Knee-Slappin’ Barbecue!

It all depends where you’re from.

With Memorial Day coming up in a few days, and May being National Barbecue Month, folks all over the country are going to be firing up their grills, smokers and ovens, stirring their spices and mixing their sauces for that first big weekend to kick off summer.

Barbecue will be the name of the game.

How you do the meat will reflect which region you live in.  Barbecue experts have narrowed these regions down to four distinct ‘cue styles. 

Carolina Style:

Dates back to colonial times.  Wild pigs were plentiful, and most folks were missing their teeth, so they cooked those hogs over a wood fire to get them good and tender–and easier to chew.  Meat was pulled right off the bone; hence, the term ‘pulled pork.’  Popular seasonings include a thin vinegar sauce, salt, pepper and flakes of red dried chili pepper. 

Memphis Style:

Known for its dry rub seasonings.  Barbecue sauce is served on the side.  Pork ribs are rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper and paprika, and depending on taste, onion power, garlic powder, sugar, mustard, sage and ginger are added.  The sauce–tomato-based and thick, with mustard, brown sugar and vinegar.

Memphis lays claim to the famous Rendezvous restaurant, located in a basement and accessible via a dumpster-filled alley. 

 Kansas City Style: 

Now, this is my kind of ‘cue.  Sweet, sour and spicy.  Tomato-based, too.  Cooks will usually brush the sauce over the meat just before it comes off the grill.  The meat is cooked over a slow-burning fire of hickory and oak wood chips for that sweet-smoky flavor.  Be sure to have plenty of napkins near-by!

Texas Style:

When you think of Texas, do you think of beef brisket?  Or maybe pork ribs.  Either way, the meat is rubbed with blended salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder, then grilled slowly over a wood fire, often of mesquite.  Texas seasonings tend to be hotter, spicier.  Not so sweet and sour as the Kansas City style, and with more Worcestershire sauce.

Here’s a couple of easy barbecue sauce recipes:

1 part of Heinz 57 sauce

1 part honey

Blend.  Make as much or as little as you like!


My favorite fast food sandwich place is Arby’s, and their barbecue sauce is the best.  Here’s a recipe:

1 cup ketchup

2 tsp. water

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. Tabasco pepper sauce


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Let cool.  Store in covered container in refrigerator.


Being in a ‘cue frame of mind, and in um, research for this blog, Doug and I went out to eat at an Omaha icon known for its barbecue–The Smoke Pit.  I visited with the wife of the owner, who first met her husband when she went to work at the restaurant.  Thirty-two years later, she’s still cooking for him and their customers, six days a week.  They cook their meat in big smoker ovens and are known for their trademark ribs.  I ordered chicken, and the meat literally falls off the bone.  She makes their barbecue sauce, which I found thinner and sweeter than most.

So, do tell.  What are you doing this Memorial Weekend?  Serving barbecue?  What’s your favorite?  Any stories to share?  Any recipes?

Let us know, and I’ll draw one lucky name who will win a bottle of barbecue sauce from Omaha’s own The Smoke Pit!

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at

41 thoughts on “Knee-Slappin’ Barbecue!”

  1. Pam said: Wild pigs were plentiful, and most folks were missing their teeth

    Wow, you just described my life.

    (that’s a joke)

    What a hilareous, and most likely true, statement.

  2. Unfortunately we won’t have time to barbecue this weekend, too much other family crises going on. All four bbq styles listed sound good and it would depend on the mood I was in as to which one I would be eating. My family would prefer the Memphis or Kansas City style. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

  3. I’ve never been to the Smoke Pit, Pam. I’ve got to try it.
    I’m a Famous Daves fan, but also have you been to Amarillo’s? It’s way south I think. That place made me fall in love with barbecue.

    My brother in law is a really good cook. He and my sister have a smoker and they’ll get it going and smoke a ton of meat, then freeze it and cook the meat as they need it. So, so, so good.
    I’ve never smoked meat but I ought to. It’s fantastic.

  4. Lynn, I do hope you take time to enjoy the holiday. They don’t come often enough.

    The Memphis and Kansas City styles are very different in that Memphis is a dry rub and Kansas City is sticky barbecue. Either one is good, tho!

  5. Hi, Mary!

    The Smoke Pit isn’t fancy, but it’s clean and very popular. There used to be a strip joint right next to it, but they closed, the SP bought them out and now use it as a party room. They’re even open until 3:00 am on weekends to catch the late-night bar crowds.

    I’ve heard of Amarillo’s but have never been there. Thanks for the reminder! Doug and I always are on the lookout for new places to eat. And anything that sounds Texan sounds wonderful to me!

    Enjoy the long weekend!

  6. Mary,

    I only live an hour away from the original Famous Dave’s, haven’t made it to that one in Hayward yet but will. Needless to say, since the chain started up here there are a lot of Famous Dave’s around the area so I don’t have far to go to get some!

  7. We like Famous Daves too. Or make our own. My daughter just made pulled pork from boneless ribs for a birthday party last weekend. She used FD’s sauce, and it was awesome!

    When I grill, I like to do teriaki.

  8. Hi Pam, here in Texas we take our barbeque very seriously. My favorite local place to go is called “The Branding Iron.” Talk about de-licious! It’s the finger-licking kind and we Texans don’t shy away from using our fingers. 🙂

    But there’s also nothing better than grilling in the backyard. My sister makes some of the best barbeque sauce I’ve ever tasted. The ingredients are a secret. Darn it! She won’t even share it with me. One of these days I’m going to sneak into her recipe file and steal it. I’m an awfully good snoop.

    I’m sure looking forward to this weekend. Hope everyone has a great time doing whatever they love to do. Fascinating topic, Pam!

  9. I look to barbeque I have my secret sauce too I might would share it but I am at work and will have to when I get home. I change it all the time and I never measure that ingredients out that takes way to much time. But this recipe does simmer for an hour and a half so that does take some time.
    My favorite place I liked to go was KC Masterpiece it was on the Plaza in Kansas City I loved that place but it is gone now. We used to go there just to eat there.
    I am going to try the Heniz 57 that sounds good too.
    Is it lunch time yet? LOL

  10. We are having a huge neighborhood bar-b-q this weekend. After the lengthy winter this is going to be scuh an event. I enjoy this time of year and the getting together with all the lovely variety of foods etc.

  11. Cheryl and Mary,

    Another local barbecue place is Boyd and Charlie’s on Main Street in Elkhorn. It’s a small restaurant, not a chain. They smoke their own meat, make their own sauces, and don’t barbecue your meal for you. They serve the sauce on the side–each table gives you 3 choices. My favorite is the whiskey!!

    And it’s inexpensive, too!

    Teriyaki sounds wonderful!

  12. Hi, Linda! Thanks for stopping by!

    Oh, yes, Texas is serious about BBQ. They’re experts and really know their stuff. Love the name of the Branding Iron–very western.

    Sounds like your sister is serious about her BBQ, too. LOL.

    Enjoy the weekend!

  13. Hi, Brenda!

    KC is another city serious about BBQ. We can buy the Masterpiece sauce here in Nebraska at the grocery stores. I knew they had a restaurant, but didn’t realize it was gone. Did they move to another location??

    When my husband grills, he doesn’t simmer the ribs first. Only exception is brats because the links are fat and difficult to cook through. Pre-boiling also helps the splattering over the fire.

  14. Hi, Ruth!

    You are so lucky to have such a nice neighborhood get-together. Neighbors don’t neighbor as much as they should these days. Everyone’s too busy and that’s a real shame.

    Enjoy, enjoy!

  15. Pam thanks for telling me about the ribs when I put them on the grill they seem to get dried out but when I do them inside in the broiler they are fine. I do all kinds of other meat out there and there is no problem. I want those ribs from the grill where you are licking your fingers and wanting more.
    I did look I guess they still have 1 KC Masterpiece in Kansas City it is in overland park area. It was just so nice to go to the plaza and have dinner and walk around and it smelled so good you just had to eat there and it was really busy all the time I wonder why they closed that location.
    I can’t wait to barbeque this weekend I am going to try the ribs on the grill again.

  16. California is the birthplace of the Santa Maria Barbeque–tri tip, salad, beans and garlic bread. Pico de gallo or salsa rather than sauce.

    But I love BBQ anything and hubby is a master. We like Famous Dave’s but our favorite is a SoCal chain, Wood Ranch. Their “best BBQ beef sandwich” is to die for.

    This Mem. Weekend we’ll be in Tahoe and departing for Monterey but will try to get some BBQ along the way LOL. The condo has wi-fi, yay, so I’m still able to cyber-ride on over to the Junction!

    Thanks, Pam, for this yummy post. Oh yeah, it’s lunchtime.

  17. All the bbq sounds great. I am looking forward to the weekend. We will have a family bbq. The sauce I use is from a recipe that was on a rack of ribs I bought. It is the dh’s favorite.

  18. Here in the Phoenix desert, we grill mostly with spices and fire-roasted green chilies. Steaks seem to be more common than ribs or barbecued meats. Since it is going to be a cooler weekend than it has been ( 110 degrees on Monday) we are having friends over, grilling, and swimming.

  19. My sister and brother-in-law bought a smoker and smoke meat at home. It’s wonderful.
    We grill a lot, steak, burgers, hot dogs…but for the most part we don’t do barbeque at home like ribs slathered in barbeque sauce or pulled pork. I like to pay for it instead and let someone else do the cooking. 😀

    It’s just never as good when I make it. It seems like picking a restaurant wisely is it’s own kind of cooking talent!!!!!!

  20. Tanya, I loved hearing what was popular in California. Very different than Nebraska favorites!

    Despite the focus of my blog today, we’re having a Mexican fiesta at my house this weekend. My sister is from Albuquerque, and she’s promised to bring Sangria and pico de gallo. I didn’t even know what it is until she explained it to me. It sounds delish!

    And, oh, Tahoe! You lucky girl. I know our sweet Filly Charlene goes there often, too. I’m jealous!

  21. Good luck with the ribs, Brenda. Maybe if you’re not sure about grilling them, you can call a restaurant or a butcher shop. They’ll have some great tips for you.

    Let us know how they turned out!

  22. Hi, Crystal! Another traditional BBQ to add to the list. Have a great time!

    Joye–sounds like the dry rub method is the favorite out your way. And 110 degrees is COOLER? Yowza!!

    Spend plenty of time in that pool. I’m wearing a sweatshirt here in the house today. It’s overcast and I’m chilly!

  23. Mary, my husband loved his smoker when we had it. But he found out it’s a bit time consuming, and he wasn’t doing it as often as he should/could. So it was just taking up space on the patio, and he got rid of it.

  24. Texas barbecue is more our style.
    My husband will be barbecueing flat iron steaks for our family get together.

  25. I make a mean ‘pulled beef’ sandwich. I call them BBQ’d Beef Buns. I slow cook the roast and then pull off pieces with a fork. I take the meat and add BBQ sauce to it and heat through on the stove; sob, sob I just buy the BBQ sauce(Kraft)b/c I don’t have any good recipe. The buns are split in half and buttered and then you lay those ‘mouth watering’ pieces of beef on the bun and close the bun and put your lips to the bun and ‘lip smackin good’.

  26. Hi Pam – I love Carolina Style ribs! I’m definitely a baby back rib lover. And like Tanya, Woodranch is my favorite place for ribs. They are sooo tender.

    It’s a baseball weekend for us, we’ll be traveling to UCI (Irvine), so no hometown BBQ this weekend.

    Have a great Memorial Weekend!

  27. Oh, I forgot add, I love PULLED PORK sandwiches too. I made them once in the crock pot and they were okay, but there’s this place in Palm Springs called Babe’s that we never miss. They make the best!

  28. Barbecue: one of the “National Foods of Texas.”
    Gabby’s, Goode Company, there are so many good BBQ
    places that it is hard listing them all! The best
    is probably BBQ, the home version. Haven’t decided
    yet about the weekend!!

    Pat Cochran

  29. Oh man, Pam–we LOVE barbecue! Any or all of those styles, thanks 🙂 My husband did some experimenting a few years ago, and I think he’s tried the Memphis style and Texas and possibly the Carolina… And someday we’d love to go to Memphis in May… We don’t have plans yet for our Memorial Day, but maybe we need to include BBQ!

  30. Hey, Robyn, you make the pulled beef sandwiches sound so easy and good! Do you toast the buns before adding that lip-smackin’ beef?

    And you should try to make your own sauce sometime. Try the recipes I gave you! LOL.

  31. Pat, you’re from Texas? Oh, yeah, you’d never be able to list all the great places that specialize in BBQ. And you are so right – there’s something danged special about that grill right on your own patio, eh?

  32. I’m from the midwest and support the Kansas City style BBQ…but will never pass up a great beef brisket! 🙂

    I like to grill almost anything!

  33. I grew up in Oklahoma, and I LOVE BBQ!!! I haven’t had any really good BBQ in a long time. I live in Indiana now and have yet to find a good BBQ place. I’m sure there are some here, but I haven’t found them yet! LOL

    My favorite meats are beef brisket, and pulled pork! YUMMY!!! We ate at a place in St. Louis, MO. years ago while driving through, and I think it might be the best BBQ, I’ve ever had. It was so tender, and the best thing was every table had 6 bottles of sauce, all different kinds, from sweet to hot. So you could try them all and see which you liked. I think it was the Carolina sauce that I ended up likeing the best.

    I am so craving BBQ now!!! 🙂

    Hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with lots of great BBQ! 😉


  34. Hi, Kathleen! Do you do your own grilling? Or is that the passion of the man in your life? At our house–definitely Doug’s deal. He’ll grill anything he can think of–in all kinds of weather except snow. Grill, sit back and pop a top–and life is good.

    Now me, I don’t even know how to light the charcoal.

  35. Pam, Every city or town in Texas has its own listing
    of BBQ places. It would be interesting if someone
    made up a state registry of BBQ restaurants. I can
    bet that the list would total in the 5/6 figures!
    And that wouldn’t be counting all the BBQ cook-off
    teams in the state. Or all the home BBQers! LOL!

    Pat Cochran

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