Confused by all the styles of barbecue? Here are some basics
arbecue means different things to different people. Try to avoid comparing your backyard cookout with a pitmaster’s rituals of seasoning, grilling and smoking. The are not the same thing.
Some of us cook outdoors to accommodate a big family gathering and avoid heating up the house. But for true barbecue aficionados, a lengthy process is often required, one that involves procuring and preparing the right cut of meat using spices, herbs, rubs, brines and marinades. Once preparation is complete, the meat is either quickly grilled over intense flame to produce a char, or slowly smoked over indirect heat using specialty woods resulting in a smoky taste.
When it comes to smoking, “low and slow” is how it’s done, with temperatures ranging from 225-275 degrees Fahrenheit. Over many hours, this level of heat breaks down the toughest cuts of meat until it falls off the bone and melts in your mouth, bursting with smokiness.
While barbecue-worshipping Southerners would argue that the average American backyard cook-out should even be labeled “barbecue,” they also can’t agree among themselves what true Southern barbecue is. State by state, region by region, traditions vary.
Utah restaurants and pitmasters are not bound by strict definitions and can offer eclectic mixes such as St. Louis ribs and Texas brisket, or throw in some original creations or other types of cuisine (Thai curry?). So, savor the variety!
What follows are regional descriptions of barbecue styles, along with specialties and local eateries where you can sample the style of cookin’ that most appeals to your taste buds.
• Primarily pork, notably ribs
• Wet sauce is mopped on ribs before and after pit cooking to keep meat moist.
• Dry ribs are seasoned with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, sugar and other spices.
• Sandwiches are typically pulled pork on a bun, topped with coleslaw and barbecue sauce.
• Sauce has a peppery tomato base thickened and sweetened with molasses or sugar
Meat specialties: Pork ribs, pulled-pork sandwich
Local taste: SugarHouse Barbeque Co. pulled pork sandwich and signature pork spare ribs
• Whole hog is barbecued
• Lexington-style chops pork shoulder and douses it with a vinegar-and-ketchup-based sauce
• Eastern style: Meat is chopped or sliced, covered in a peppery vinegar
• Sides include coleslaw, red slaw and hush puppies
Meat specialties: Pork shoulder or ribs
Local taste: Charlotte-Rose’s Carolina BBQ baby-back ribs with vinegar sauce
• It’s all about the pig, either chopped or sliced.
• Central South Carolina uses a tangy mustard-based sauce thinned with vinegar known as Carolina Gold
• The state’s western section prefers a heavy sweet, peppery, tomato-based sauce.
• The coastal Pee Dee region features a thinner vinegar sauce that’s spicy and peppery.
Meat specialties: Ham or pork butt
Local taste: Charlotte-Rose’s Carolina BBQ pulled pork sandwich with SC mustard sauce
• Includes a wide variety of meats including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, sausage and lamb
• Meat is dry rubbed, then smoked over hickory
• Served with a table sauce that’s made thick and tangy with molasses and tomato
A meat specialty: Burnt ends, the end of a cut of brisket with a high fat content
Local taste: Goodwood Barbecue Co. burnt-ends brisket
• Texas barbecue is about the beef (not the sauce) especially the brisket.
• The Germans and Czechs brought meat-market-style of barbecue to central Texas, which is known for pit-style barbecue. Meat is dry rubbed using salt, pepper and possibly other spices, then cooked over indirect heat over oak, pecan or mesquite woods. Some cuts are basted with savory mop sauce made of beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire and spices. Sauce is served on the side.
• In East Texas, beef or pork are marinated in a sweet, tomato based sauce, then slowly cooked until falling off the bone. Meat is usually chopped, not sliced, then served on a bun with hot sauce.
A meat specialty: Beef brisket
Local taste: Bam Bam’s beef brisket sandwich; SugarHouse Barbeque Co.’s Texas chopped beef
• All about the pig: pork shoulder, butt or ribs.
• Northern Alabama boasts its own white sauce that’s made with mayonnaise, cider vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish, salt, pepper and hot sauce (see p. 17).
• Sauce is applied liberally on smoked chicken and pork.
• Sides include baked beans, coleslaw and potato chips
Meat specialty: Pulled-pork sandwich with white sauce
Local taste: SugarHouse Barbeque Co. smoked turkey breast sandwich with ‘Bama sauce
• Refers to spare ribs that are grilled (as opposed to slow smoked) then heavily sauced in a sweet, sticky, tomato-based sauce.
• St. Louis-style spare ribs are cut to remove the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips to form a rectangular-shaped rack. This cut of ribs became known as St. Louis Style.
Meat-specialty: St. Louis ribs
Local taste: Goodwood Barbecue Co. St. Louis ribs
Dip, Dab & Slather
Spread this tangy, mayo-based condiment over chicken and any barbecue dish
By Darby Doyle
Think of it as the ranch dressing of the Deep South. I had my first addicting taste of this pale-golden elixir circa 1990 while I attended college in Memphis, Tenn. A friend from Huntsville, Ala., proudly shared a jar of his homemade sauce to marinate and slather on grilled chicken and smoked pork during a hot and humid summer afternoon with friends. The tangy white sauce studded with lots of cracked black peppercorn cut the richness of smoked pork butt and cranked the juiciness of the chicken to 11. Cut with a little more vinegar, it’s a primo salad dressing or coleslaw binder. And it’s a superlative dip for anything deep fried: okra, pickles or french fries—especially if served with a cold draft beer. College keg party nostalgia optional. Note: No Southerner worth his or her salt would make this with anything but Duke’s mayonnaise (available online).
Alabama-style White Barbecue Sauce (makes about 3 cups)
2 cups mayonnaise
1 ¼ cups apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 heaping tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
(use a mortar & pestle or set a grinder to the coarsest setting possible)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon onion powder
Add all ingredients to a quart mason jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Taste, and adjust seasoning (err toward more pepper!). Keep refrigerated for up to a week.
1708 S. State, Orem
571 W. 2600 South, Bountiful
Goodwood Barbecue Co.
113 E. 12300 South, Draper, 801-495-4840
4237 S. Riverdale Road, Riverdale, 801-393-0426
SugarHouse Barbeque Co.
880 E. 2100 South, SLC