Alabama Barbecue is famous throughout the south and is considered to be multicultural in nature in that it is both urban and rural, black and white, as well as tomato-sweet and vinegar sour.
However, that is not all, as it can also be pulled, chopped, and cinder-block simple.
It is also a product of the working class culture of the mills and factories, and when all of these functions are integrated, is has become one of State’s most unifying and loveable symbols.
Alabama Barbecue is considered to be an age-old art, as well as a science evolving around a slow-cooked meat of choice, and it is worshipped though out the state.
It can vary in types from pecan-infused pork shoulder based out of Mobile, to the famous white-sauce-soaked chicken on the banks of the Tennessee River.
Most, but not all, of the barbecue restaurants in this historic state, are operated by long-time family owners and have been run for generations.
The history of Alabama Barbecue is very old and very rich, as this historic state lies between the famous barbecue fixtures of Memphis and the Carolinas.
In the northern part of the state, vinegar –based sauces are very similar to those found in the eastern parts of North Carolina, but thus will disappear very quickly the closer you get to the Birmingham area.
However, variations of tomato-based sauces that are famous in the Memphis area and eastern Tennessee are served throughout the state.
The word barbecue, which means “the coming together of fire, smoke and meat,” is considered to be one of the oldest ways to cook that is known to mankind.
The word itself it believed to be taken from a Taino Indian name meaning “babracot”, which is best described by cooking meat very slowly over a wooden structure.
As time evolved, the Spanish settlers changed the word to “barbacoa”, and over more time, it eventually became the word we know today as “barbecue”.
According to food experts, this method of cooking was originally brought into the Carolina’s by African slaves in the 17th century.
The most popular food of choice during this time frame was pigs, as they were very easy to raise and fatten for slaughter, and were abundant in the south.
They were first introduced into the New World by the Spanish in the 15th century, and in the 17th century, the English brought even more into Virginia.
Things were often extremely difficult for many people during these times, especially in the south, and this type of cooking was both easy and inexpensive.
However, it would very easily bring the working-class people both flavor as well as tenderness to all meats, including the most inexpensive.
Alabama Barbecue has remained loyal to its blue-collar origins, and in the majority of cases, it has become the centerpiece of several different type of events.
These events include Saturday afternoon tailgate parties at perhaps the most famous college football state in the country, family reunions, church fundraisers, as well as backyard parties.
This act of cooking is considered to be much different than grilling, for one simple reason; time.
It takes several hours of long cooking over low heat, where grilling is done very quickly with very high temperatures.
Because of this method of cooking, several very famous “family owned” restaurants have evolved over time in this historic state.
Alabama Barbeque is best defined by the numerous restaurants that are found throughout this historic state, and several of them are very proud of their craft.
There is a famous sign that proudly shouts out “Welcome to the Best Damn Smoked Bar-B-Q in the Great State of Alabama”, that is hung at the Brick Pit in Mobile, along with crimson and red signatures on their walls that tell customers of their 30-hour smoldered meat selections.
Another of the famous restaurants in the State, Dreamlands, touts their ribs as “Ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere.”
Dreamland Bar-B-Q is famous state wide, but is perhaps the most famous in and around the Tuscaloosa area, where it was founded in 1958 by John Bishop.
In the very early days of his operation, his menu only had ribs, white bread, chips, and various drinks.
A rib sandwich at the time consisted of three ribs placed on top of basic commercial bread.
However, the sauce he used was redolent of vinegar with a tomato base, and although Mr. Bishop died in 1997, his family has continued his tradition.
In fact, they have not only continued it, they have expanded it as well as their menu, and today operate in cities like Birmingham, Northport, Huntsville, as well as Mobile.
The Sykes family has also been in the Alabama Barbeque business since 1956 in Bessemer, and their food is still smoked in a pit inside their front door.
Bob Sykes Bar B-Q echoes the views of several of the State’s pit masters in stating that the real “secret” of good quality barbecue is simply the interaction of salt, meat, and fire.
Their famous sandwiches are stuffed with interior sections of meat, as well as the curst of the charred outside.
Next on the historic list of Alabama Barbecue’s is one of the state’s oldest restaurants, Irondale’s Golden Rule.
Founded in 1891 by the William’s family, it has had several owners over the years, but has always been a favorite stop along Highway 78 to Atlanta, for both Bar-B-Q and beer.
Their famous meat is first cooked in a smoker that holds about 600 pounds of meat, and then is finished cooking on a pit.
At Chuck’s Bar-B-Q, located in the former mill town of Opelika neat Auburn, the connection between cooking and religion is very clear.
Employees at this famous restaurant wear T-shirts with “JESUS, the Bread of Life”, printed on the back, and beside the cash register the owner, Chuck Ferrell, hands out religious proclamations stating, “Something Better than Barbecue”.
This stop has been serving chopped pork butts since 1976 and is famous for its mustard-based sauce.
Cooked over oak, hickory, and at times pecan wood, Mr. Farrell smokes his Boston butt with both the fat and bone removed.
It is than sliced and chopped into serving options for the customers, as well as what is called “chipped on the block”, which is a finer cut as well as the famous owner’s personal selection.
One of the most famous aspects of Alabama Barbecue is white sauce of mayonnaise, apple cider, vinegar, lemon juice, as well as black pepper and salt.
This recipe was created by Robert Gibson at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in 1925, located in Decatur.
This famous white sauce recipe has evolved from a kitchen staple to a table condiment over time, and it use has expanded from chicken to pork shoulder for most of its customers.
The most prominent meat of choice for most of the State’s Bar-B-Q is pork, in several different varieties.
These varieties include ribs, the butt or shoulder, as well as ham.
The States’ cooking style of choice is fueled by hickory wood, but oak as well as pecan is also widely utilized.
It is than piled high on hamburger buns that is topped off with coleslaw, and in most of these restaurants, dill pickles are also a staple offering.
This unifying symbol has a lot of variations in cooking techniques as well as sauce ingredients and side dishes, but there is one thing in common with all of them.
Persistence, patience, and pride; the three P’s of Alabama Barbecue activity in this historic state.
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