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Who Has the Meats – The Best States for Barbecue

Grilling + Smoking
Grilling + Smoking
June 1, 2024
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Barbecue is a deeply rooted tradition in American culinary culture, varying widely across different states. The tender and delicious culinary masterpieces of meat from each region bring its unique flavors, techniques, and traditions to the table. From the tangy sauces of the Carolinas to the slow-cooked briskets of Texas, barbecue in America is both diverse and delectable. Not every state can or will compete, so let’s explore the top five states renowned for their approach to protein (in no particular order, so don’t burn anything down), each offering a unique experience that draws both locals and tourists alike to savor their specialties.



Texas is considered by some to be the king of barbecue, especially when it comes to beef brisket. The meat of Texas is characterized by the simple yet effective use of seasonings, primarily salt and pepper, allowing the slow-smoked meat to truly shine. Central Texas enjoys iconic status in the barbecue world, with historic locations in San Antonio, Austin and Lockhart where lines wrap around the block as people wait to taste the perfectly smoked meats. Whether it’s peppery briskets, succulent ribs, or juicy sausages, Texas barbecue is about as authentic as it gets.


North Carolina

North Carolina's claim to barbecue fame lies in its distinct regional styles. Eastern North Carolina is known for its vinegar-based sauce, enhancing the flavor of pulled pork smoked for hours. Meanwhile, Western North Carolina (or Lexington style to some) introduces a hint of ketchup to the vinegar sauce, giving it a sweet and tangy twist. As with the other entries on this list, barbecue in North Carolina is steeped in tradition, with generations of families honing the craft, making it a must-visit for any aficionado.


Missouri (Kansas City)

Kansas City barbecue is all about variety and the sauce. This style of barbecue welcomes all kinds of meats, but what sets it apart is the thick, sweet, and tangy sauce that is liberally applied. From burnt ends to spareribs, the meat is typically slowly smoked over a variety of woods and served with a sauce that can be both spicy and sweet. Kansas City also hosts the World Series of Barbecue, the largest competitive barbecue event in the world, solidifying its place as a top meat destination.



Tennessee, particularly Memphis, is a heavyweight in the American barbecue scene. Memphis is famous for its dry-rubbed ribs, which are often served without sauce or with sauce on the side, allowing the perfectly seasoned and smoked meat to stand out. The annual Memphis in May festival, specifically the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, draws large crowds and competitors from around the world, showcasing the city's deep-rooted and tradition focused meat culture.


South Carolina

South Carolina offers a unique take on Southern barbecue, particularly known for its mustard-based sauce, often referred to as "Carolina Gold." This tangy and sweet sauce pairs exceptionally well with pork, and the state’s diverse styles reflect the deep heritage of barbecue cooking with every bite. The Palmetto State’s barbecue features a variety of techniques, from whole-hog barbecues to carefully crafted ribs and pulled pork, ensuring there’s something for every palate.



Each of these states offers a unique barbecue experience, reflecting their historical and cultural significances in American traditions and ensuring delicious meat sweats for all. Whether you're a fan of juicy briskets, spicy ribs, or pulled pork, these top barbecue states provide a delectable tour of America's best flavors. As the culinary experience continues to evolve (or not change at all in some cases, we hope), these regions maintain their revered spots in the hearts of barbecue enthusiasts.

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