Too Many Regional Styles At A Barbecue Restaurant Is An Expert Red Flag

Given its prevalence in the modern-day U.S., it's easy to assume that barbecue is a uniquely American invention, but that's only partially true. We have the indigenous people of Hispaniola and the Chickasaw tribe of what is now Mississippi to thank for introducing barbecue to the Spanish conquistadors, who spread the practice around the land. Since then, different regions of the country have developed their own styles of cooking meat slow and low over a fire, and these different styles are as varied and unique as our nation's makeup.


The countless regional styles of barbecue available mean that there's something out there for every meat-eater. If complex, spicy pork is your thing, find yourself a Memphis barbecue spot. Or if you prefer tender, mouthwatering beef brisket, try out one of the many styles of Texas barbecue. There are also many varieties of global barbecue, such as Korean or Jamaican barbecue, that incorporate flavors from their local cuisine. While it's tempting to want to try all the styles of barbecue in one go, be wary of restaurants that offer multiple types, or you'll probably be disappointed by the quality.

A jack of all trades is a master of none

If a place is offering many different regional styles of barbecue, it's unlikely they've mastered a single one. Each style of barbecue takes care and attention to make perfectly, and most restaurants simply can't give that attention to multiple different styles. Speaking to Eat This, Not That, pitmaster and barbecue judge Steve Mickley says that in order to get the most out of your meal, "choose an eatery specializing in one style. That way, you'll get the full experience from start to finish."


Finding a barbecue restaurant that focuses on one style will increase the chances you'll eat something that has been cooked to perfection (by someone who knows what that means). This is also why it pays to know a bit about each style of barbecue. Of course, there are endless varieties of barbecue with too many elements to mention, but one component to look out for is what kind of meat is being cooked. Memphis, North Carolina, and South Carolina barbecue specializes in pork, while Kansas City, Texas, and other barbecue styles include beef, chicken, and turkey. If you're new to the world of barbecue, finding specialized restaurants will help you learn about each style and find your favorite.

Green flags to look for from your barbecue spot

There are a few things you should keep an eye out for when searching for a good barbecue restaurant. Along with specializing in one style, barbecue spots should also keep their food simple. Delicious meat should speak for itself, and shouldn't need to be slathered with sauce or accompanied by extravagant sides. Look for spots that use sauce sparingly, and that offer a short list of quality barbecue sides like baked beans, collard greens, potato salad, and corn on the cob. In the same vein, avoid places with a menu that is miles long. As pitmaster Tom Peters says, "When you see a complete write-up on every item with 95 different ingredients and sauces, that means it's definitely not authentic. Brisket is just brisket."


Overall, it seems that the key to finding a good barbecue spot is to look for an establishment that only does a few things, but does them extremely well. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing a plate of overly complicated sauces and meat that hasn't been cooked as well as it could have been. Barbecue is all about savoring the complexities of the meat itself, so look for restaurants that keep things simple, and that put all their efforts into perfecting a single style. The places you know have the basics down will also be the most prudent about introducing innovative offerings that will be worth trying.