June 16, 2015

What's The Difference Between Regional Barbecue Sauces?

Barbecue sauce varies widely between regions in the U.S.

Barbecue sauce varies widely between regions in the U.S.

As any Texas culinary arts student knows, the secret to great barbecue lies in the sauce. And, typical of classic American fare (hot dogs, anyone?), preferences for this king of condiments vary widely between regions. From the Lone Star State to the shores of North Carolina, you can find great barbecue doused in sauces that are sweet, savory, tangy or just plain delicious. But before you crown one style of regional sauce your favorite, get to know how they differ:

Texas
Of course, we’ll start with Texas, that bastion of mouth-watering barbecue. Here you’ll find brisket infused with quintessential Texan flavors like chili powder. Basically, be ready for some serious spice – Texans don’t do anything halfway.

Kansas City, Missouri
OK, let’s talk KC. Sauces here are a little sweeter, and usually have a molasses-like quality to them. When making your own, you’ll likely use ingredients such as tomatoes, brown sugar and onions. That doesn’t mean residents of Kansas City don’t like their barbecue to have any kick to it, though – feel free to throw in some black pepper and hot sauce too.

North Carolina
The barbecue sauce in North Carolina may appear to be going through a sort of identity crisis, but they’re still delicious. Barbecue aficionados in the Tar Heel State staunchly fall into one of two categories: Eastern-style devotees or fans of Lexington-style sauce. Both versions of the condiment have a base of vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt, but Lexington barbecue throws in some ketchup or tomato paste for additional sweetness.

Alabama
No Alabama tailgate is complete without some pulled-pork sandwiches, and no pulled-pork sandwich is complete without the state’s signature white barbecue sauce. Mayonnaise is what gives this sauce its unusual color, but it also contains ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar and black pepper.

South Carolina
Speaking of unusual barbecue sauces, South Carolina residents prefer theirs to be mustard-based. As you can imagine, this gives the sauce a unique yellowish color, which separates it from its red-hued counterparts that you’ll find elsewhere in the U.S.

Memphis, Tennessee
The barbecue in Memphis is tangy and thin, which makes it very different from is Kansas City competitors. While the sauce is also tomato-based and contains brown sugar, it includes mustard and vinegar among its ingredients as well. Side note: There’s a heated rivalry between Kansas City and Memphis barbecue, so if you find yourself in the region, be sure not to pick sides unless you can make a compelling argument for your favorite!