What is Memphis Style BBQ?

Memphis bills itself as the best barbeque in the world and they have a lot of believers. Every May they host the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest next to the Mississippi River. Barbeque is a well-loved meal for locals and very much a part of the culinary culture of the city.

Memphis barbeque is usually smoked pork. It is either a slab of rubs or pork cooked until tender and pulled. The reason Memphis barbeque is so good is that there is a long tradition of cooking barbeque in the city and diners expect quality meat that is well-seasoned and well cooked. The biggest secret to Memphis barbeque is the quality of the pork. The best pork will be the tastiest.

The most distinctive feature of Memphis barbeque is the dry rub. Instead of using a wet barbeque sauce as they do in other areas of the country a dry mixture of seasonings is applied to the meat before cooking. The ribs most often used are baby back ribs.

Dry rub ribs are so famous that some barbeque restaurants in Memphis ship them all over the world via overnight delivery. Ribs are rubbed with a mixture of spices like onion salt, paprika, seasoned salt, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and other spices. The recipes are generally a secret and every barbeque joint has their own version of the rib rub and sauce. The ribs are coated with the rub, left to marinate for a period of time and slow cooked until they almost fall off of the bone. They are usually eaten with barbeque sauce.

The barbeque sauce is no afterthought though. Vinegar and tomatoes (or ketchup) is mixed with spices and made into a sweet, tangy sauce that’s not too thick. This is the sauce served with ribs or mixed with pulled pork.
Pulled pork is a pork roast that is seasoned and slow cooked until it is so tender that it can be shredded easily with two forks. The shredded pork is mixed with some barbeque sauce and usually made into sandwiches. Coleslaw is a favorite topping along with some more Memphis barbeque sauce.

If you get the chance to visit Memphis you can’t leave without trying the barbeque, at least once or twice. Two famous restaurants are Corky’s, famous for their ribs, and Neely’s. The Neely’s have made Memphis barbeque a nationwide hit with their television cooking show. If you like pulled pork, don’t miss the pulled pork sandwich at Payne’s.

If you won’t be in Memphis anytime soon then you can make your own rub and sauce. You can also order it from one of the famous barbeque places to make your own grilling special – Memphis style.

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