBQ in Elgin has been serving its famous all-beef hot-gut sausages since 1882. The links are still ground, seasoned and stuffed in the back, and smoked in oak-fired brick pits.
Q: Can you eat BBQ if you’re vegetarian or vegan?
A: Homegrown Smoker in Portland, Oregon gives vegans a taste of BBQ magic with plant-based takes on traditional comfort food, from “buff thwings” and smoked soy curls to tempeh ribs and “macnocheese.”
Q: Is there a time to best celebrate BBQ?
A: May is National BBQ month, and May 16 is National BBQ Day. But you can celebrate anytime by visiting your favorite BBQ restaurant. Or, if you’d prefer, fire up your own BBQ, break out your special recipes and get some mouthwatering deliciousness started!