Regional barbecue

That Maddening, Unmastered Map

I was not born in the South, but I suspect that some experts would blanch at the half-possible task of mapping out the crucial differences that make the ‘cue from one locale much different than others. The biggest challenge is that the tastes of customers are moving, changing, and blending together. You can find Memphis barbecue in Illinois and Mississippi BBQ in North Dakota. You can find Texas barbecue in Alaska. The problem, for someone like me, is that all of these regional variations, which can easily find passionate fans in all corners of America, are each so undeniably amazing. Would a Texas-style barbecue really refuse customers just because they wanted some sauce on their brisket? Can a Carolina BBQ joint sell a brisket sandwich? Yes and no, which roughly resembles all of the infuriating answers to my regional barbecue questions. Does Memphis serve their barbecue without sauce on it? Is Carolina BBQ defined by whole hog pork or do they favor smoke pork shoulders? Is Kansas City known more for wet rub than for dry rub meat? Yes and no. Or, if you’d prefer, “it depends.”

I've been thrown from this horse, but I'm going to stand up and get back on it. I have at least learned learned some things. The seasoning that makes up the dry rub is important. The ingredients that go into the barbecue sauce and the types of meat that go into the smoker are also important. Trying to figure out howwhen, and especially where these factors define barbecue? I will get back to you.

A Brief Coda: I do not write this to give the impression that Gomez BBQ is not aware of the broad strokes (and many of the minute differences) of regional American barbecue. We know the difference between Eastern NC pepper and vinegar sauce, Lexington style red sauce, and South Carolina mustard sauce. But we also know that, just as I am slowly learning, an Indianapolis-born barbecue that adheres to the traditions of another region may not be as authentic or tasty, and it may be better for my sanity and our food if we stuck to the Indianapolis Barbecue we work so hard to define. 

Matt Bastnagel has served barbecue alongside Michael Gomez at many events, and he writes the blog on this website as a way to spread the spirit of Gomez BBQ and bring more people to our meats.