Kansas City is known for many things, like its World Series-winning baseball team, the hundreds of fountains, the historic Union Station, and the shopping mecca that is the Country Club Plaza. Most importantly, however, this city is know for it’s famous barbecue. But what makes KC’s barbecue stand out from the rest? Barbecue is prepared in different ways throughout the nation, so here are a few of the most popular styles and how they compare to KC's famous 'cue.

Kansas City

Since Henry Perry first opened his smoked-meat stand in the Garment District in 1908, hundreds of renowned barbecue joints have opened all around Kansas City. What makes KC barbecue different from other regions is that a variety of meats are used. From beef, pork, chicken, and sausage, no meat is off limits! Thankfully we’ve strayed away from the smoked raccoon, possum, and woodchuck that was served in Perry’s time. Also, the city is known for using a sweet, tomato and molasses based sauce For a true taste of traditional Kansas City bbq, take a trip to Oklahoma Joe's, Gates Bar-B-Q, or Arthur Bryant's Barbeque (plus many others!).

St. Louis

Of course, we can’t talk about Kansas City without talking about it’s eastern-Missouri counterpart, St. Louis! St. Louisians are a bit pickier when it comes to their barbecue-- pork is the main meat used in a majority of dishes. A few delicacies include pork shoulder, “crispy snoots” (barbecued pig cheeks and snouts), and pork ribs. Meats are grilled and then sauced, contrasting the more common method of dry-rubbed then slow-smoked. Fun fact: St. Louis is said to consume more barbecue sauce than any other city in the United States.


Just like St. Louis, Memphis, Tennessee is a city of pork-lovers. This style of barbecue is slow-cooked in a pit and served either “dry” or “wet”. As you can guess, “dry” means meat served with a dry rub of various spices, while “wet’ means meat served covered in barbecue sauce. The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held here each May. Teams compete in categories such as “Best Whole Hog”, “Best Ribs”, and “Best Sauce”. If you buy tickets to the event you get to taste AND judge the food!

The Carolinas

North and South Carolina are no strangers to good barbecue. In North Carolina, two distinct styles predominate, and for centuries there has been a major dispute over which style is truly the best. Lexington-style uses only the pork shoulder of the pig. This style is served with a "red" sauce that is seasoned with ketchup, vinegar, and pepper, along with other spices that vary from recipe to recipe. Eastern-style barbecue uses a whole-hog, and the sauce is vinegar- and pepper-based, with no tomato whatsoever.  If you're a history buff, here's an article that explains how these two styles came to be and how barbecue is a defining part of North Carolinian culture.

Each region and state puts its own unique twist on their barbecue, using different sauces, cooking techniques, and meats. Which style do you prefer? Sounds like this decision may call for a road trip!