American-style bbq ribs

American Style BBQ recipes


Barbecue spread south from Virginia into the Carolinas as frontier families began to move along the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, seeking new lands to farm. Barbecuing culture had begun to take hold, and from there it spread across the South.

Around this time, thanks to the African population in America, barbecue took on many characteristics from African cooking techniques and flavours, including sour-spicy sauces made from hot peppers and citrus juice.

James Douglas and Scott Munro, founders of Red's True Barbecue (CLAIR WINFIELD)

Following the Civil War and emancipation, barbecue culture became the standard mode of community building and collective celebration across a wide swathe of the US – school celebrations, building of the railroads, church get-togethers; you name it. Whole animals would be slaughtered and cooked over an open pit for all to enjoy.

And then something happened at the turn of the 20th century which fast-tracked the distinct regional characteristics of barbecue and took it from field to fork. Changes in the production and packing of meat, a demographic shift of people moving from the countryside into the cities, and increasing ease of travel made barbecue a commercially viable enterprise, and so the very first barbecue restaurants were born.

Pitmasters could now choose what animals they wanted to cook, or even what specific cuts of the animal to use. Typically they chose what was plentiful (and therefore cheap) in their region. In Texas, they went from barbecuing whole cows, to only the forequarters, to finally only the brisket or ribs. In the Carolinas, some pitmasters opted to use only the shoulders of the pig, while in the Midwest, they went for the ribs.

Pulled pork, cooked the authentic American way (JAMES BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY)

In 1940, two brothers built a pit and served barbecue to hungry travellers. Their story is not remarkable – roadside barbecue stands had been opening across the country as America’s first national fast food – but the names of these brothers were Richard and Maurice McDonald, and their restaurant was McDonald’s Bar-B-Q. The duo quickly realised that the majority of their profits came from selling hamburgers and so re-tooled themselves into the assembly-line industrial-food restaurants that blanket the world today.

Prior to the rise of the burger joint, barbecue was the national fast food. The legions of new burger chains out-competed and displaced most roadside barbecue joints to the backyard.

In the years immediately following the Second World War, there was a massive movement of people into the American suburbs. The American middle-class fantasy was born and, for many, your own barbecue in the backyard. These mid-century barbecues were not the steel-and-propane behemoths of today’s suburban barbecue, but permanent structures of brick and mortar. Enthusiastic home cooks used them to prepare hamburgers, hot dogs (which became popular during wartime rationing), chicken, steaks, corn or anything else they could get their hands on. Due to their similarity to barbecue pits, it was generally accepted that what they were doing was, in fact, “barbecuing”, and the social events they held in their back yards were “barbecues”.

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