United States map with pins in the four bbq regions Texas, Carolina BBQ, Kansas City BBQ, and Memphis BBQ

Regional Types of BBQ: What's Really the Difference Between Texas and the Rest

Barbeque and smoked meat lovers throughout the nation tend to favor one regional BBQ taste, most likely without even knowing there are four regional types of barbeque. Wait? There’s more than one type of BBQ? Told you not everyone is privy to the fact that there are several regional styles of BBQ with four notable ones. You’ve got the Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, and the Carolinas. As Texans, through and through, you already know which one our Texas Pepper Jelly team prefers. However, we know we have to play fair and at least tell you the difference between Texas and the rest so you can decide. 

Carolina BBQ 

Craig's Habanero Ketchup Texas Pepper Jelly brand

Before talking about the Carolina style of barbeque, we must break North Carolina into half. BBQ on the east side of North Carolina typically includes smoking the whole hog and serving up their ‘cue with a vinegar-based sauce. The west side of North Carolina smokes the shoulder with a tomato-based sauce. If you visit Lexington for barbeque, you’ll learn this type of BBQ is called Lexington-style barbeque.

Whole hog barbeques also rule in South Carolina, where you can find the meat served up with various sauces, including a vinegar-based one similar to that of their northern cousins. You may also find tomato-based sauce and a mustard sauce, which isn’t too surprising, considering the southern part of the state is known as the Mustard Belt.

Memphis BBQ 

Pork ribs reign in Memphis, Tennessee. While you can find plenty of places serving up chicken and beef, pork ribs are what gets BBQ fans coming back. The only question should be, how do you like your pork ribs? Wet or dry? Just in case we have a few novices, these two adjectives don’t describe the texture of the meat but the preparation of the ribs. Dry ribs are coated in a dry rub made with white and brown sugars, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and a few other ingredients, before smoking to ensure the meat is mouthwateringly tasty. On the other hand, wet ribs are brushed with a sauce before smoking and again after making them good and sticky when served.

Kansas City BBQ 

Kansas City goes all-in with their BBQ style. Here you can enjoy everything from pork ribs, sausage, brisket, and chicken, but what you should seek out in Kansas City are burnt ends—smoked, fatty pieces of brisket. You can often find them cooked into KC baked beans. This region boasts a sweet, ketchup-based (with some molasses) barbeque sauce that has faithful fans across the nation.

Texas BBQ

We can’t have a conversation about barbeque without mentioning Texas, our favorite place to score some good smoked meats. In general, Texas BBQ is all about the beef. However, unique regional barbeque practices exist. Texas east side style of BBQ focuses on pork ribs, and smoked, chopped brisket served with a sweet tomato-based sauce on a bun.

Individual bottle of Craig's BBQ Sauce on a white backgroundVisit Central Texas, and you’ll find BBQ sauce is a downright insult to their smoked “naked” brisket, which is traditionally dry-rubbed and sliced like a roast or prime rib. Hot gut sausages or Texas Hot Links, made from beef or a beef/pork mix, are also a mainstay in central Texas.

West-Texas style BBQ release on high heat, open-pit barbequing, reminiscent of grilling, with mesquite wood. The southern part of Texas favors a molasses-based BBQ sauce and smokes brisket low and slow (we’re talking 12 hours, min.). Further south, we’re talking near the Rio Grande Texas barbeque that incorporates the Mexican tradition barbacoa, which includes cuts of meat like cow’s tongue and head. One thing to remember when eating BBQ meats anywhere in Texas, forget the fork, eat with your hands.

While Memphis, Kansas City, and the Carolinas produce some tasty fare, and other regions like Alabama and Kentucky put their mark on BBQ, compared to the many barbeque styles in Texas, we’re the best; they’re the rest.