Some people are fairly ignorant about barbecue. I remember sitting in my dining hall one day and telling my friends to get me a specific bag of barbecue chips. They were confused because they thought a barbecue chip is a barbecue chip so I had to explain that I didn't like Memphis flavoring on my chips, only Carolina or Kansas City. And they literally had no idea that there were different types of barbecue.

Sure, I may be spoiled because my dad has a smoker so we've experimented with plenty of kinds of barbecue. But, I digress. Every American should be fully educated on the types of barbecue around our country. 

Lately we've been starting to recognize how terrible Christopher Columbus actually was, but he did get one thing right: he and his fellow explorers brought barbecue to the Americas. No, I'm not giving him full credit. The indigenous people that Columbus encountered developed the method of cooking meat over an open flame, but Columbus was crucial in the spread of that tactic that we all now know as barbecue. 

Now, barbecue has made its way across the US and different regions have made the practice of smoking meat over a flame their own, whether it be by meat choice or sauce type. 

Kansas City

When you think barbecue sauce, you're probably thinking Kansas City sauce, even if you don't know what Kansas City barbecue sauce is. Kansas City is commonly known as the Barbecue Capital of the World, so it's no wonder that this is the most popular barbecue. There, they don't limit themselves to a type of meat. Instead, they have a signature sauce, which is thick and sweet. 


pork, beef
Tori Weber

If you associate barbecue with pork, then you've been living your life under the regime of Carolina barbecue. Pork butt, pork thigh, pork shoulder, ribs, or the entire pig, the Carolinas don't discriminate. However, a disparity exists between the sauce used in North Carolina versus South Carolina. Down in the South they prefer a mustard-based sauce, whereas in the North their sauce is ketchup-based. 

St. Louis

Yet another place to go to get your pork fix, St. Louis is famous for the way they cook their pig. The ribs are more rectangular than others and they also barbecue the pig snouts and cheeks. They also have their own signature sauce, tomato-based with vinegar and horseradish. 


Ever heard of wet versus dry barbecue? If so, you were probably in the realm of Memphis barbecue. In Memphis, they're famous for their dry ribs, which is meat, seasoning, and no sauce. They also have a signature sauce that's sweet and tangy. If you aren't super into the idea of dry ribs (and you're crazy), then you can get them slathered in Memphis sauce.


How can you not associate Texas with cows? True to its stereotypes, Texas barbecue is your typical beef brisket. While you may assume that most of Texas' culinary influence comes from their neighbors to the south, they actually learned their beef brisket tactic from the German immigrants who lived there in the early 19th century. If you travel to Eastern Texas, they'll mix up the meat game a little and use both beef and pork for barbecue sandwiches. 


What makes the barbecue in Alabama unique isn't the meat or how it's served, but rather the sauce they use. Instead of your traditional barbecue sauce, the sauce in Alabama is white and mayonnaise-based, with pepper, salt, lemon juice, horseradish sauce, and apple cider vinegar. 


Betcha didn't know that Florida has its own special type of barbecue, did you? True to their fishy roots, Floridian barbecue is known for their smoked mullet, a flaky fish that Floridians have been smoking for ages. Unfortunately, this fish is no longer as available as it once was, making this delicacy a rare treat. 


Since the beginning of the 19th century Kentucky has been a huge sheep place. Alas, the meat of choice in Kentucky barbecue is mutton aka sheep meat. You can sauce it however you like, but if you go to Kentucky for some barbecue, do your best to not think of cute little baby lambs. 


Good lookin' pig

TimWilson on Flickr

Let's not leave this to the contiguous states. Hawaii also has its own take on barbecue. The pop culture images of whole pigs over open flames on the beaches of Hawaii actually aren't far off. In Hawaii, they cook a whole pig seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt over an open flame. If the image of the full pig grosses you out, don't fret. When they serve it, they shred it so you can go back to pretending you aren't eating Wilbur the pig.

The next time you get a fixin' for some barbecue, you can feel extremely educated and know exactly what you want. While you may not have the means to travel all over the United States, many restaurants serve all types of barbecue and it's just as delicious as if you were in its home town.