Is all barbecue the same?

We’ve talked about the difference between barbecue and grilling (see our earlier post)—pretty simple stuff, right? 

But now it’s time to get into the differences between barbecue and … barbecue. 

Wait, what?  

Yeah. This whole barbecue thing might be a little more complicated than you thought. Because barbecue in the Carolinas is different from barbecue in Memphis, and Kansas City and Texas have their own unique styles, too. In fact, Texas has four distinct regional types. (Because, you know, everything has to be bigger in Texas.) 

Now, the people in those regions probably would tell you that their style is the right style—but each produces some really great barbecue. Let’s take a quick look at how they do it.



The type of barbecue you’ll find in Texas depends on where you are in Texas, but one thing is largely constant throughout—it’s all about the beef. If you’re in east Texas, you’re likely to get fall-off-the-bone meat cooked over hickory. It’ll probably have a sweet sauce made with tomatoes, too. Head over to the west side, and it’s cooked over mesquite—and often over direct heat. South? They like super-thick sauces. And in the middle of the state, you just might find no sauce at all (seriously; at least one famous place won’t provide any, saying their meat has “nothing to hide”). They rub with salt and pepper, usually, and cook over pecan, oak, or mesquite. 

A couple of ways we incorporate Texas into Big Sur Smokehouse offerings include our simply-seasoned brisket and our Coffee-Stout BBQ Sauce, made as a traditional Lone Star State red sauce with a California twist.


Carolina (North and South)

As much as Texas is about beef, the Carolinas are about pork—but the way they use it is different, and the sauces are, too. Carolina sauces are usually vinegar-based, with South Carolina traditionally adding yellow mustard to create “Carolina Gold.” As far as the pig goes, it’s almost always pulled, shredded, or chopped, but in North Carolina, the western part of the state typically uses pork shoulder and the eastern part cooks the whole hog. 

Here, we have pulled pork, but we don’t quite have room in the smoker for the whole hog (at least not in one piece). Our Carolina-style sauces include Tangy n’ Sweet Pineapple Mustard, which is the yellow style, and Spiced Carolina Cider, which is thin with a little kick. 

Memphis and Kansas City

If you’ve been to Memphis and ordered ribs, you know that you can choose wet or dry: sauced before and after cooking, or simply seasoned with a rub and nothing else. The other main barbecue dish is the sandwich, which usually features pulled pork. Kansas City is perhaps most famous for its style of sauce (where do you think the name “KC Masterpiece” came from?), which is thick and tomato-based. Dishes feature several different meats, including traditional “burnt ends,” which are the caramelized edges of a brisket. Some would say they’re the best part of eating brisket, and we love them too—that’s why we incorporate them into our baked beans. 

Big Sur

What’s our style? Well, we like to think it’s bringing the best of all the other styles together. Big Sur is Mother Nature’s melting pot, and at Big Sur Smokehouse, we honor that by being a melting pot of sorts for great barbecue!

Greg Bellino