What is Memphis BBQ?

Memphis is a city that takes great pride in its barbecue. We’ll argue with anyone that we have best in the world! Every region and state “known” for their BBQ has their own way of doing things. For example, Texas is all about the brisket, The Carolina’s are big on their different sauces and the East Coast states prefer their meat sliced and tangy, STILL no one does it quite like Memphis. Barbecue is an important part of our culture here in the Bluff City. Memphis-style barbecue stands out from the rest! Here in the 901, we tend to lean more towards the pig, specifically pulled pork or a big ‘ole rack of ribs. Memphis barbecue typically uses the highest quality of meat and wood, then allows the slow smoking process to enhance the meats natural flavor. This results in pork that is tasty and tender, even without rubs and sauces. Memphis is best known for its dry rib for that reasoning.

You can’t turn a corner in Memphis without smelling that signature smoke, a smell synonymous with the best barbecue in the world. Of course, we don’t discriminate, options such as, beef, sausage, turkey and all parts of the chicken — especially wings, can be considered barbecue too.

History of Memphis BBQ

A lot of the variation in barbecue flavors and sauce can be explained by geographical factors. Since Memphis is a port city, there

was access to a wider variety of ingredients to slab on the meat, plus molasses was an ingredient that was easily attainable because it was shipped right up the mighty Mississippi River, so that kinda became the style – lots of spice and a sweet, tomatoey based sauce.

Memphis BBQ Sauce

Memphis barbecue sauce has its own distinctive flavor, as well. Though the specific ingredients will vary from cook to cook, Memphis sauce is usually made with tomatoes, vinegar, and any countless combination of spices. It is generally thin, tangy, and somewhat sweet. Memphis sauce is poured over pulled pork or served along side dry ribs.

Memphis Popular BBQ Sides

Common sides are coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, greens or green beans and mac and cheese. Hungry yet? Some restaurants serve a bun with your order, cornbread or a toasted sliced bread. Whether you make a sandwich or just use it to soak up some of the delicious sauce, it’s what we like to say, “Smack Yo Mama Good!”

If you are at a BBQ restaurant and are at a loss for what to order, start with the pork, and you won’t be disappointed!

Don’t see your favorite on the list?

Let us know. Tag @wearememphistn to share your can’t-miss BBQ spot!