History: Southern Style BBQ

More than just a style of cooking – a distinctly American food

BBQ is said to be named first by the Spanish explorers that used the word “barbacoa” to describe the Caribbean natives’ way of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. 

The advantageous culinary BBQ technique established fast in the American South. Pigs were prevalent in the region, so pork became the primary meat at BBQs. Due to the fact that corn grows better in the humid Southern climates, corn bread emerged as the main side dish. BBQ meat is cooked for a long period of time at low temperatures with smoke from a wood fire. The resulting flavor is a combination of smoke, meat juices, and spices added.

Today there are four major BBQ styles. Among the oldest styles are Memphis and Carolina, which mainly use pork, and the more contemporary BBQ styles of Kansas City and Texas, which also serve beef as well as pork. BBQ does not require expensive cuts of meat and became a popular dietary staple of rural Southerners. In the first half of the 20th century, a migration wave from the rural South to the Northern cities expanded the reach of this regional style of cooking into Northern restaurants. By the 1950s, BBQ restaurants could be found all over the US along with other ‘Southern style’ foods like fried chicken, hush puppies (deep fried cornbread) and other ‘soul food’ favorites. 

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