Barbecue isn’t just a “type” of food. In the US, it’s a cultural identity. The taste of the barbecue can determine location, region, and culture faster than you could look on a map! Each state has their own unique twist on barbecue and within each state depending on what part of the state you are in, can be uniquely different. And, each state fiercely claims the rights to the best barbecue you’ve ever had.
Have you ever found yourself staring at all the different barbecue sauce varieties on the store shelf, totally lost as to which one to buy? The list below will break down the good, the bad and the ugly state by state so you can decide which barbecue style and flavor will resonate with you the best.
In Chicago, the barbecue style tends to have a smoky, thin consistency, and just a little heat. Standard ingredients are ketchup, pineapple juice, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices. Good luck getting the secret spices out of a Chicago barbecue joint, if they tell you, you may just have to stay in Chicago forever!
Kansas City, MO
They take their time… cooking the sauce low and slow which results in a thick sauce perfect for slathering and dipping. You’ll find all the smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors in these versions typically made from a combination of ketchup, vinegar, molasses, garlic, oil, and spices.
This old city’s barbecue stands out as the most unique. Instead of sweet and smoky, they go creamy and tangy with their barbecue. Typical ingredients include mustard powder, horseradish, mayonnaise and sour cream.
Like Kansas, they like to take their time cooking their barbecue on low heat. However, just like their unique accent, their sauce also has a bit more twang. Ingredients such as cider vinegar, brown sugar, black pepper, Worcestershire, and spices create a slightly tangier sweet finish.
Moving over just one state can make a huge difference! In the west part of the state, they keep it traditionally tangy and sweet. In the east, they like their barbecue thinner with a more complex flavor profile of sweet, spicy, and tangy for dipping.
If you like a heavy sauce, then this is the place for you. This sauce is cooked on low for hours for a product that’s tangy with a hint of heat.
Like Baltimore, they also like their barbecue creamy but with the added lemon juice zing that gives it a unique acidic flare that you can’t find anywhere else. Other common ingredients include mayonnaise, black pepper, vinegar, sugar, and spices.
Who could forget the uniqueness of Texas barbecue? The secret is the tomato sauce which gives it a totally different base flavor; it’s a ketchup barbecue hybrid.
Santa Maria, CA
Even though you may not think of barbecue when you think California, one cannot forget about the west coast in southern California. They have perfected the art of simplicity. Their grilled barbecue generally features black pepper, garlic salt, and more salt.
Now you can pick a favorite or a couple of favorites to serve up at your next backyard barbecue. So instead of finding yourself lost at the food store trying to decipher the barbecue code while desperately trying to look it up on your phone, instead just stop at the nearest restaurant and order up some barbecue no matter where you are…. your taste buds will thank you!