The History of Barbecue
As Christopher Columbus traveled through the Americas, he discovered what the Spanished called "barbacoa." The indigenous tribes on Hispaniola created this technique that involved cooking meat over an indirect flame, low and slow. As the explorers traveled north, they brought this technique with them to the Native Americans and even into the colonies.
Today, barbecue is a symbol across the South. This area is called the "Barbecue Belt." In this belt, there are four main types of barbecue: Carolina, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City.
To start off, Carolina barbecue is mostly focused on the pig instead of the cow. Pork was easily available to those who couldn't afford much - pigs were low-maintenance and could roam in the wild. When it was time to slaughter, the pigs were leaner. This led to the current relationship today between North Carolina barbecue and pork. North Carolina barbecue is all about the meat. The pork is cooked over a pit at a low temperature for a couple of hours, which gives it a perfect smoky taste. Because the style of North Carolina barbecue is all about the meat, they don't dare to put sauce of any kind on the meat.
Now, here in Texas, we like our barbecue techniques applied to beef. The German and Czech roots in the state of Texas focused on meats and sausages in fresh markets. However, when these meats couldn't be sold, sellers began to smoke the meats in order to preserve them longer. Ultimately, people began wanting the smoked meats more than the fresh meat sold in markets.
Now, Memphis barbecue is definitely sweeter than the previous styles. Memphis barbecue focuses mainly on the shoulder and ribs of pork. Because the city is along the Mississippi River, people in Memphis had access to many goods that made their barbecue a bit sweeter, like molasses and brown sugar. Although the other styles involve basting the meat while cooking, Memphis barbecue also bastes the meat, but it's with the renowned tomato-based sauce instead.
Lastly, Kansas City barbecue is a combination of all three previous styles. Native Memphis man, Henry Perry, first opened a smoked meat stand in the early 1900s in Kansas City. He took with him the sweet barbecue sauce, but wanted to use a variety of meat instead of solely focusing on pork.
Although there may be many methods of barbecue, they all come from the same foundation; gathering and spending time with folks. No matter what style of barbecue you like, barbecue brings us all together.