Memphis Style BBQ Recipe

Barbecue-ing is a serious business for Americans. Despite stove-top cooking ranges, there is something special about slow-cooking meat on an open grill. Over the years, it continues as a cultural passion, and good Barbecue brings family and friends together effortlessly. The culinary art of cooking meat to perfection has evolved into four distinct regional styles. These include the Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, and Memphis BBQ-style technique. Each BBQ style is set apart by the difference in the choice of meat, cooking techniques, and base sauce that gives it its unique flavor. Let’s learn about Memphis BBQ, what makes it different, and how you can make the best Memphis-style BBQ at home.

What is Memphis Style BBQ?

If you are thinking about tender, flavorful, and fall-of-the-bone pork, you are probably craving Memphis-style BBQ. The main choice of meat in Memphis-style BBQ is pork which is slow-cooked over a charcoal pit. It is lit with hickory wood that adds extra smoke to the flavor. The choice of meat is seasoned with a unique dry rub, so many people like to keep their recipe secret. However, there is a distinct technique and method to bring out that Memphis-style BBQ flavor. Let’s find out what it is and how to achieve it.

What Makes Memphis Barbecue Different?

The unique flavor of Memphis-style BB comes from the distinctive BBQ rub that is a combination of 40 different spices. There are many variations of the rub and the BBQ sauce; however, all recipe variations use garlic and paprika. The distinct regional taste is achieved by slow-cooking the pork for as long as possible. No sauce or glaze is applied throughout the process. Another thing that gives the BBQ its Memphis flavor is a tangy, tomato-based sauce served on the side.

History of the Memphis-Style BBQ

The city of Memphis was founded in 1819 on the banks of Mississippi. It became a popular port for Memphis barbecue staples such as hardwood and molasses, as well as the cotton trade. In the southern parts of the Mississippi, pork was an affordable meat, and its abundance led to combining it with the sweet flavor of molasses and the savory smell of hickory wood smoke. That led to what you popularly know today as Memphis-style barbecue that everyone loves. Soon after, the barbecue scene kicked off in the area with small grill joints opening in different places. They were prevalent in low-income areas initially as it was a low-cost and viable business model. As the smaller grill places started to become more popular, the barbecue style and recipes became more refined. By the late 1940s, various places started gaining popularity for serving the best-smoked pork meal. A decade later, Tennessee became famous for its distinct music and influence on the industry. Sun Records in Memphis signed up the likes of Johny Cash and Roy Orbison, while the neighboring city of Nashville became famous for its country music. The first World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC) was launched in 1978 as part of the Memphis in May festival; the rest is history. The WCBCC is the world’s largest pork barbecue competition, with over 250 participating teams from various countries. Over 100,000 people visit the city for the event, and it garners immense media coverage from networks like The Food Network and BBC.

Make Memphis BBQ Juicy and Flavorful With Slap It On BBQ Rub

How To Cook Memphis-Style BBQ

If you’re craving some Memphis-style BBQ, then the wait is over. Following are some tips to cook the best Memphis-style BBQ and enjoy the exact same flavor in the comfort of your home.

Use A Dry Rub

Memphis-style BBQ uses a special dry rub recipe that is a generational secret. Memphians are particularly possessive of their dry rub recipe. However, its two key ingredients are paprika and garlic mixed with brown sugar and black pepper. This combination helps create that distinct flavor that most people crave.

Slow Cook Over Hickory Smoke

Another key tip to cooking Memphis-style BBQ is to use hickory wood to light up the grill. This is the secret to that savory, strong, and almost bacon-like flavor that most people can’t identify. The smoke from the hickory wood pairs beautifully with the pork meat, enhancing the flavor further.

Mop The Meat

The meat in the Memphis-style BBQ is tender and flavorful due to the mopping technique used on the meat. Mopping essentially refers to applying a runny sauce over the meat every half hour or so. You can prepare this thin sauce easily by mixing the dry rub with water.

Use The Right Cut Of Meat

Another secret tip to get the Memphis-style BBQ right is to use the right cut of meat. One of the most famous dishes is the slow-smoked ribs, but to get that same flavor, you should use spare ribs cut in a St. Louis style. St. Louis-style ribs are cut in a way that gives them a rectangular shape that is easier to cook and eat. The smoked ribs are then slow-cooked for five hours before being basted in BBQ sauce and smoked for another hour. It is an extensive process but completely worth the time required.

Memphis Style BBQ Rub

To take your Memphis-style BBQ party up a notch, prepare this Memphis Dru BBQ rub that gives it its distinct taste. For the rub, you will need the following ingredients: Memphis Style BBQ Rub


  • Brown sugar: 2 tbsp
  • Paprika: 2 tbsp
  • Red pepper flakes: 1 ½ tbsp
  • Ground black pepper: 2 tbsp
  • Salt: 1 ½ tbsp
  • Ground white pepper: 1 ½ tbsp
  • Chili powder: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1 tbsp


Mix all the ingredients in a bowl so it comes together. You can easily stock it in a well-sealed container. You can use the rub generously onto the ribs to prepare Memphis BBQ.

Memphis Style BBQ Sauce

To give your BBQ that Memphis-style flavor, here is how you can prepare the Memphis-style BBQ sauce.


  • Ketchup: ¼ cup
  • Crushed tomatoes: 1 cup
  • Apple cider vinegar: ½ cup
  • Unsulphured molasses: ¼ cup
  • Unsalted butter: 2 tbsp
  • Worcestershire sauce: 1+1 tsp
  • Yellow mustard: 1 tbsp
  • Light brown sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce: 1 tsp
  • Kosher salt: ½ tsp
  • Black pepper: ½ tsp


To prepare the sauce put butter, vinegar, tomatoes, Worcestershire, molasses, ketchup, mustard, salt, hot sauce, brown sugar, and pepper together in a saucepan and stir it slowly. Let it come to a boil, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer until the sauce thickens. Make sure to stir it in between. It should take 15-20 minutes to prepare. It can easily be kept in the fridge for upto a week.


To prepare the best-tasting Memphis-style BBQ, you can use our BBQ rub made from several spices. It gives a unique flavor. As it is a versatile rub, you can use it to marinade different dishes. Slap It On BBQ rub is a unique blend of various herbs and spices. It is easy to carry and store within the pantry. So, don’t wait to throw your Memphis-style BBQ party. Call your friends and family over and enjoy the unique flavor of our blend to prepare the best BBQ ever.

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