Barbecue is one of those foods that's fiercely regional: beef in Texas, sweet sauce in Kansas City, and so on. But thankfully, there are plenty of chains out there that bring amazing barbecue all across the country, and we've rounded up 10 of them.
Chains tend to get bad raps in general, largely because they rely on production lines and cost-cutting measures to deliver food that's as inexpensive and quickly-made as possible (think pizza chains versus an actual pizzeria). But when it comes to barbecue, there's really no corner-cutting. Because if you cut corners with barbecue, using low-grade meat, for example, or not smoking it for long enough, people will know. And not only will they know, they'll get angry. You can screw around with burgers or pizza, but you can't screw around with barbecue.
With more than 400 locations in 43 states, Dickey’s is the world’s largest barbecue franchise. Founded by Travis Dickey more than 70 years ago, each location pit-smokes its meat on-premises, and free kids’ meals are still offered every Sunday. While it’s certainly old-fashioned, that’s more the result of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. Meats are served by the pound, and include Southern-style pulled pork, hickory-smoked brisket, honey ham, spicy cheddar and Polish sausages, pork ribs, chicken, and turkey breast. There are no frills at Dickey’s, just solid, honest-to-goodness barbecue.
Photo Credit: Dickey’s BBQ Pit
#3) Red Hot & Blue
Founded 25 years ago in Arlington, Va. by a group of Southern transplants looking for good barbecue in DC (including former RNC chairman Lee Atwater and former Tennessee Governor–House member Don Sundquist), the chain today has additional locations in Maryland, Texas, New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan, and North Carolina. The restaurants have a distinctly Southern vibe, with menu items including fried Delta catfish and chicken fried steak, but it’s the barbecue that’s been the secret to its success. St. Louis-style ribs are served wet, dry-rubbed, or sweet; pulled chicken and pork are hickory-smoked low and slow; brisket is served sliced or chopped; housemade sausages are smoked and grilled; and thankfully sampler platters are available so you can try a little bit of everything.
Photo Credit: Red Hot & Blue Click Here to see More of The Best Barbecue Chains in America
All the owners of the chains on our list keep this fact close to heart, and it comes through in the food they serve. In order to assemble our ranking, we looked at dozens of barbecue restaurants with multiple locations all across the country, and ranked them according to the following criteria: local renown, consistency of the food across all locations, adherence to traditional barbecue techniques like "low and slow" on-premises smoking, atmosphere, and, most importantly, if the food tastes good.
Choosing a favorite type of barbecue is a subjective matter, but I think we can all agree on the fact then when done right, there's nothing on earth that's more delicious. And while some of these chains might specialize in Texas-style barbecue and others focus on St. Louis, we should be mighty thankful that they've decided to expand and grace parts of the country that might otherwise not have access to great barbecue with their presence. So strap in and get ready to learn about the 10 best barbecue chains in America.