The BBQ Capitals of America

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A handful of places in America are more closely associated with barbecue than with any other food. But increasingly, more and more cities are getting in on the ‘cue game, and nowadays just about every major city (and some minor ones) from coast to coast is home to real-deal, slow-smoked barbecue.  

Any self-proclaimed barbecue lover can name America’s top barbecue cities – and the type of BBQ most closely associated with it – off the top of their head. Kansas City, for example, is known for its ribs, burnt ends, and sweet, sticky sauce. In St. Louis, the ribs are usually sauce-slathered and charcoal grilled. And in Memphis, dry-rubbed ribs and pulled pork rule the day. These cities are home to many of the best BBQ spots in America

Zoom out a little and you’ll find that entire regions of the country are also associated with specific barbecue styles. The Hill Country of Texas is all about beef brisket, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and in the Carolinas hogs are smoked whole before being doused with either a vinegar- or mustard-based sauce. (This is the best BBQ joint in every state.)

Countless small towns across America, especially in the South, are home to world-class barbecue joints, but if you head to the city you’ll discover that, increasingly frequently, chefs and pitmasters aren’t finding themselves beholden to whatever barbecue style happens to be most associated with the region. You’ll find great Texas-style brisket in New York and Los Angeles, for example, and in many cities, the BBQ on offer doesn’t conform to any specific regional style at all.  

To determine the best cities for BBQ in 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed “2022’s Best BBQ Cities in America,” a ranking published by LawnStarter, a lawn-care startup that conducts research into city and state amenities. The site judged cities according to 17 individual metrics, weighted differently, in four overall categories. Those categories were access (number of smokehouses and barbecue cooking teams per square mile), quality (average consumer ratings for smokehouses and cooking teams, among other factors), accolades (number of award-winning and top-rated cooking teams in various BBQ contests), and hosting (number of barbecue competitions and festivals). 

LawnStarter drew information from eight other sites, including Grillocracy, Kansas City Barbeque Society, and National Barbecue and Grilling Association. Our list covers the nation’s top 30 cities for BBQ according to LawnStarter.

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