In my mind, no other style of cooking in the world is as diverse, personal, or as absolutely delicious as barbecue. This timeless style of cooking has been filling bellies and having people lick their lips since cooking involved nothing more than a spit, a fire, and a hunk of freshly prepared meat. And as Filipinos, we love eating our barbecue dipped in soy sauce with calamansi or vinegar with plenty of onions and chili. That is why there are plenty of stalls selling barbecue all over the country.
Today, barbecue has become a staple of cuisine that is enjoyed the world over, and isn’t confined to any one demographic or geographic area. When it comes down to it, just about everyone loves barbecue, and every culture has their own unique take on what they feel entails barbecue. But while there are hundreds of thousands of different recipes, different methods of preparing the food for cooking, and even different instruments used to actually introduce the flame to heat, they’re all united by a passionate devotion to one of the most delectable styles of food you can find.
If you’re new to the world of barbecue cooking, I really envy you! There’s nothing like the first time you lift that half rack of ribs or that chicken breast to your mouth, take a big bit, and enjoy the wonderful flavors that tickle your taste buds, as the wonderful, smoky aroma fills the air. There’s an entire world waiting for you, and I’m going to help you get started. Once you’ve sampled some of these wonderful varieties that barbecue offers, I suggest you start crafting your own barbecue recipes, establish your own website or blog, and start sharing your creations with the world!
Memphis Style Barbecue
Originating in the city that taught America how to sing the blues, Memphis style barbecue is filled with as much spice, flavor, and soul as the music that goes along with it. Memphis style can be summed up in one word that will pretty much tell you everything you can expect with this legendary style – spice.
Using recipes that have been refined and passed down for generations, Memphis style often uses dry rubs that are based in paprika, crushed red peppers, garlic, and other exotic spices, to leave a delightful burn on the tongue, without searing your taste buds. Often topped off with a tomato-based sauce that’s rounded out with tangy and smoky flavors, and served with a host of great sides and desserts (including some of the best pies around), Memphis style barbecue will serve as the perfect introduction to just what all the rage around barbecue is really all about.
Pork is the meat of choice in Memphis style, and the more finely pulled it is, the better.
North Carolina Style
Taking the opposite approach to Memphis, North Carolina barbecue is all about creating an experience that doesn’t hit you full blast up front, but instead relies on varied flavors and smooth blending to create unique, incredibly flavorful meals that continue to linger on your tongue, long after the meal is over.
Contrasting again with Memphis, North Carolina barbecue bases its incredible sauces in vinegar, combined with more tangy flavors like cayenne, salt, black pepper, and other spices to round out the flavor. While it can be used on anything, the preferred meat used in this style is pork, and when it comes to North Carolina, no part of the pig is off limits. In fact, it’s not unusual at all to see an entire hog being roasted and coated with these wonderfully savory sauces prior to a meal.
Kansas City Style
Not to be outdone by their brothers and sisters in the Eastern United States, the smokers and grillers of Kansas City have developed a unique flavor all their own, and let me tell you, it is incredible.
Kansas City style has the distinction of relying less on their sauces, and more on the actual act of cooking their meats to give their still its original, smokey flavor. Hickory wood chips and other natural fuels come into play to add a natural flavor to these amazing dishes, and whereas Memphis and North Carolina love to get your plate to you quick, Kansas City style takes its time, and makes you savor the meal to come.
Slow cooking and gradual changes are key in Kansas City style. It’s common to see meats and vegetables left on a grill at lower temperatures for hours on end, being served only when the meat is tender, juicy, and just right. I promise – it’s well worth the wait.
There’s no one particular meat that reigns supreme in Kansas City barbecue, and the general rule is that if you can grill it, you can barbecue with it.
Central Texas Style
As any Texan, and they’ll tell you, everything’s bigger in Texas, and that definitely holds true for their wholly original way of creating memorable barbecue dishes. Drawing on the traditions of the German and Czechoslovakian immigrants who settled there in the 1800’s, Central Texas style is all about packing as much meat as you can onto a single plate. For that reason, you’ll see heaping servings literally spilling over the plate, leaving little to no room for side dishes.
This inspired barbecue style is centered around the charring of the meat, while retaining a tender, juicy center. This results in meat that tastes exactly like what you’d imagine food cooked over an open flame would be, but if you have to chew more than a few times, then the cook messed up. This is some of the most tender, flavorful barbecue there is, and when done right, the food will almost melt in your mouth.
While many different meats are used, brisket is the King of the Hill in Central Texas barbecue and cooks are very skilled in separating the fattier bits from the lean meat, so no matter if you want lean and flavorful, or fat and juicy, the fine citizens of Texas will give you exactly what you’re looking for.
I told that barbecue was loved the world over, right? This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one style that came from somewhere completely outside of the U.S., and I believe they give the Yanks more than a run for their money.
Korean barbecue is definitely unique from its American counterparts in several ways. First all all, Korean style cooking often has the meat continuing to cook while you eat it. Using smaller, plate-sized grill tops means that your chicken, beef, or pork is not only delivered fresh and hot to your table, but you can really choose how well done you want each piece to be.
Eschewing the tomato and vinegar bases used in the States, Korean barbecue uses those incredibly sweet, yet salty, flavors that make them such a staple of Asian cuisine to create these unique flavor. Teriyaki, soy sauce, and the fabled white “yum yum” sauce are just a few examples of the incredibly diverse ingredients used to craft these amazing meals.