January 15, 2014

BBQ in the United States

The origins of barbecue are unknown, but it is inferred that it stems from when the Spanish landed in the Caribbean, and the term barbacoa refer to the natives' method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. By the 19th century, this approach was well established in the American South.

Traditional southern barbecue arose after the Civil War. Many barbecue stands sprouted along the sides of the road throughout the South, chiefly ran by freed slaves. Due to the poverty in the south, every part of the pig was conserved for immediate consumption or saved for later. Because it was such a hassle to capture and cook these wild pigs, barbecuing pigs was saved for times of celebration where the whole neighborhood was invited to eat.

Barbecue in the south is divided by regions: Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina, and Texas. Memphis is acclaimed for their pulled pork shoulder sandwich smothered in sweet tomato-based sauce. In Lexington, North Carolina, it boasts to be “The Barbecue Capital of the World" because it has more than one BBQ restaurant per 1,000 homes. There, it is the norm to smoke the whole pig in a vinegar-based sauce. Kansas City-style barbecue is identified by the different types of meat like pork, pork ribs, smoked sausage, chicken, burnt ends, etc. If you’re wondering what the burnt ends are, it is the flavorful pieces of meat cut from the ends of a smoked beef or pork brisket. Kansas City was known as the U.S. meat packing center which is why they use so many different types of meat in their barbecue. Hickory is the main type of wood used for smoking in Kansas City. Due to eastern Texas’ nearness to Tennessee, its method is also in the pulled-pork area. All these traditions have one thing in common: and that’s the the manner in which the meat is barbecued.

Barbecue is usually done in an outdoor environment by cooking and smoking the meat over wood or charcoal. It refers to a lengthy process using indirect flame, cooking it with hot smoke and heat; as opposed to grilling,which is quick cooking time and direct flame contact.

You’ve probably heard the term brisket when barbecue is the theme of the conversation; essentially, Texas style beef brisket is made from one of the toughest cut of meat. Because of the duration of the cooking time, the meat is extremely tender. It is usually served in slices covered in tomato sauce.

Eating barbecue isn’t only just the meat, it’s also the side dishes. In addition to different styles of beans, there is coleslaw, potato salad, hush puppies, and of course, corn bread to add to the sides of barbecued meat. Corn bread emerged as the side dish of choice, owing largely to the fact that in humid Southern climates, corn grew better than wheat (which was prone to fungal infections). Hash is also a popular side dish (a thick gravy of pig meat and organs) served in South Carolina.

 By Miami Food Blogger: Caroline Shalabi

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