How to Barbecue – A Short History and Instruction in Barbecue – Part 3

(Following is the third of a series of articles intended to give a historical and practical perspective to the art of how to barbecue.)

In our last article we found ourselves in 19th century America, discussing the variations on the barbecue theme in separate parts of the American South. We learned that, for the most part, pork was the meat of choice, and that there were four basic types of barbecue sauces. They are: light or heavy tomato-based, mustard-based, and vinegar-based. An interesting bit of trivia is that South Carolina is the only state which includes consistent representation of all four.

Most of the South and Southeastern US chops or slices their barbecue, but we discussed how farther toward the west the pork was “pulled”, with the meat being hand-shredded after the same type of slow-cooking with sauce added afterward. This reaches its height with the style of cooking known as “Memphis Barbecue,” which was also embraced alongside more traditional barbecue in Mississippi and Alabama.

The separate states really differentiated themselves primarily with the barbecue sauce recipes and the side dishes served with their barbecue. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama favor the red tomato-based sauces, though Alabamans tend to prefer their sauce a little spicier. Northern Alabama also boasts a delicious white sauce composed of a vinegar-base with the addition of mayonnaise. The rubs which have become very popular recently were more common in western Tennessee and in Kentucky, where it wasn’t unusual to serve the barbecue sauce on the side.

In the Carolinas you would likely have a serving of cole slaw and hush puppies along with your barbecue. If you take the mayonnaise out of the cole slaw and substitute vinegar, ketchup and black pepper you would be right at home in North Carolina with your “barbecue slaw.” Sounds tasty, doesn’t it? Other sides, varying by region and state, included the foods which we expect at today’s barbecue picnic. You’d find not only slaws, but baked beans, egg salad, deviled eggs, cornbread, potato chips, French fries, and even hot dogs and hamburgers just in case you needed a little change in your grilled meat offerings.

When we return, we will go beyond the “Barbecue Belt,” as we continue to explore the history of how to barbecue, we’ll talk about how beef became synonymous with the idea of barbecue in many parts of the world outside of the US. And we’ll get to the meat of things as we talk about how to barbecue ribs and how to barbecue chicken, too. Until then…

(to be continued…)