Six Distinctive Styles of Barbecue

Comparing the various styles of barbecue is akin to comparing one’s children. It’s totally unfair because each–whether cooking style or human being–is unique.

If you’ve ever had barbecue in Mexico or the Caribbean, you might not even have recognized it as such compared to the Kansas City style. Then there’s the Southern style (particularly as expressed in South Carolina), which is an entirely different animal–figuratively and, in some cases, literally as well.

There are two different types of barbecue aficionados: those who embrace a singular style and decry all others, and those who enjoy discovering different preparations and flavors. Those who fall into the latter category are rewarded for their open-mindedness with a plethora of palate-pleasing experiences.

Here’s a look at the six most famous and favored barbecue styles, just in case you have a trip coming up…

  • Mexico/Caribbean: The barbacoa (pit-smoked meat) and carne asada (barbecued beef) is seasoned with a dry rub consisting of salt, chile and allspice, then served with chile sauce on the side.

  • Kansas City: A sweet, peppery sauce is applied while the pork ribs, turkey or chicken is cooking. Barbecue gourmands ask for “burnt ends” of beef or pork.

  • South Carolina: While the meat (often pork shoulder and ribs, and sometimes a whole pig) is cooking, a unique sauce made out of vinegar, brown sugar and mustard is applied.

  • Texas: Beef brisket or German-style sausages are cooked separately, with a tomato or chile sauce added afterward.

  • Hawaii: The sauces used on beef brisket or pulled pork vary, from pineapple-based to teriyaki, and from tomato to chile. All sauces are applied after cooking.

  • California: For an in-depth look at Santa Maria-style barbecue, be sure to check back here tomorrow.


An important aspect of each regional style is the cooking method.

In Mexico, oak or mesquite embers are used.

In the Caribbean, pimiento wood is favored.

In Texas and South Carolina, oak or pecan may be used, along with mesquite in Texas and hickory in South Carolina.

In Hawaii, native tropical woods are employed, while in California, red oak is preferred.

Only in Kansas City is wood often eschewed in favor of a simple gas flame.

*** As Grilling Week continues tomorrow, we take you to California’s beautiful Santa Maria Valley.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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