Special Report

The BBQ Capitals of America

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A handful of places in America are more closely associated with barbecue than with any other food. But increasingly, more and more cities are getting in on the ‘cue game, and nowadays just about every major city (and some minor ones) from coast to coast is home to real-deal, slow-smoked barbecue.  

Any self-proclaimed barbecue lover can name America’s top barbecue cities – and the type of BBQ most closely associated with it – off the top of their head. Kansas City, for example, is known for its ribs, burnt ends, and sweet, sticky sauce. In St. Louis, the ribs are usually sauce-slathered and charcoal grilled. And in Memphis, dry-rubbed ribs and pulled pork rule the day. These cities are home to many of the best BBQ spots in America

Zoom out a little and you’ll find that entire regions of the country are also associated with specific barbecue styles. The Hill Country of Texas is all about beef brisket, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and in the Carolinas hogs are smoked whole before being doused with either a vinegar- or mustard-based sauce. (This is the best BBQ joint in every state.)

Countless small towns across America, especially in the South, are home to world-class barbecue joints, but if you head to the city you’ll discover that, increasingly frequently, chefs and pitmasters aren’t finding themselves beholden to whatever barbecue style happens to be most associated with the region. You’ll find great Texas-style brisket in New York and Los Angeles, for example, and in many cities, the BBQ on offer doesn’t conform to any specific regional style at all.  

To determine the best cities for BBQ in 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed “2022’s Best BBQ Cities in America,” a ranking published by LawnStarter, a lawn-care startup that conducts research into city and state amenities. The site judged cities according to 17 individual metrics, weighted differently, in four overall categories. Those categories were access (number of smokehouses and barbecue cooking teams per square mile), quality (average consumer ratings for smokehouses and cooking teams, among other factors), accolades (number of award-winning and top-rated cooking teams in various BBQ contests), and hosting (number of barbecue competitions and festivals). 

Click here to see the best cities for BBQ in 2022

LawnStarter drew information from eight other sites, including Grillocracy, Kansas City Barbeque Society, and National Barbecue and Grilling Association. Our list covers the nation’s top 30 cities for BBQ according to LawnStarter.

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30. Las Vegas, NV
> Access rank: 19/200
> Quality rank: 31/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 24.22/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

29. Wichita, KS
> Access rank: 70/200
> Quality rank: 5/200
> Accolades rank: 57/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 24.76/100

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

28. Jackson, MS
> Access rank: 12/200
> Quality rank: 66/200
> Accolades rank: 35/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 24.96/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

27. Macon, GA
> Access rank: 24/200
> Quality rank: 8/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 25.02/100

Source: sanfel / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

26. Orange, CA
> Access rank: 7/200
> Quality rank: 58/200
> Accolades rank: 48/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 25.26/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

25. Louisville, KY
> Access rank: 22/200
> Quality rank: 17/200
> Accolades rank: 53/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 25.45/100

Source: rodclementphotography / iStock via Getty Images

24. Atlanta, GA
> Access rank: 26/200
> Quality rank: 88/200
> Accolades rank: 17/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 25.65/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

23. Birmingham, AL
> Access rank: 10/200
> Quality rank: 34/200
> Accolades rank: 71/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 25.99/100

Source: DenisTangneyJr / E+ via Getty Images

22. Buffalo, NY
> Access rank: 6/200
> Quality rank: 62/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 26.24/100

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21. Lubbock, TX
> Access rank: 15/200
> Quality rank: 125/200
> Accolades rank: 27/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 26.5/100

Source: Art Wager / iStock via Getty Images

20. Honolulu, HI
> Access rank: 5/200
> Quality rank: 64/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 26.76/100

Source: dangarneau / iStock via Getty Images

19. Des Moines, IA
> Access rank: 147/200
> Quality rank: 36/200
> Accolades rank: 5/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 26.87/100

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18. Montgomery, AL
> Access rank: 39/200
> Quality rank: 11/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 27.25/100

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

17. Savannah, GA
> Access rank: 9/200
> Quality rank: 90/200
> Accolades rank: 36/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 27.93/100

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

16. Tampa, FL
> Access rank: 4/200
> Quality rank: 75/200
> Accolades rank: 65/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 28.31/100

Source: Mlenny / E+ via Getty Images

15. Raleigh, NC
> Access rank: 115/200
> Quality rank: 25/200
> Accolades rank: 10/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 28.34/100

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14. Minneapolis, MN
> Access rank: 62/200
> Quality rank: 40/200
> Accolades rank: 9/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 28.97/100

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13. Cincinnati, OH
> Access rank: 34/200
> Quality rank: 14/200
> Accolades rank: 24/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 29.03/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

12. Richmond, VA
> Access rank: 21/200
> Quality rank: 93/200
> Accolades rank: 13/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 29.16/100

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

11. Little Rock, AR
> Access rank: 38/200
> Quality rank: 12/200
> Accolades rank: 19/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 30.06/100

Source: Art Wager / iStock via Getty Images

10. Houston, TX
> Access rank: 66/200
> Quality rank: 27/200
> Accolades rank: 8/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 30.1/100

Source: Kruck20 / iStock via Getty Images

9. Chattanooga, TN
> Access rank: 3/200
> Quality rank: 54/200
> Accolades rank: 81/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 31.37/100

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8. Austin, TX
> Access rank: 8/200
> Quality rank: 59/200
> Accolades rank: 25/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 31.53/100

Source: Cheri Alguire / iStock via Getty Images

7. Kansas City, KS
> Access rank: 58/200
> Quality rank: 111/200
> Accolades rank: 3/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 36.13/100

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6. Overland Park, KS
> Access rank: 130/200
> Quality rank: 3/200
> Accolades rank: 4/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 36.27/100

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / iStock via Getty Images

5. Orlando, FL
> Access rank: 1/200
> Quality rank: 39/200
> Accolades rank: 37/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 36.65/100

Source: JTGrafix / iStock via Getty Images

4. Springfield, MO
> Access rank: 18/200
> Quality rank: 71/200
> Accolades rank: 7/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 37.11/100

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3. Chicago, IL
> Access rank: 118/200
> Quality rank: 45/200
> Accolades rank: 2/200
> Hosting rank: 13/200
> Overall score: 37.27/100

Source: TriggerPhoto / iStock via Getty Images

2. Kansas City, MO
> Access rank: 95/200
> Quality rank: 18/200
> Accolades rank: 1/200
> Hosting rank: 2/200
> Overall score: 46.45/100

Source: Art Wager / iStock via Getty Images

1. St. Louis, MO
> Access rank: 2/200
> Quality rank: 6/200
> Accolades rank: 6/200
> Hosting rank: 48/200
> Overall score: 49.41/100

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