Editor's note: Nothing inflames passions quite like barbecue and we'll be breaking down the nuances of regional styles all summer long. Next week - CNN readers and staff weigh in on their favorite joints and pitmasters from all over the country.
(Travel + Leisure) – Like a lot of people, Jay Metzger draws a line when it comes to his barbecue loyalties - and for him, that line falls along the Mississippi River.
“While it’s nice to enjoy a little Memphis and Carolina barbecue, the real stuff comes from the center of the U.S.,” says the Los Angeles-based advertising executive, who favors Kansas City and Texas barbecue.
Plenty of Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking KC and more than one Texas city in the top 10. But where there’s smoke, there’s fiery debate. As part of the America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 metro areas for such qualities as good-looking locals, great sports teams, and regionally distinct pizza and barbecue. To be fair, since the survey covered only 35 cities, some barbecue hot spots like Lexington, North Carolina, Lockhart, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri were not even on the table for this particular vote.
But plenty of other hot-button BBQ cities were - and one dark horse (or perhaps pig) even took the top prize. Certainly, the prevailing styles and some gourmet-friendly trends vary from city to city, from the burnt ends in Kansas City, Missouri, to the mustard-sauced pork in Charleston, South Carolina, or the piles of brisket on butcher paper in Austin, Texas - so the definition of best may depend on what you’re used to.
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The secret to great barbecue in your own backyard isn’t necessarily going out and buying all sorts of special equipment. You don’t require a smoker, and you don’t need the huge barbecue pits the pitmasters use in the South. All you need is a grill, some wood chips, and a disposable roasting pan filled with water to convert a charcoal kettle into a makeshift smoker.
Texas claims it’s the home of barbecue. But according to a recent list on TripAdvisor.com, the Lone Star state comes in third behind Georgia and North Carolina. CNN affiliate WFAA went to a few well known barbecue joints in Dallas to get reaction from residents.
Barbecued zebra anyone? How about warthog with peri-peri sauce?
Along with more traditional fare, these are the kinds of things you might find on a "braai," a specialized barbecue born of South Africa and over the last couple years seen around the world, thanks to a TV series.
South Africa's braai (barbecue) culture is one of the few things that truly cuts across racial and economic lines - just about every circle of friends here has its own "braai master."
In much the way cupcakes went from being a humble, if beloved, food item to the focus of TV shows, blogs and books, so too the braai has escalated in prominence and caught the imagination of the country in a new way.
This is the fifteenth installment of "Eat This List" - a semi-regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
Getting tapped as a judge for a barbecue competition sounds like a carnivore's dream come true, especially when it's at the level of The Jack. For 25 years, cooking teams from around the world have converged upon Lynchburg, Tennessee to battle for smoke-soaked supremacy at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue.
This past Saturday, 25,000 barbecue devotees showed up to cheer on the 76 United States and 23 international teams that had qualified to participate by winning at the state level or various prestigious competitions. Chicken, ribs, pork and brisket were mandatory categories, and sauce, cook's choice and dessert were optional.
I got to taste them all.
I've been Kansas City Barbeque Society certified since 2008 and judged other food events, so this wasn't my first rodeo, but nothing compares to a competition where a $10,000 prize and such high-test bragging rights are on the line. Richmond, Virginia's Cool Smoke team took home the Grand Champion title, as well as Rockwell, Iowa's Pig Skin BBQ for a separately-judged Winner's Circle of previous Jack champs.
Judges like me left with full stomachs, sauce-stained clothes and some insight into what it takes to judge - and win - at competitive barbecue.
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