Every region has its own take on barbecue: Texas has smoked beef brisket. Carolina barbecue is known for its sweet and tangy vinegar-based sauce.
But Memphis? It’s got a style all its own. Well, technically, two!
Memphis barbecue is all about the hog. Here, slow-cooked pulled pork and ribs are served dry or wet, and every Memphian has a favorite style!
But where can you find authentic Memphis barbecue if you aren’t in Memphis? Why, your kitchen, of course! This Memphis-style barbecue recipe results in some seriously tasty pulled pork sandwiches, and they couldn’t be easier to make.
The History of Barbecue: Everyone’s Favorite Summertime Tradition
Many historians believe the word barbecue comes from barabicu, a Taíno word that means “sacred fire pit.” The Taíno were an Arawak-speaking indigenous people of the Caribbean and the original inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the northern Lesser Antilles at the time of European contact in 1492.
Years later in 1539, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto introduced 13 black Iberian pigs to present-day Florida, and the animals thrived. By the time de Soto died three years later, 13 pigs had turned into more than 700.
The Taíno are said to have introduced the method of cooking whole animals over an open flame to Spanish conquistadors, who called it barbacoa. They took this style of cooking with them as they moved throughout North America.
By the 19th century, barbecue was a well-established cooking technique in the American South, and because pigs were so prevalent, pork became the go-to meat.
World-Famous Memphis Barbecue
In Memphis, the region’s unique tomato-based barbecue sauce evolved from the city’s status as a major port on the Mississippi River. That meant Memphians had access to a variety of ingredients you couldn’t find elsewhere, including molasses, which helped create the region’s signature sweet barbecue sauce. Some say it’s not real Memphis barbecue sauce unless it’s made with molasses and tomato sauce base.
Memphis barbecue is usually made with pork ribs slow-cooked in a pit and prepared either “dry” or “wet.” Dry ribs are prepared with a dry rub made with salt and other spices and usually eaten without sauce. Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before, during, and after slow cooking.
Why cook when you can let your slow cooker do all the work for you? This mouth-watering recipe for pulled pork sandwiches requires hardly any prep, and it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Watch the video below, or download this free Memphis barbecue recipe card to get started.
Memphis Slow Cooker BBQ Sandwiches
- 2 pounds boneless pork loin
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Hamburger buns
- Coleslaw (homemade or store-bought)
- Place pork loin in a 3-quart slow cooker.
- Add cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and barbecue sauce to slow cooker. Then, add 2 tablespoons water.
- Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender.
- Remove meat. Shred with two forks and return to slow cooker; heat through.
- Assemble sandwiches with hamburger buns and top with coleslaw.
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