What Is Memphis-Style BBQ? - Backyard Boss
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What Is Memphis-Style BBQ?

Home of the Memphis In May World Championship Barbeque Cooking Competition, Memphis is known as a barbecue capital for its unique style, but what makes it so special? In this article, I will explain to you what Memphis-style barbecue really is, and I will also tell you how to prepare tender pork using this style.

What Is Memphis-Style Barbeque?

A person cutting a barbecue pork
Image Credits: José Ignacio Pompé on Unsplash

To sum up Memphis-style barbeque, you could simply use four words: tasty and tender pork. Served “wet,” with sauce, or “dry,” without sauce, the delicious smoked pork is savory and tender with plenty of flavors, even without barbeque sauce.

Whether you are enjoying pork ribs or pulled pork, both typical of the Memphis style, you can be sure the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor.

How to Get Tender Pork Memphis Style

Barbecue pork on a wooden plate
Image Credits: Jez Timms on Unsplash

Smoke Slowly

The key to tender and tasty pork, the trademark of the Memphis style, is smoking it slowly over a low hickory fire.

Although smokers vary, as well as individual smoking techniques, smoking ribs at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about four-and-a-half hours should do the trick. If you’re smoking a pork butt, a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about eight hours is recommended.

Use Dry Rub

    Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Famous Memphis Barbecue Dry Rub Seasoning

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Famous Memphis Barbecue Dry Rub Seasoning
    Add this Memphis Barbecue dry rub seasoning to ribs, chicken, or sausages just before serving. It's the finishing touch that will elevate the flavor of your meat.

In addition to the slow smoking technique, the use of a dry rub is crucial for Memphis-style barbeque.

While most Memphians will not divulge their dry rub recipes, which vary greatly and incorporate a wide variety of ingredients, a true Memphis-style dry rub will be paprika-based and have a perfect combination of savory, sweet, and spicy flavors. The paprika and other spices, such as black pepper, or brown sugar give the smoked pork a rich, reddish color and provide enough flavor that barbeque sauce is often not needed.

Apply Mopping

Another technique common in Memphis-style barbequing is “mopping.” A mop can be created by adding water to the dry rub, creating a thin sauce. This sauce is then applied to the ribs or pork butt about every 30 minutes as they smoke, adding even more to the flavor and tenderness of the meat. Mopping is important in the process of smoking pork because it maintains the moistness of the meat.

Use a Typical Memphis-Style Barbecue Sauce

While Memphis-style pork is delicious without barbeque sauce and does not necessarily need any, many people choose to eat their ribs or pulled pork “wet.” or with sauce.

A barbeque sauce typical of the Memphis style is slightly sweet, incorporating both vinegar and tomatoes. The thinnish sauce is poured over a pulled pork sandwich or served on the side of a slab of ribs.

Use the Right Ribs

Arguably the most popular version of the Memphis-style pork is slow-smoked ribs. Spare ribs cut in St. Louis Style are commonly used as well as baby back ribs. Although many people may prefer ribs, some argue that the trademark of any Memphis-style barbeque is a nice, juicy pulled pork sandwich, preferably topped with sweet and fresh coleslaw.

The Last Word

Whether you prefer ribs or pulled pork, with or without barbeque sauce, one thing is for sure: If you appreciate great barbeque, the Memphis style, packed full of flavor and tender goodness, might be for you. Don’t be afraid to use the different types of meat using various methods to find the taste you enjoy the most!