Skip to Content

National Barbecue Day

National Barbecue Day comes around every year on May 16th. It’s the perfect time for Americans across the country to fire up the grill. Whether you’re grilling with gas or roasting over a slow fire, here’s everything you need to know about National Barbecue Day.

The next National Barbecue Day will be observed on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

National Barbecue Day

It’s important to note that if you can’t get barbecue on May 16th, not to worry…the entire month of May is National Barbecue Month. While these are far from being federally observed holidays, these fun food holidays, promoted by American marketing corporations, are good motivation to fire up the barbie.

Also, National Barbecue Day is more about the meat and style of cooking, not so much focused on the act of “grilling” – National Grilling Month is in July and focuses on the act of cooking on the grill and all the good stuff you can cook there, like burgers, hot dogs, and more.

How Do You Barbecue?

There are four main styles of barbecue, that are based on regions in the United States. Whether you’re grilling in Maine or California, you’ll find that most barbecue is based on the styles borne from one of these regions and differ based on the techniques, meat, and type sauce and seasoning used. These four barbecue types are Texas, Kansas City, Carolinas, and Memphis.

Memphis BBQ

Memphis BBQ focuses a lot on pork. Pork shoulder, pork ribs, pork butt, and pulled pork. They use a lot of dry rubs, and sauce ingredients include tomatoes, mustard, vinegar, molasses, and brown sugar. Memphis Style also means that the pork is cooked low and slow, usually in a pit.

Kansas City BBQ

Kansas City BBQ focuses on slow wood smoked beef and pork, although they also use other types of meat including chicken, turkey, sausage, lamb, and fish. Burnt ends are a signature here. Sauces in this style are traditionally thick and sweet and are tomato and molasses based. Kansas City BBQ has evolved based on cooking techniques and recipes created by Henry Perry, who is considered the Father of Kansas City Barbecue. Generations of pitmasters have grown up on Perry’s foundations.

Texas BBQ

Meat is king! Texas BBQ is primarily focused on meat, slow cooked in smokers with smoky, dry rubs. And Texas style BBQ can also be broken into four categories: Central, East, South, and West Texas barbecue.

  • Central: Where Texas BBQ began. Simple, dry rubs, low smoked for long hours using oak, pecan, or mesquite. They don’t use a lot of sauce with this style, and even the sides are minimal. Known for the Brisket.
  • East: Slow smoked with indirect heat for long hours for the “falls off the bone” results. Primarily uses hickory wood. Meat is marinated in tomato-based sauces. They love sides with this style of BBQ.
  • South: Uses sweet, molasses based sauces. Incorporates Mexican cuisine and sometimes includes cow tongue and cow’s head. Famous for barbacoa in this region. Often uses slow smoking methods in underground pits.
  • West: Known as Cowboy Style. Generally cooked over an open flame with direct heat so it more like traditional grilling than smoking like other bbq methods. Specifically uses mesquite wood for grilling.

Carolinas BBQ

Carolina style BBQ is traditionally slow roasted pork, brushed with vinegar and ketchup based sauces. Carolina BBQ is broken into two categories: North & South. In the north, they focus on pork shoulder, while in the south, they prefer the “whole hog”. The south also incorporates elements of mustard into the rubs and sauces.

Best Meat Cuts To Barbecue

If you’re going for traditional Barbecue vs just grilling, you can use a variety of meat including:

What Sides Do You Serve With BBQ?

The sides you choose can be based on your general preference, or you can match your sides to the BBQ style you are preparing your meat in. Here are a few common sides.

How To Celebrate National Barbecue Day

  • Fire up the grill or smoker and barbecue your favorite meat – or try a new cut.
  • Try a new barbecue technique.
  • Visit your favorite BBQ joint.
  • Make your own BBQ Sauce.
  • Make your own dry rub.
  • Invite friends and family over for a backyard BBQ.
  • Get yourself a new grill or smoker, or new accessories.

Most Popular Grilling Holidays

According to the Weber GrillWatch these are the most popular days to grill during the year:

  • Fourth of July (87% of grill owners grill on this holiday)
  • Memorial Day (75%)
  • Labor Day (74%)
  • Father’s Day (55%)
  • Mother’s Day (45%)
  • Super Bowl (33%)
  • Birthdays (72%)

See our Big List of National Food Holidays!

Heidi Deal
Latest posts by Heidi Deal (see all)