Southern Barbecue 101: Your Complete Guide to Regional BBQ in the US


It’s true. Americans love their barbecue. 

Even if some mistakenly call grilling barbecue. (They actually love both) 

Barbequing involves slow-cooking meat. Which helps tenderize the meat to melt-off-the-bone doneness.

Barbecue is served up across the country. And many areas have their own style. Such as Santa Maria-style which is salt-and-garlic dry-rubbed tri-tip beef rumps cooked over red oak

But you’ll be hard-pressed to find an area who takes barbecuing more seriously than in the south. There it is best to not argue over who makes the best. Just enjoy the diverse flavors of southern barbecue and don’t forget to thank the cook. 

Here’s what you need to know about their unique regional flavors and traditions. 

North Carolina

North Carolina-style barbecue is all about the pork. In the eastern part of the state, they cook their hogs whole. Low and slow until it is falling off the bone. Then it is pulled off the bone and chopped or shredded into bite-sized pieces of succulence. 

In Lexington or Piedmont, barbecue pitmasters use pork shoulders rather than the whole hog. They serve their pulled pork with some Red Slaw alongside. Red slaw is a slaw made with ketchup rather than mayo. 

The sauce of choice in North Carolina is vinegar-based. In the east, the sauce is vinegar and pepper. In the west, they also add tomato sauce. 

South Carolina

Like its neighbor to the north, South Carolina is known for their bbq pork. Whole hog and pork shoulders smoked over hardwood. But here they’ll serve it up with “Carolina Gold” which is a mustard-based sauce.

In the midland area, their sides of choice are hash and rice.

Tennessee (Memphis)

In Memphis style bbq, you can get your pork ribs prepared either dry, wet or muddy. Dry refers to ribs rubbed with a dry rub only prior to cooking, no sauce added. Wet ribs are coated with sauce prior to cooking and then again after to glaze the rubs (and muddy is when they sprinkle dry rub on them after).

Tennessee barbeque is also well known for its pulled pork sandwiches. And coleslaw. Which is either served on top of their pulled pork or on the side with ribs.


When being served Alabama barbecue, your bbq smoked ribs, shoulder or chicken will be offered along with their famous white sauce. A mayonnaise and vinegar-based sauce.

Missouri (Kansas City)

Missouri-style barbecue incorporates a wider range of meats. You can find pork, ribs, beef brisket (or just burnt ends), chicken, mutton, lamb and sausage. Burnt ends are the tips of the brisket which contains lots of juicy marbling.

Kansas City bbq sauce is tomato-based and is the kind most Americans think of when they hear “bbq sauce”. Which makes it a great BBQ Catering choice. The sauce is thick and on the sweeter side with just enough vinegar to provide balance.


In Central Texas, they love their beef brisket dry-rubbed with salt and pepper, then smoked over oak or mesquite. 

In the east, they cook their beef and pork over hickory wood and serve it chopped over sliced with a tomato-based sauce. Their sauce is sweet but not as sweet as Kansas City’s.

In Hill Country to the west, they cook their meat directly over mesquite wood, rather than indirectly. 

Try Some Southern Barbecue Soon

Now that you know that southern barbecue includes many different kinds of proteins, rubs, and sauces, make a point of visiting restaurants who specialize in them in your home town or while traveling. Or look online for recipes to try.

For more great articles for food and drink ideas, check out our site. We’ve got’em for you and more.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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