When it comes to barbecue, Alabama might not be the first state that comes to mind. However, our southern state has a rich history of barbecue that dates back to the 1800s. Alabama barbecue is unique in its flavor, preparation, and sauces, and it’s a must-try for anyone visiting the state. And we, of course, offer a tour of our local Q joints! (Click HERE)
The Origin of Alabama Barbecue
Barbecue is said to have originated in the Caribbean, where natives would slow-cook meat over an open fire. As Caribbean natives migrated to the southern United States, they brought their barbecue techniques with them. Over time, each southern state developed its barbecue style, and Alabama was no exception.
Alabama barbecue can be traced back to the 1800s when rural farmers would slow-cook whole hogs over open pits. These hog roasts would often serve as a way for communities to gather and celebrate important events. Over time, the barbecue culture in Alabama evolved, with different regions developing their unique flavors and techniques.
The Three Types of Alabama Barbecue
There are three main types of Alabama barbecue: northern, central, and southern. Each region has its own distinct flavor and preparation methods.
Northern Alabama barbecue is characterized by its use of chicken instead of pork. The chicken is marinated in a white sauce made with mayonnaise, vinegar, and various spices. The chicken is then smoked over hickory wood, giving it a smoky flavor that complements the tangy white sauce.
Central Alabama barbecue is known for its use of pork, which is slow-cooked over (usually) hickory wood. The meat is then chopped or pulled and served with a red barbecue sauce made with ketchup, vinegar, and spices. Central Alabama barbecue is also known for its sides, which often include white bread, coleslaw, and baked beans.
Southern Alabama barbecue is similar to central Alabama barbecue, but with a few key differences. The meat is typically smoked for extended periods of time, giving it a more intense flavor. Southern Alabama barbecue also uses a thinner sauce made with vinegar and spices and is often served on the side instead of on the meat.
The Sauce Debate
One of the most hotly debated topics in Alabama barbecue is the sauce. Each region has its own unique sauce, and enthusiasts are fiercely loyal to their preferred style. Some argue that the white sauce used in northern Alabama is the best, while others swear by the red sauce used in central Alabama. Still, others prefer the tangy vinegar sauce used in southern Alabama.
Regardless of which sauce you prefer, one thing is sure: Alabama barbecue sauces are all delicious. The white sauce is tangy and creamy, while the red sauce is sweet and spicy. The vinegar sauce is tangy and sharp and is perfect for cutting through the rich smokiness of the meat.
Where to Find Alabama Barbecue – Our Top 13 Choices
You won’t have to look far if you want to try Alabama barbecue. There are countless barbecue joints throughout the state, each with its own unique flavor and atmosphere. Some of the most popular barbecue spots in Alabama include (in no particular order):
- Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q – Decatur, AL – This restaurant is a staple in Alabama barbecue and has been serving its award-winning smoked meats and white sauce for over 90 years.
- Saw’s BBQ – Birmingham, AL – Saw’s BBQ has become a local favorite for its mouth-watering smoked meats and signature white barbecue sauce.
- Dreamland Bar-B-Que – Tuscaloosa, AL – Dreamland has been serving its famous ribs and tangy red sauce since 1958 and has become a classic Alabama barbecue joint.
- Archibald’s BBQ – Northport, AL – Archibald’s is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving their signature ribs and vinegar-based sauce for over 50 years.
- Rodney Scott’s BBQ – Birmingham, AL – Rodney Scott’s is a newer addition to the Alabama barbecue scene but has quickly gained popularity for their whole hog barbecue and flavorful sauces. Originating in Charleston, SC, their whole hog barbecue is unique to the Birmingham area.
- Moe’s Original Bar B Que – Auburn, AL – Moe’s offers a wide variety of Southern-style barbecue, including pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and their signature Moe’s sauce.
- Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q – Birmingham, AL – Jim ‘N Nick’s offers a range of smoked meats, including pulled pork, beef brisket, and smoked chicken, and their famous cheese biscuits are a must-try.
- Bob Sykes Bar B Q – Bessemer, AL – Bob Sykes has been serving up their famous hickory-smoked meats and tangy red sauce since 1957 and has become a staple in the Alabama barbecue scene.
- Full Moon Bar-B-Que – Birmingham, AL – Full Moon offers a range of smoked meats, including pulled pork, ribs, and chicken, and their chow-chow relish and banana pudding are customer favorites.
- Rusty’s BBQ – Leeds, AL – Rusty’s is a family-owned and operated restaurant that serves up delicious and authentic Southern-style barbecue, with a variety of smoked meats, homemade sides, and tasty desserts, all in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
- Carlisle’s BBQ – Birmingham, AL – Carlisle’s is a family-owned and operated restaurant that has been serving their signature smoked meats, including ribs and brisket, for over 60 years. Their tangy sauce and homemade sides are also customer favorites.
- Miss Myra’s BBQ – Cahaba Heights, AL Miss Myra’s is a cozy and charming barbecue joint that has been serving up their famous smoked chicken and ribs since 1984. Their homemade sides and desserts are also customer favorites, making it a must-try spot in Alabama.
If you want to experience Alabama BBQ – please book our Taste of Birmingham BBQ Lunch Tour by clicking HERE. One of the things we focus on in our guided food tours is no chains – even local chains (many of which have damn fine Q), but we are more into helping the one shop mom and pops that stay true to their Q rather than franchising it. For people unable to make it to Birmingham, the Alabama BBQ chains included in the list above will still give you an Alabama BBQ experience.