Memphis barbecue typically involves pork, but some restaurants and chefs use chicken or beef. The chefs stick to pork shoulders and pork ribs, which both have a thick texture that holds up well to slow cooking. Memphis-style barbecue also relies on a tomato-based sauce, which is sometimes sweetened with the addition of brown or white sugar. When tomatoes are in season, they add a natural sweetness to the sauce, and that sweetness mingles nicely with the smoky flavor from the cooking process.
You can choose two different types of cooking when it comes to Tennessee barbecue: dry or wet cooking. Chefs who prefer wet cooking mix their favorite sauce together and keep a pan next to the grill or stove. The meat gets a coating of the sauce before going on the grill, and the chef adds additional coats during the cooking process. Some chefs even add an extra coating before bringing the meat to the table, which gives the meat a sweet taste and moist texture.
Dry cooking uses a spice rub as the first step in the cooking process. The cook mixes together paprika, salt, pepper, garlic and a mixture of other ingredients. You rub the spices deep into the meat before cooking, and some chefs even let the meat seat for a few hours to impart more flavor into each bite.
Attending a true Tennessee BBQ is a unique experience. Most cooks bring additional dishes of sauce to the table, which lets diners decide how wet or dry they like their meat. For an extra special touch, cooks serve the meat with side dishes like fresh corn on the cob, potato salad and coleslaw with extra napkins for cleaning up.