What States Make Up America's Barbecue Belt

What is being done around the world today that was also being done 1.8 million years ago? Unsurprisingly, the book "Planet Barbecue" says the answer is barbecuing (via Live Science). Per a Library of Congress publication, barbecuing is threaded throughout history, and there is even a historical connection between pirates and barbecue. The word "buccaneer" is said to come from "boucan," a term referring to a framework that was placed over an open flame to cook meat that pirates would sell at ports scattered along the coastline.

Per the South Carolina Barbecue Association, as immigrants settled around the United States their different cultures helped shape regional barbecue traditions including the German-influenced mustard-based barbecue sauces found in South Carolina. Different flavors and cooking styles can be found all across the country and the Matador Network shares that distinct styles of barbecue stretch from Hawaii to California to Chicago, but the South is considered to be home to the Barbecue Belt of America.

Barbecuing has become so popular that there are now several different organizations dedicated to this tasty pastime. The NBBQA (National Barbecue & Grilling Association) was formed in 1991 for industry professionals and barbecue enthusiasts to share, promote, and celebrate all things barbecue. Another organization, the NCBS (North Carolina Barbecue Society), is specific to the state of North Carolina and has designed its own Historic Barbecue Trail showcasing 20 historic barbecue pits scattered across the state. But what states are included in America's Barbecue Belt?

These states make up America's Barbecue Belt

Some may argue otherwise, but North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, and Tennessee are the states known to make up America's Barbecue Belt, according to Bear Mountain Barbecue. Award-winning pitmaster Rodney Scott told Mashed in an exclusive interview that Carolina barbecue often involves smoking whole hogs over an open-flame pit. Citing food historian Robert Moss, Southern Kitchen says it made sense to cook the entire animal back in the days when refrigeration was hard to come by. Voice of America explains that sauce differentiates barbecue between the two Carolinas: North Carolina is home to vinegar sauce, and South Carolina's known for mustard sauce.

Alabama, a state smack dab in the middle of the Barbecue Belt, is known for a unique sauce created by the founder of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. At Big Bob Gibson's, smoked chicken is dunked in what's called Alabama white sauce, a tangy mayonnaise-based sauce that is a hot topic of discussion on Reddit. Kentucky and Texas change things up a little bit with their protein of choice: Barbecued mutton is a staple in Western Kentucky and in Texas, brisket is king. 

The barbecue in Missouri and Tennessee are more commonly known as Kansas City and Memphis barbecue, respectively, with each city having 100 or so barbecue restaurants. Both cities are known for barbecue pork ribs but saucy ribs are all the rave in Kansas City, while dry-rubbed ribs are common in Memphis.