The craft of cooking meat over a wood fire has ancient roots around the globe, and there are about as many techniques for doing it as there are cultures in the world. In various regions of the United States alone, the term “barbecue” can conjure drastically different images, from the cut of meat down to the ingredients in the sauce (or lack thereof). The best barbecue spots all have one thing in common, however – they serve up mouthwatering smoked meats. (Backyard barbecue is a whole different thing – basically grilling. That’s the kind features in these tips for the perfect barbecue from the experts.)
To assemble a list of the top barbecue spots in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed and extrapolated from listings, rankings, and reviews on numerous websites, including Thrillist, Insider, Lonely Planet, Gayot, Eater, Food & Wine, The Culture Trip, and Mashed, as well as Southern Living, Texas Monthly, and other regionally focused sites.
Many of the barbecue spots on our list have a cult following, and their customers are willing to wait in line for hours to get their share. Numerous Texas pit houses are only open during a brief window on select days before they sell out. Some are family-owned establishments that have been passed down for generations, while others are new establishments headed by enthusiastic young pitmasters.
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From Texas to Kansas City to the Lowlands of South Carolina, the best barbecue spots in America represent a rich and diverse culinary heritage. Central Texas-style barbecue tends to focus on beef – especially brisket and ribs – and is characterized by a salt and pepper dry rub. The briskets are generally cooked slowly at low temperatures over indirect heat, often with oak or pecan wood. Sauce is sometimes served on the side, but not always.
Kansas City-style barbecue, on the other hand, is characterized by a sweet, tomato-based sauce slathered on various cuts of meat including turkey, pork shoulder, beef, pork ribs, and chicken. East Carolina barbecue is usually pulled pork made from a whole smoked hog, with a vinegar-based sauce, while Memphis-style focuses on the pork shoulder and ribs, and can come dry-rubbed or brushed with sauce. (The South – which is home to most of the best barbecue spots – is an area rich in other culinary traditions as well. Here are 20 iconic Southern foods every American should try.
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