This should cover the history portion of our class other than the next post that will cover the the men who made BBQ famous in Kansas City.
The Barbecue Region
The origins of American barbecue date back to colonial times, with the first recorded mention in 1610, and George Washington mentions attending a “barbicue” in Alexandria, VA in 1769. As the country expanded westwards along the Gulf of Mexico and north along the Mississippi River, barbecue went with it.
The core region for barbecue is the southeastern region of the United States, an area bordered on the west by Texas and Oklahoma, on the north by Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia, on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. While barbecue is found outside of this region, the fourteen core barbecue states contain 70 of the top 100 barbecue restaurants, and most top barbecue restaurants outside the region have their roots there.
Barbecue in its current form grew up in the South, where both black and white cooks learned to slow roast tough cuts of meat over fire pits to make them tender. This slow cooking over smoke leaves a distinctive line of red just under the surface, where the myoglobin in the meat reacts with carbon monoxide from the smoke, and imparts the smoky taste essential to barbecue.
These humble beginnings are still reflected in the many barbecue restaurants that are operated out of “hole-in-the-wall” (or “dive”) locations; the rib joint is the purest expression of this. Many of these will have irregular hours, and remain open only until all of a day’s ribs are sold; they may shut down for a month at a time as the proprietor goes on vacation. Despite these unusual traits, rib joints will have a fiercely loyal clientele.
The first ingredient in the barbecue tradition was the meat. Pigs came to the Americas with the Spanish explorers, and quickly turned feral. This provided the most widely used protein used in most barbecue, pork ribs, as well as the pork shoulder for pulled pork. The techniques used in barbecue are hot smoking and smoke cooking. Hot smoking is where the meat is cooked with a wood fire, over indirect heat, at temperatures between 120 and 180 F (49 and 82 C), and smoke cooking is cooking over indirect fire at higher temperatures. Unlike cold smoking, which preserves meat and takes days of exposure to the smoke, hot smoking and smoke cooking are cooking processes. While much faster than cold smoking, the cooking process still takes hours, as many as 18. The long, slow cooking process leaves the meat tender and juicy.
The next ingredient in barbecue is the wood. Since the wood smoke flavors the food, not just any wood will do; different woods impart different flavors, so availability of various woods for smoking influences the taste of the barbecue in different regions.
* Hard woods such as hickory, mesquite, pecan and the different varieties of oak impart a strong smoke flavor.
* Maple, alder, and fruit woods such as apple, pear, and cherry impart a milder, sweeter taste.
Stronger flavored woods are used for pork and beef, while the lighter flavored woods are used for fish and poultry. More exotic smoke generating ingredients can be found in some recipes; grapevine adds a sweet flavor, and sassafras, a major flavor in root beer adds its distinctive taste to the smoke.
The last, and in many cases optional, ingredient is the barbecue sauce. There are no constants, with sauces running the gamut from clear, peppered vinegars to thick, sweet, tomato and molasses sauces, from mild to painfully spicy. The sauce may be used as a marinade before cooking, applied during cooking, after cooking, or used as a table sauce. An alternate form of barbecue sauce is the dry rub, a mixture of salt and spices applied to the meat before cooking.
Main regional styles
Regional variations of barbecue
While the wide variety of barbecue styles makes it difficult to break barbecue styles down into regions, there are four major styles commonly referenced (though many sources list more). The four major styles are Memphis and Carolina, which rely on pork and represent the oldest styles, and Kansas City and Texas, which utilize beef as well as pork, and represent the later evolution of the original deep south barbecue. Pork is the most common protein used, followed by beef and veal, often with chicken or turkey in addition. Lamb and mutton are found in some areas, such as Owensboro, Kentucky, and some regions will add other meats.
Memphis barbecue is primarily ribs, which come “wet” and “dry”. Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before and after cooking, and dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub. Pulled pork, from the shoulder, is also a popular item, which is served smothered in a hot, sweet, tomato based sauce.
Carolina barbecue is usually pork, served pulled, shredded, or chopped, but sometimes sliced. It may also be rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and mopped with a spice and vinegar liquid during smoking.
Two styles predominate in different parts of North Carolina. Eastern North Carolina barbecue is made by the use of the “whole hog”, where the entire pig is barbecued and the meat from all parts of the pig are chopped and mixed together. Eastern North Carolina barbecue also uses a thin sauce made of spices and vinegar. Western North Carolina barbecue is made from only the pork shoulder, which is mainly dark meat, and uses a thicker sweetened tomato-based sauce. Western North Carolina barbecue is also known as Lexington barbecue, after the town of Lexington, North Carolina, home to many barbecue restaurants and a large barbecue festival, the Lexington Barbecue Festival.
South Carolina has three regional styles. In western parts of the state, along the Savannah River, a peppery tomato or ketchup-based sauce is common. In the central part of the state (the Midlands), barbecue is characterized by the use of a yellow “Carolina Gold” sauce, made from a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and other spices. In the coastal “Pee Dee” region, they use the whole hog, and use a spicy, watery, vinegar-and-pepper sauce. In Piedmont area of the state shoulders, hams, or Boston butts are used.
Kansas City style barbecue
Kansas City has a wide variety in proteins, but the signature ingredient is the sauce. The meat is smoked with a dry rub, and the sauce served as a table sauce. Kansas City style sauce is thick and sweet (with significant exceptions such as Arthur Bryant’s, which is significantly less sweet than others in the region, and Gates, notably spicier than other KC-style sauces) based on tomatoes and molasses. This is perhaps the most widespread of sauces, with the Kansas City recipe K. C. Masterpiece being a top-selling brand.
There are four generally recognized regional styles of barbecue in Texas, East Texas style, which is essentially Southern barbecue and is also found in many urban areas, Central Texas “meat market style” which originated in the butcher shops of German and Czech immigrants to the region, West Texas “cowboy style” which involves direct cooking over mesquite and uses goat and mutton as well as beef, and South Texas barbacoa, in which the head of a cow is cooked (originally underground).
There are many variations all over the world. I could keep boring you with all this, but I think I will get to cooking!
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Enter Kansas City Steaks Monthly Drawing for a $75 Gift Certificate. Enter once a week!