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What is Memphis Style Barbecue?

Updated on February 22, 2014
Clipart By OCAL
Clipart By OCAL | Source

Corky's & Cozy Corner Duke Out On B.B.Q.

BBQ in Memphis

Memphis is acclaimed for its fantastic barbecue. The Bluff City has its own way of creating dry rub and sauce that has built its good reputation for yummy barbecue.

Memphis Style Rib Rub

Dry rubs are the soul of Memphis barbecue. The city is renowned for Memphis dry rub, which is tasty and the meat is not dry or tough. It means that this approach doesn't use a sauce when cooking the meat. A coating of the dry mixture is put on the pork ribs. The cook will dust both sides of the pork ribs thoroughly or roll them in the dry rub. The rub may vary some, but it usually includes black pepper, paprika, brown sugar, chill powder, onion power, garlic power, and cumin. Then they are slowly smoked. Sauce is supplied on the side.

Memphis Style Barbecue Sauce

The basic concept is to use sweet, sour, and spices in the recipe. It should be tangy and thin. The vinegar produces a tartness and the brown sugar or molasses adds a sweet flavor. These two flavors and the spiciness create a unique taste bud satisfying sauce. The piquancy of the seasonings such as butter, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, hot sauce, and cloves is the key to its deliciousness. Some recipes use dark brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, or Worcestershire sauce. Other utilizes molasses, yellow mustard, and celery seed. This thinner sauce caramelizes and is great for dipping.

Pulled Pork Barbecue

The meat is slow cooked which makes the connective tissue soften so the meat can be pulled apart. The softness or tenderness of the meat defines pulled pork. The meat can be cooked with a smoker, oven, or slow cooker. The Memphis way is to smoke it with Hickory wood. Other hardwoods can be used to smoke meat.

Typically, a pork shoulder is smoked and then the meat is pulled apart by hand. Pulled pork is most often presented as a sandwich with coleslaw on top of the meat. Pulled pork is also served on a plate with sauce poured over it.

Memphis Style Coleslaw

The basic ingredients of Memphis style coleslaw include cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, onions, vinegar, celery seeds, mustard, mayonnaise, sugar, salt, and pepper. Some cooks use Worcestershire sauce, and some white pepper.

Memphis Barbecue Restaurants

The visitor to the Bluff City that likes barbecue can sample Memphis style barbecue at these masterly restaurants that have survived the years because they have created great barbecue.

The Rendezvous

Memphis natives and visitors flood through the Rendezvous because it has served delicious Memphis style barbecue since 1948. Well established it its original basement home, their dry rub uses oregano and paprika on the charcoal grilled pork ribs. Southern Living and Esquire have spotlighted this establishment.


Tops has grown its claim of excellent barbecue since 1952. This chain serves a hickory smoked sandwich with coleslaw favoring a mustard taste crowning the meat. Its longstanding good reputation proceeds Tops.

Payne's Bar-B-Q

This isn't your fancy restaurant as its located in a converted gas station, but they have been pleasing the taste buds of barbecue fans since 1972. People keep proving that this South Memphis barbecue joint is a winner serving well-known smoked sausage and pulled pork sandwiches.

Pig on the Beale

Visitors can relish Memphis barbecue and music at Pig on the Beale established in 2002. The 1950's accouterments with jukebox, and 50's style furniture creates a fun atmosphere. Bands liven the joint up on the weekends. Though a relative newcomer to the Memphis barbecue scene, it has a local reputation of serving great smoked pork shoulder and ribs the Memphis way.

Delicious Memphis style Barbecue is just a trip or a recipe away, but for the authentic experience visit Memphis and taste the difference.

How to Barbecue Memphis Style


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