05/10/2013 03:47 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

Summer of Smoke

By Sari Kamin
HRN Staffer

Kenny Callaghan, Chef of NYC restaurant, Blue Smoke appeared on Dorothy Cann Hamilton's Heritage Radio Network program, A Chef's Story, to explain the various regional styles of barbecue. In order to get ready for the season, we've prepared a cheat sheet for you based on Chef Callaghan's interview to help arm you with all the BBQ knowledge you need as you head into summertime.

Many people think that barbecue is as American as apple pie, but it is widely believed that the term is a derivative of the Spanish word, Barboca, which the Spanish used to describe the method of meat preservation they saw in the Caribbean.

Chef Callaghan explained that different regions use different techniques to prepare their traditional barbecue. Styles vary depending on what kinds of meats and cuts (pork, beef, shoulder, etc.) are used in the region, what kind of sauce is used, and whether or not there is a rub. This allows for a fairly broad flavor profile in what is generally thought to be a single type of cuisine.

You may have grown up eating barbecue without knowing it was prepared differently in other parts of the country, but not all barbecues are alike and it's helpful to know what you're eating and how its tastes reflect the region in which it comes from.

While many different styles of barbecue can be found around the world, Chef Callaghan focused on different regions of the U.S. where barbecue is a major part of the food culture. In his interview with Dorothy Hamilton, he explained the definitive styles of Kansas City, North and South Carolina, Memphis, and Texas. Geographic styles are so nuanced in the U.S., they can vary even within regions of a particular state.

Texas is certainly no exception; you'll find four different regional styles within the state. According to Callaghan, beef is their meat of choice and sometimes they skip the sauce. In Central Texas, you'll find the "meat market" style of barbecue which relies on heavy smoking techniques that can be traced back to the butcher shops of Eastern European towns in the 19th century. The West Texas "cowboy style" involves direct cooking over mesquite, and in the South of Texas, the style is known as "barbacoa," and involves the head of a cow cooked underground.

In Kansas City they're known for their brisket and a signature sauce that's thick and sweet made from tomatoes and molasses. Their meat is slow smoked over a variety of woods and the diversity of meats in their recipes is an important distinguisher.

Memphis barbecue is all about the sandwiches. Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before and after cooking while dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub. Chopped pork on a simple bun with coleslaw is what you'll find in any Memphis BBQ establishments.

Chef Callaghan described the differences among the sauces and the breakdown of the animals in the Carolinas. He explained that in North Carolina, they typically use whole hogs. In Eastern Carolina, you'll find their 'cue to be bathed in a vinegar sauce, while South Carolinians prefer a mustard based sauce known colloquially as "Carolina Gold."

We hope you refer to this article all summer so you'll never have to phone a friend the next time you're asked to build a fire and whip up some cowboy style 'cue.

To hear the original interview with Chef Kenny Callaghan and Dorothy Cann Hamilton, click here.

Chef Kenny Callaghan will be one of the pit masters at the eleventh annual Big Apple Barbecue in June!

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