Finding the Roots of Southern Barbecue

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This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Campbell's. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

Great eating means great recipes. Together with Campbell’s Sauces, we present "The Source," where we look back at the origins of some classic preparations, from around the country and around the world.

For barbecue done right, you've got to head down to Memphis. In this edition of "The Source," we check out the origins of Southern barbecue.

Plus, here are five things you didn't know about Southern barbecue.

1

It is believed that American settlers in the south picked up the practice of cooking meats "low and slow" over indirect flames from Caribbean islanders. Spanish settlers called it "barbacoa," which became the word "barbecue" as we know it today.

2

Pork is the heart and soul of southern barbecue. Pigs were a cheap and plentiful food source in the colonial south. When food supplies were low, people could release pigs into the woods to forage for themselves.

3

As barbecue spread through the south and southwest, different regional styles evolved. The four distinct barbecue styles come from the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City. Memphis' signature hot-n-sweet, tomato-based sauce evolved due to the city's proximity to supplies moving up and down the Mississippi, including molasses.

4

Memphis-style barbecue is slow cooked in a pit, and ribs can be prepared either "dry" or "wet." "Dry" ribs are covered with a dry rub made up of salt and various spices before cooking, and are traditionally eaten without sauce. "Wet" ribs are brushed with sauce before, during, and after cooking.

5

Because so many barbecue joints in the Jim Crow era were takeout and not sit-down, they became the rare establishments patronized jointly by black and white diners. Moreover, they provided an opportunity for black southerners to start their own businesses — establishments that are often still in the same family to this day.

To learn more about the origins of Chicken Marsala, click here to watch "The Source."

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Campbell's. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.


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