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BBQ rib rubs and sauces vary across the country from state to state depending on where you are eating, your smoked meat could be sweet, tangy, spicy, or even fruity. A dry rubbed mixture of several ingredients including sugar, salt, and spices are traditionally applied to ribs prior to cooking. Then the sauce is slathered on the meat after it is fully cooked.
Here is how rubs and sauces for BBQ ribs differ from region to region.
Known as the world's barbecue capital, KC is where BBQ ribs were born. The high sugar content in the typical rib dry rubs and sauces requires slow cooking over low heat to avoid burning the meat to a char.
Dry rub: thick, sweet, brown sugar-based
Sauce: thick, very sweet, tomato-based
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Dry rub: smoky, spicy
Sauce: tomato-based, thinned with vinegar, sometimes made with horseradish
Memphis-style ribs are made without sauce or with sauce that is served on the side for dipping, making for a relatively tidy eating experience.
Dry rub: made with salt, black and cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano, and celery seed
Sauce: thin, sweet-tangy, tomato-and-vinegar-based
Though you're far likelier to find pulled pork at a NC cookout, the ribs also feature their unique vinegar-based sauces. Depending on which part of the state you're in, you could be getting a minimalist vinegar and pepper sauce (East) or a similar sauce with a bit of ketchup or tomato added (West).
Dry rub: spicy, sparingly applied
Sauce: thin, watery, tangy, vinegar-based
Lesser known for its barbecue than that of its northern neighbor, SC is actually home to four varieties of sauce: vinegar and pepper, light tomato, heavy tomato, and mustard. But it's the mustard-based sauce that is distinct to the state.
Dry rub: sweet, to counter the sauce's spiciness
Sauce: made with yellow mustard, vinegar, honey, sugar, and spices
Alabama owes its BBQ reputation to Bob Gibson of Big Bob Gibson B-B-Q in Decatur. He is credited with creating the white sauce ubiquitous in the northern part of the state.
Dry rub: slightly spicy
Sauce: tangy, mayonnaise-based
The primacy of Texan beef and brisket in particular makes for delicious dry rubs and bottles of sauce at BBQ joints, with beef and pork ribs do get bold seasoning.
Dry rub: spicy, usually with cayenne pepper chili powder
Sauce: thin, spicy and tangy with some sweetness, tomato-based, sometimes made with beer, coffee, or hot sauce
Best known for their luaus and pit-cooked pigs, Hawaiians have a unique take on BBQ ribs, adding indigenous coffee and pineapple to their dry rubs and sauces. Hawaiian-style ribs can also have traditional Asian flavors from added soy sauce, ginger, and five-spice powder.
Dry rub: basic, usually garlic, salt, and pepper, sometimes made with ground coffee
Sauce: sweet and spicy, pineapple- and chili sauce-based