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BBQ Styles and Trends-Favorites and Dislikes

This is a spinoff of the regional foodways thread.
How do you like your BBQ? What meats, ways prepared, sides preferred.
No grilling allowed.
For me, being a transplanted KC'er, I search out heavily spiced dry rub, lots of hickory smoke,
spicy hot
sauce and brisket and ribs.And fries- none of this potato salad and mac & cheese stuff. Cole slaw is a side, not a topping..
Don't find that much in the Pacific Northwest, but I can dream.
How about you?

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  1. Given the near-absolute dearth of Texas-style barbecue in Boston--I once chewed out a pitmaster on my way out of a local barbecue restaurant because of the garbage he dared call brisket--I bought a Weber bullet and started making my own in the backyard: packer brisket, rubbed down with mustard and then coated in salt, pepper and half-sharp paprika, smoked with a mixture of wood chunks (usually 50% mesquite/50% fruitwood of some type) and lump charcoal.

    Serve the flat thin-sliced and the point chopped, sauce on the side, with white bread available for sandwiches. Bread and butter pickles, potato salad, beer, maybe a homemade pecan pie for dessert.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      Same here. Got tired of boiled ribs/shoulder and dry brisket, so I bought a WSM, hit the bbq forums, and never looked back.

      Packer brisket, black pepper, cayenne, and salt after it's rested. I smoke briskets with hickory, pecan, or mesquite. and serve with half-sour pickles, crackers, sharp chedder, charros beans.

      Pork ribs get a dry rub; mostly brown sugar, salt, pepper, and a few different chili powders. Smoked over applewood and served with fresh slaw.

      Pork shoulder gets fruit woods; usually a mix of apple, pear, or cherry. Seasoned with just salt and pepper; half pulled, half chopped because I like the texture. Once it's cooled down, douse with white vinegar mixed with salt, pepper, and catsup. Piled high on potato rolls with finely chopped vinegar slaw.

      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

        Jenny- How much did your packer brisket weigh? (Also who did you buy from here in Boston?)

        1. re: bizkat

          If I do full packers, they run 11-13 pounds, but sometimes for high-heat cooks, a 5-6 pound flat will do the job. Blood Farm in Groton (call first, they'll have to set one aside for you) is a good source, but last summer, I was getting decent flats and occasional packers from the BJs in Waltham, down the street from Russo's.

      2. dry rubbed pork ribs
        best sides, a wet washcloth and a roll of paper towels, a few napkins just don't do it. :-)

        1. This is a great question. Bar B Que is like pizza. Good, depends on where you’re from in the world. Southern Style BBQ is rock n roll. It’s unique to the US and everyone loves it. Man has been cooking over a live fire for hundreds of thousands of years. Can you imagine what the first cave man’s face looked like when he ate cooked meat for the first time? What about when they put salt on it for the first time. I am fascinated with anything that’s cooked over a live fire. There’s a book by Frahcis MallMann called Seven Fires, Grilling the Argentina Way that’s incredible. At our house we cook out in our fire pit that’s been designed for entertaining. My daughters and I have started to blog about it. Check it out if you like open fire pit cookery.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Woodfireguy

            That's a very nice blog there, Mr. Woodfireguy. I signed up for the duration.
            I'm interested in how Q has spread across regional & cultural/traditional borders to become something new.

            1. re: bbqboy

              Thanks bbqboy. We’re just getting started and will post more when we can get out there and cook. There’s still snow on the ground right now.

          2. I'm from KC as well. I'm pretty opinionated when it comes to 'cue. I've had my own team since 95 and became a certified judge about 10 years ago.

            For me its brisket cooked over hickory and cherry. I don't really care for mesquite. Very little sauce. I love burnt ends. as well. Spares, sausage chicken. Again, little to no sauce. Pulled pork is good too, and you're right cole slaw does not belong on a sandwich.

            Some friends and I have an ongoing debate about the zeeman sandwich at Oklahoma Joe's in KC. Its a brisket sandwich with cole slaw, provelone, and an onion ring on it. I much prefer beef and sauce only. Cheese should not be on barbecue, ever.

            I like just about any sides.

            15 Replies
            1. re: chileheadmike

              Mike, I've been following you for a long time (I'm originally from Overland Park) and have always been curious. What do you use to smoke your barbecue? I'm planning on buying my first smoker. I was going to latch on to a Brinkman Cimmeron but they've been discontinued. What would you recommend?

              1. re: SonyBob

                Not Mike, but I know a little about smoking. Stay away from Brinkman. All those cheap, thin-metal smokers leak like sieves and make fire control nearly impossible. The best reasonably priced smoker that uses charcoal or briquettes is the Weber Smokey Mountain. It comes in 18.5 and 22 inches. Go big. I've never heard anyone say "I wish mine was smaller." bbq-brethren.com is the definitive source for such things. Good luck.

                1. re: SonyBob

                  I'm a barbecue writer, and I'd make the same suggestion as Cameraman. The Weber Smokey Mountain is easy to use, and it's not over the top expensive. Be sure to check the Virtual Bullet web site. Lots of great info there.

                  1. re: CyndiA

                    I am more of a "grill-guy," so this will show my naivete, but I see recs. (usually commercial) for the "Green Eggs." Are they useful, or hype for the home DIY "smoker?"



                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I have a Big Green Egg, and it's a great outdoor cooker. It is more bake than grill though. It's designed for lid down. I'm fine with that, but it's a different approach to outdoor cooking. The main benefits are that you can get a huge range of outdoor cooking temps and can cook from high heat with a sear (better stated as carmelization) and pizza heat to low and slow with an even temp and not a lot of "tending" for ribs and shoulders etc.

                      I lean to the WSM for a couple of reasons. There's the price - a big difference with Weber much lower. The weight also comes into play. I really can't move a BGE around very well but can a WSM. Also, I can break down the Bullet and take it somewhere but need help with the Big Green Egg. The biggie for me is that I really love the flavor of charcoal briquettes, and I know I may get some flack on that, but that's just what I like. The "cleaner" smoke taste of natural lump highly recommended for the BGE is not the taste that I associate most with outdoor grilling/cooking.

                      I can pull great food off wood, charcoal, gas, electric, and pellet. I recommend various units to various people but only after chatting which can be in person, on the phone, online whatever. It's really important that the grill unit (whatever kind) works for the person.

                      Without a lot of info but hearing you say that you're the grill guy type and like DIY, then if you were purchasing, then I'd say Weber Smokey Mountain or perhaps the Ugly Drum by a guy who does them in his garage here in NC (no - I don't know him but have emailed back and forth). This would not be what I'd suggest to every person at all. The Big Green Egg is perfect for some outdoor cooks. I also recommend electric in some cases. The main thing is that a person needs to feel comfortable and have fun. If it's just sitting there, then it's a waste of money. I'm pretty practical that way (-:

                      1. re: CyndiA

                        Thank you for that breakdown.

                        Obviously, I am not really a "smoker," and use the Lynx 48 with the "smoker box," for what I do.

                        I have contemplated several additions, as we are designing an outdoor kitchen, and really love smoked meats, and NC BBQ.

                        Thank you,


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          I march to my own drummer, and I would not say you are not a real "smoker." You do what works for you, and you have fun. That's what it's all about.

                          Yes. You will hear some people say that smoking has to be done a certain way. I just don't agree. I can taste the differences, but I've had great smoked food using various methods.

                          Lynx makes a great product as well. It is the high end and good for an outdoor kitchen format. I would suggest getting Baxter's wood. This is, again, only an email contact. He has a lot of wood and all prime quality. You can get various different flavors by changing up the wood.

                          NC barbecue is usually chopped, but you can also do a good pull with Bear Paws or it might be Bear Claws. They have a web site but are also on Amazon now. The price is very low, and they do work really well.

                          1. re: CyndiA

                            I'm a smoking hobbyist and I have 2 smokers. One is a vertical Brinkmann, the other is a Char Griller Outlaw. I rarely use the Brinkmann anymore due to temperature and smoke control issues. The Char Griller with sidebox requires just a little bit of tweaking and it's worked great for me when it comes to smoking ribs and shoulders. I haven't ventured into beef brisket largely b/c of the time it takes, but I'm sure it would do fine. I wouldn't say Char Griller is the best b/c off the line it requires some modifications, and the cast iron grates are high maintenance - but economically it's a great option.

                            Now, finding places that sell wood chunks (not chips) is another issue. Since the Barbeques Galore closed finding chunks has become a little more difficult.

                            1. re: Leadmine

                              It’s a great deal cheaper (and more reliable) to simply start chopping/cutting your own wood. I am able to get fruit woods, maple, oak, hickory, pretty much whatever I want, from a local “Tree Service.” It’s free (I have given the guys a couple 12 packs over the years). I have also snagged trunks from neighbors’ curbs. In a worst case scenario, you can also buy split logs a quarter cord at a time.

                              1. re: Leadmine

                                Wood chunks of different varieties can be found at Lowes and Home Depot as well as Academy Sports in 5 and 10 pound bags. If you want larger quantities and/or greater variety google wood chunks and you'll find a company that will deliver bigger bags to a hardware store for free in your area.

                                1. re: Cameraman

                                  I'll have to check that out but I haven't seen any at my local HD or Lowes other than hickory, oak, or mesquite chips. If they start carrying apple, pecan and cherry chunks I'll have to load my jaw into the cart to keep it from dragging the floor on my way out. Chopping my own wood is not feasible but finding a tree service is. Thx for the recs.

                              2. re: CyndiA

                                I greatly appreciate those recs., and will see what I can come up with.

                                For "pulled," we normally go with a restaurant's rendition, but with your help, maybe I can make the "next step?"

                                Thank you,


                          2. re: Bill Hunt

                            The BGE does offer some advantages- primarily, better(and easier) temperature control. It is very expensive though, and I wouldn't recommend it to a casual griller/smoker for that reason.

                            It is great for doing NC barbecue. NC barbecue is supposed to be cooked directly over the coals, so sidebox smokers aren't ideal. With the Egg, you're grilling directly over the coals, with more clearance between the grate and the coals than in most other grills or smokers.

                            1. re: Naco

                              Thank you for the info and clarification. Might come in handy, when we do the outdoor kitchen.



                        2. re: SonyBob

                          Sorry I had have seen this until now...

                          I have a WSM that I bought in 95. Still works as well as the day I bought it. I'm thinking about upgrading to the larger one so rib racks will fit more easily. The thing just keeps cranking out great barbecue with very little fiddling.

                      2. To paraphrase, I know it when I taste it. I'm from NJ, so just about anywhere else I've been and had local barbecue, it's been better. Lexington, NC style holds a special place in my heart as that's where I had that first "Aha!" moment. I can't say any particular wood smoke is bad, just sometimes poorly used.

                        Not much for sides, a few fries maybe. That mac-n-cheese type stuff just seems like a distraction used when the 'cues not that good.

                        Oh, yeah . . . right off the grill - pickin' at the bark when its still pretty hot. That's about the best I can think of!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: MGZ

                          With Lex barbeque red slaw is a given. They served that in my small town NC elementary school cafeteria!

                          1. re: Sue in Mt P

                            Yep, slaw and, I suppose, hush puppies are apparently required by health code

                        2. Pulled or chopped pork NC style with a spicy sweet cider vinegar based sauce. Brisket and sausage Texas style. Ribs dry rubbed KC style. Spares, not baby backs. I'm not much for chicken, but when I q it I season heavily with a 50:50 blend of my pork rub and Old Bay seasoning.

                          Heard about a jalapeno sausage recipe a while back in which the meat is seasoned then wrapped in corn husks tamale style, then smoked. Haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I'm looking forward to experimenting.

                          B-boy, you seem like a good sort, shoot me your address and I'll send you some of my rub. It's close to the start of bbq season in my backyard and I'll be mixing up a batch in the near future.

                          1. There is no such thing as bad barbeque.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: beevod

                              Oven-steamed, grill "finished," glopped on, super sweet sauce . . . Yuck! Bad barbecue certainly exists, and seems to thrive in the Northeast.

                                1. re: beevod

                                  Par-boiled ribs drenched in sweet sauce = bad.

                                  I don't waste my cholesterol points on crap like that.

                                  I am really looking forward to trying the new outpost of Hill Country BBQ here in DC, because i have not had much experience with good brisket cue. When I was in Houston years ago, I made it to Otto's, the old Bush family favorite. I knew this was far from the best Texas bbq, but it was still really good.

                                  1. re: Bob W

                                    Is that the NYC Hill Country? I'm a fan, especially since they go so far as to get Big Red and Blue Bell ice cream shipped up.

                                    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                      Yes indeedy. There's an article about the company and its founder in the Wednesday WaPo food section. The founder is from the DC area but incredibly, for a nice Jewish boy from Bethesda, he has deep family roots in the barbecue hotbed of Lockhart TX (and yes, he acknowledges that Lockhart is technically not in the Hill Country (it's one county east).


                                      And here's a first take on the restaurant itself, which just opened:


                                2. re: MGZ

                                  I'll agree that's bad, but it isn't barbecue.
                                  And yes, bad barbecue does exist.

                                  1. re: chileheadmike

                                    And then there's the perils of reheating (or, should we say, over-reheating), where even good barbecue can be turned bad.

                                  2. re: MGZ

                                    "Oven-steamed, grill "finished," glopped on, super sweet sauce"

                                    You've cited the one style of barbecue I don't like: Northern Soul Food. At least that's what I'm calling the overly sweet barbecue one finds at soul food restaurants in the urban North.

                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      It's even worse when it's served in a suburban, New Jersey strip mall.

                                  3. I live near KC. One of the great things about eating BBQ in KC is the variety. If you prefer a certain type of sauce or meat or cooking method, chances are you can find it.

                                    1. I will admit to having parboiled, baked and grilled more than a few ribs, and since I don't know very many people who don't like that I'll probably do it some more. But I will say that of all the REAL barbecue I've eaten, most of it in Nashville (not a particularly good BBQ town in general), there were just two commercial sources that consistently had really good stuff - Crow's, long gone, and Cantrell's, reportedly still there. But the VERY best was from a friend of ours who dug a shallow 4' by 8' pit in his back yard, walled it in on two sides with concrete blocks with a steel grate about a third of the way up and a corrugated steel roof, and laid in a good stock of wood. That boy threw an all-weekend party, did shoulders and sausages and brisket, we all brought sides to share and had probably gained ten pounds each by Monday.

                                      I am told that there is some good stuff to be had in the Nashville area now, at least more than there used to be. Here in SoCal, however … hardly anyone's doing anything better than those ribs I mentioned. If I want something better I'll just have to work at it myself.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        Thats the real key to good bbq. Forget about restaurants and find somebody that knows what they're doing and get invited over to their backyard.

                                        1. re: laststandchili

                                          Even if the guy is a major jerk, so we did that just once. Second-best homemade was when my brother had a farm up by the KY border. Dug a deepish pit in his back yard, cut a couple of saplings for two Y-pieces and a crosspole and bought a young pig from a neighbor. So we did it all wrong and were pretty drunk by the time it got done (took all night and we couldn't just sit there all dry), but DAMN it was good. Best hangover I ever tasted.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            That sounds fabulous. I've been on those dig-a-pit all-nighters in the past and it was so fun!

                                            1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                              I seem to remember some of it, so yeah. Can't do ANY of that anymore, either all-nighter or half a case of beer. I think Johnny had four cases of Stroh's, his monthly allotment, and we went through all of it that night. ONE is my current limit …

                                          2. re: laststandchili

                                            It's funny, but I'd bet most of the folks who posted to this thread make their own barbecue.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              I bet your right. That’s the great part of cooking. When I taste your food, then I understand who you are. Food is the common denominator in all of us yet there’s room for individuality

                                              1. re: Woodfireguy

                                                That is a lovely sentiment!

                                                I don't do it myself. Sometimes a bunch of us get together and cook a pig, but, like you said, it can be arduous. There are great places close by with real pitmasters so i just go see them. I cook other stuff!

                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                Yeah, the Q I can make is as good as any I've found at joints here, but not as good
                                                as I could get from the KC pits I grew up eating at.
                                                My moniker is a tribute to old KC pitmasters who held their knowledge in their heads.
                                                I am but a boy among men.

                                                1. re: bbqboy

                                                  Exactly. I used to get barbecue from a counter in the back of a liquor store in Lubbock that wipes the floor with anything available in Boston, so making my own is the easiest way to avoid disappointment.

                                                2. re: MGZ

                                                  Not me (I don't do much cooking of any kind).

                                                  Fortunately, I'm only about ten minutes' drive from this:


                                            2. Ah, BBQ! Love most of it, but there are tons of differences.

                                              Personally, I like Carolina BBQ, but again, that encompasses so many styles, from North to South, and East to West. The sauces, if there are any, are also different, as are the cuts of meat.

                                              For me, smoked pork, done Eastern North Carolina style, is the ultimate, but others are great too.

                                              Beef can be good, but does not do quite so much for me, whether Texas, KC, or Memphis style.

                                              Now, that is just me, and others will have their personal preferences.


                                              PS -one of the ultimate BBQ dishes, that I have ever encountered was a BBQ chicken with a wonderful vinegar-based sauce, in Gulfport, MS, but that was an oddity.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                North Carolina has a tradition of slow smoked barbecue chicken with the mop sauce or barbi fried chicken sauced. If you are out this way, then Keaton's which is listed as Cleveland, NC but is really northern Rowan County and not far off I40 is fabulous. They are very low key but still get mentioned now and then in the media. That is my favorite chicken, and I've just not seen it done the same way anywhere else.

                                                They have a sign up that also makes me smile: In God we trust. All others must pay at the counter.

                                                1. re: CyndiA

                                                  Sounds like a great place. Thanks.

                                                  Over the years, we have been able to sample much BBQ from one side of NC, to the other. In general terms (I've noticed differences, as one travels either East to West, or West to East), NC BBQ, featuring several different meats, is more to my palate, than almost any other state's.

                                                  BBQ becomes highly personal, with regional differences, that appeal to certain folk, but not to others. For me, about any quality NC BBQ will be at the top of MY list.



                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Oh my. I could go on forever (-: I write on NC barbecue.

                                                    Yes. We do have eastern and western styles. Pork is the traditional meat with chicken close behind. You can get a variety though.

                                                    I like all styles of barbecue when done right. My favorite is a home pig pickin though.

                                              2. I like my brisket to be central Texas style and my pork ribs to be KC style. Prefer pulled pork not to be too vinegary. NC style minced, doused in vinegar pork doesn't appeal to me at all. For sides, I don't really care (in the sense that something being a side traditionally served with BBQ isn't going to make me like it any better or worse if I'm eating it with BBQ.)

                                                1. For me, BBQ is pork, either spares or butts. I generally use a Dalmatian rub (kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper), but sometimes I'll add some brown sugar, cayenne, granulated garlic and cumin to the rub. Low and slow over a real wood fire. The smoke usually comes from some kind of fruit wood - apple, apricot, or cherry work just fine - altho I also use pecan when I can get it. My spares generally take about 4 to 5 hours, and the butts take at least twice that.

                                                  The best side is the 10th bottle of beer...the first nine were consumed during the cook, of course!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                    My favorite is ribs- preferably brined for a couple of hours, then dry rubbed with some good bbq seasoning and allowed to sit overnight before smoking. I usually like a good long cold smoke, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and cooked for about 4-5 hours in a a 225 degree oven until good and tender. As for sauce, I like sweet and tangy but not heavy on the tomato. Called me white trash if you want, but I actually really like Cattleman's bbq sauce for something right off the shelf that I don't have to mess with. Otherwise, my personal favorite involves a reduction of coke syrup and apple sauce, a bit of apple cider vinegar all pureed smooth and mixed into a decent bbq sauce like cattleman's.

                                                    As far as style goes and regionality, I have no idea where all that falls, but thats what I like.

                                                    As far as sides go, creamy coleslaw is a must. Best coleslaw recipe I've ever used involved a "sabayaon" folded into mayonnaise(apple cider vinegar instead of wine) for the dressing. Otherwise, sweet potatoes of any sort or even just french fries and I'm good.

                                                    1. re: jrock645

                                                      I favor a 50-50 mix of mayonnaise and buttermilk, with a good dollop of pickle relish. Salt the shredded cabbage first, not heavily, and then stir in the wet stuff, just enough to moisten it. After the requisite four-six hours in the fridge the slaw will be swimming in juice, but that's okay, it's all good.

                                                  2. My favorite is a good corned beef point soaked for a couple of days with three or four water changes then smoked low and slot to 160 internal. After that I let it rest for a day or freeze it. I steam it for a couple of hours before serving. It makes grown men swoon.

                                                    1. For me, yes please! Don't care style or technique.

                                                      1. i steam my pork ribs for a while with herbs in the water, then finish them slowly on the grill. If ribs "fall off the bone" they're grossly overcooked. I'd rather have mine a little on the tough side than the mushy side. I usually serve them unsauced with the sauce on the side for dipping when desired. Not a big fan of vinegary BBQ sauces, and a lot of the dry rubs leave me cold.

                                                        I prefer pork rather than beef for bbq, and when I use sauce I like it to be thick and smooth with a strong flavor and a good balance of sweet and tart flavors (again, no vinegar, I'd rather use tamarind or lemon or even citric acid) and a little smoke and heat works, too.

                                                        I don't pretend to be an expert or even a real aficionado- but when it's good it's great, whether or not my 'preferences' are adhered to. :)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                          Agree 100% about "falling off the bone". Being in many ways an Anti-Purist (okay, let's say Agnostic) about barbecue, I don't care how either you or I cook it as long as it tastes good, but I do want to have to use my teeth to get it off the bone. Besides, nibbling the gooey bits and the shreds after the bulk of the meat's off is almost as much fun. I do prefer to pre-cook mine with some sauce in the oven, and use the grill for smoke and finishing, but that's mostly because I'm seldom doing this as a grilling exercise, just simply making dinner.