US Regional BBQ Guide: Discover Distinctive Styles
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Carolina Style BBQ
  2. Texas Style BBQ
  3. Kansas City Style BBQ
  4. Memphis Style BBQ
  5. Kentucky Style BBQ
  6. Hawaii Style BBQ
  7. Santa Maria Style BBQ
  8. St. Louis Style BBQ

Imagine you're taking a road trip across the United States. One of the must-do activities is sampling the local BBQ; but did you know each region has its own unique style? Let's go on a tasty adventure and explore these distinctive regional styles that make American BBQ truly one-of-a-kind.

Carolina Style BBQ

First stop on our BBQ journey: the Carolinas. This region is famous for its unique BBQ style, which revolves around pork. But it's not just about the meat—it's the sauce that sets Carolina BBQ apart.

  • Pulled Pork: The star of the show. In Carolina, they slow-cook whole hogs until the meat is tender enough to be easily 'pulled' apart. This is a labor of love and the resulting flavors are worth every minute.
  • Vinegar-based Sauce: Unlike other BBQ styles, Carolina sauce is vinegar-based. It's tangy, a bit spicy, and perfectly cuts through the richness of the pork. It's the defining feature that makes this one of the truly distinctive regional styles.
  • Mustard Sauce: In South Carolina, especially in the western parts, you'll find a variation that uses a mustard-based sauce. It's a bit sweet, tangy, and gives the BBQ an unmistakably golden hue.

So when you're in the Carolinas, don't just order 'BBQ'. Ask for the pulled pork with vinegar or mustard sauce, and get ready for a flavor explosion. Remember, it's these regional variations that make American BBQ so diverse and exciting.

Next time, we'll be heading west to the Lone Star State to taste the beefy goodness of Texas Style BBQ. Stay tuned, BBQ lovers!

Texas Style BBQ

Howdy, BBQ fans! Let's mosey on over to the Lone Star State, where the BBQ scene is as big and bold as Texas itself. Here, it's all about the beef, specifically, smoked brisket. Texas Style BBQ is another one of those distinctive regional styles that sets the American BBQ landscape apart.

  • Smoked Brisket: Brisket rules in Texas. It's a tough cut of meat that, when cooked low and slow over wood, becomes incredibly tender and packed full of smoky flavor. It's a BBQ masterpiece that's well worth the wait.
  • Sausages: Another Texas BBQ staple is sausage, or as the locals call it, "hot guts". These are hand-made with a mix of beef and spices, smoked until juicy, and have a satisfying snap when you bite into them.
  • Thick, Sweet Sauce: Texans love their BBQ sauce. It's thick, sweet, and often has a hint of heat. The sauce is usually served on the side, because the meat is the star and the sauce is there to complement, not overpower.

So when in Texas, don't just settle for any old steak. Go for the smoked brisket or sausages, and make sure to try them with a side of that sweet, thick BBQ sauce. It's a culinary experience you won't want to miss.

Ready to continue the BBQ journey? Next stop: Kansas City, home of some of the best ribs in the country. Keep those napkins handy, because things are about to get messy!

Kansas City Style BBQ

If you're a fan of BBQ sauce, then Kansas City Style BBQ should be your next foodie destination! Known for its distinctive regional style, Kansas City offers a BBQ experience that will leave you licking your fingers and reaching for another napkin.

  • Slow-Smoked Meats: From pork ribs to beef brisket, Kansas City excels at slow-smoked meats. The low and slow cooking method results in tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness that's hard to resist.
  • Variety is the Spice of Life: While some regions stick to one or two types of meat, Kansas City isn't afraid to mix things up. You'll find a variety of meats on offer, including pork, beef, chicken, and even fish.
  • The Sauce: This is where Kansas City really shines. The sauce is typically thick, sweet, and tangy, with a tomato and molasses base. It's generously slathered on the meat during and after cooking, giving Kansas City BBQ its trademark glossy finish.

So, if you're ever in Kansas City, do yourself a favor and get a plate of slow-smoked ribs or brisket. And don't skimp on the sauce—it's a key part of the Kansas City BBQ experience!

But our BBQ journey doesn't end here. We're off to Memphis next, where the BBQ is so good, it's got its own style named after it. Are you ready to discover what makes Memphis Style BBQ so special?

Memphis Style BBQ

Next stop, Memphis! Memphis Style BBQ is another distinctive regional style that's worth exploring. It's all about the pig here, folks! So, if you're a pork lover, you're in for a treat.

  • Dry or Wet Ribs: In Memphis, you'll often be asked if you want your ribs 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry means they're rubbed with a mix of spices before smoking, while wet ribs are basted with sauce before, during, and after the cooking process. Can't decide? Why not try both!
  • Pulled Pork: This is another Memphis favorite. The pork shoulder is smoked for hours until it's so tender, it can be 'pulled' apart with a fork. It's often served on a bun with coleslaw and a tangy BBQ sauce. Delicious!
  • No Sauce? No Problem: Unlike Kansas City, Memphis BBQ doesn't rely heavily on sauce. Instead, the focus is on the meat and the flavor imparted by the smoking process.

Memphis Style BBQ is truly a celebration of pork in all its glorious forms. It's a must-try for any BBQ enthusiast. So, next time you visit Memphis, make sure to sample their dry ribs and pulled pork.

But our BBQ adventure isn't over yet. From the heart of Tennessee, we're heading south to Texas. Ready to see what Texas Style BBQ brings to the table? Stay tuned!

Kentucky Style BBQ

Let's shift gears and head to the Bluegrass State. Kentucky brings its own unique flavor to the BBQ scene, and it's something you won't want to miss. You're about to discover a distinctive regional style that might just change the way you think about BBQ.

  • Mutton, Anyone?: Kentucky stands out for its choice of meat. Unlike other regions that focus on pork or beef, Kentucky is all about mutton. This mature sheep meat is slow-cooked to perfection and served with a Worcestershire-based dipping sauce. A little different, right? But don't knock it until you've tried it!
  • Burgoo: This is a classic Kentucky BBQ stew, made with a variety of meats and vegetables. It's simmered for hours until everything melds into a rich, hearty dish. Every cook has their own Burgoo recipe, so you'll get a different experience each time you try it.
  • No Fancy Sauce: Kentucky BBQ lets the meat do the talking. You won't find heavily sauced ribs here. Instead, the meat is typically served with a simple, tangy mop sauce on the side.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to try some mutton or dive into a bowl of Burgoo? There's a whole world of BBQ out there waiting for you, and Kentucky is a great place to expand your horizons. But don't fill up just yet, because we're heading west next to check out what Santa Maria has to offer!

Hawaii Style BBQ

Now, let's hop on over to the Pacific islands. Hawaii, renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture, also boasts a distinctive regional style of BBQ that's as refreshing as a Pacific breeze. Ready to taste what the Aloha State has to offer? Let's dive in!

  • Kalua Pork: This is a staple of Hawaiian BBQ. Pork shoulder is rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow-roasted in an underground oven called an imu. The result? Tender, smoky meat that will make you feel like you're at a beach luau.
  • Teriyaki Twists: Hawaii's BBQ style often features a twist of Asian influences, particularly teriyaki. Chicken, beef, and even Spam are marinated in a sweet, tangy teriyaki sauce before being grilled. It's a delicious fusion that's undeniably Hawaiian.
  • Poi: This traditional Hawaiian dish is often served alongside BBQ. Poi is a thick paste made from taro root. It might seem unusual at first, but give it a try—you might just fall in love with its unique taste and texture.

With its blend of traditional Polynesian cooking methods and Asian flavors, Hawaii's BBQ style is truly one of a kind. So, are you ready to say aloha to some Kalua pork or teriyaki BBQ? Remember, our BBQ journey is far from over—next stop, Santa Maria!

Santa Maria Style BBQ

From the Pacific islands, let's soar across the ocean to the sunny coast of California. Santa Maria, a charming city in the Golden State, is home to a distinctive regional style of BBQ that's as bold and vibrant as California itself. Are you ready for a taste of the west coast? Let's dive in!

  • Trip-Tip: Santa Maria BBQ is famous for its use of tri-tip, a cut of beef that's robust in flavor and perfect for grilling. Traditionally, it's seasoned with a simple blend of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then grilled over red oak wood for that authentic Santa Maria flavor.
  • Pinquito Beans: No Santa Maria BBQ is complete without a side of pinquito beans. These small, pink beans, native to the Santa Maria valley, are cooked with a mix of onions, garlic, and spices, creating a hearty accompaniment to the main dish.
  • Salsa: In Santa Maria, BBQ isn't just about the meat—it's also about the tangy, spicy salsa that goes with it. Made with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and a generous kick of chili, it's a refreshing contrast to the smoky BBQ.

With its focus on high-quality, local ingredients and its bold flavors, Santa Maria's BBQ style is truly distinctive and captures the spirit of the California coast. So, are you ready to fire up the grill and try some tri-tip, or perhaps a bowl of pinquito beans? Remember, the BBQ journey doesn't stop here—next stop, St. Louis!

St. Louis Style BBQ

Now, let's head east to the heartland of America. St. Louis, Missouri, is not just known for its iconic Gateway Arch—it also boasts a distinctive regional style of BBQ that will make your taste buds sing. Are you ready to experience the rhythm of the Midwest? Let's dig in!

  • Spare Ribs: St. Louis style BBQ is renowned for its pork spare ribs. Unlike other regions, St. Louis trims the ribs into a rectangular shape for even cooking. The ribs are then slathered with a tangy, tomato-based sauce, and slow-cooked until they're fall-off-the-bone tender.
  • St. Louis BBQ Sauce: The sauce is a defining element in St. Louis style BBQ. It's thicker and sweeter than other BBQ sauces, thanks to the addition of molasses. The sauce is generously applied to the ribs during and after grilling, creating a sticky, finger-licking delight.
  • Pork Steaks: Another beloved BBQ dish in St. Louis is the pork steak. Cut from the shoulder of the pig, these steaks are marinated, grilled, and then simmered in BBQ sauce, resulting in a tender, flavorsome feast.

With its unique cuts, sweet and tangy sauce, and love for pork, St. Louis BBQ is a distinctive regional style that's a must-try for any BBQ enthusiast. So, are you feeling adventurous enough to try some St. Louis style ribs or pork steaks? Just remember to keep some napkins handy—it's going to be deliciously messy!

If you enjoyed exploring the distinctive flavors of US regional BBQ styles, why not check out Daisie's classes for more inspiration and creative insights? Our online community platform offers a variety of workshops and classes, tailored to help you grow as an artist and expand your knowledge in various fields.