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Memphis-Style Barbecue: Where Pork Rules
Barbecue the Memphis way involves tender pork, spices, and slow smoking. See what else Groupon discovered that distinguishes the barbecue style from all others.
Other barbecue-loving cities may specialize in beef ribs or brisket, but for Memphis, it’s all about the pig. That, and the dry rub, a blend of seasonings reportedly invented by Charlie Vergos of Memphis restaurant, Rendezvous. Although every proud Memphis chef has his or her own secret dry-rub recipe, many base their recipes on some combination of oregano, garlic, salt, chili powder, and paprika. (Legend has it that the last was added when a meat salesman tasting Vergos’s original blend complained that, while the flavor was great, barbecue should really be red.) Worked into the surface of the meat and smoked over wood coals, a dry rub becomes a burnished crust that keeps juices from leaking out. Underneath this crust, baby back ribs, spare ribs, and pork shoulder become so soft they don’t require a knife or a servant who chews your food for you.
Although crusty is probably the most popular look for Memphis pork, there’s still room in town for those who prefer their meat “wet.” A sweeter tomato-based sauce balanced with a vinegary tang is one popular finishing touch. Another step is known as the mop. A mop is essentially dry rub plus water with or without vinegar, applied as a basting sauce while cooking to add deep flavor and moisture. This is what makes up a Memphis-style pulled-pork sandwich—along with, of course, pork shoulder, coleslaw, and a soft white bun capable of soaking up juices from the meat and Southern hospitality drifting through the air.