While the divide between Memphis and Nashville barbecue is about as big as it gets, recently the lines have begun to blur. Tennessee is home to many of the country’s finest barbecue joints, and according to some, there are a few stand-outs that even surpass their counterparts in the Carolinas. Below are what I feel are the top reasons why Nashville barbecue is so good. In this post we’ll present the places with the best Nashville bbq style.
Pitmasters Still Do Things The Old Way.
The main reason I think Nashville barbecue is so good is because the meat is so juicy and tender. I’ve had brisket that was flavorful but dry, ribs that were tender but flavorless, and pulled pork that was both dry and tough. But when it’s done right, it’s magical.
Tenderness can be achieved by cooking low and slow over indirect heat for a long time — sometimes as long as 12 hours or more. The result will be meat that shreds apart with a mere touch of your fork or knife. It may not sound like much fun to cook this way all day long, but there are ways to make it easier. For example, you can use a smoker or grill with an offset firebox to keep the heat off your food while still producing great results.
Juiciness is harder to achieve than tenderness because there are many factors involved: genetics (the breed of the pig), diet (what it ate), butchering techniques (how much fat was removed before cooking), cooking temperatures (too high or too low), how long it cooks, etc.
Nashville BBQ Has A Range Of Styles.
There are three styles of barbecue in Nashville: Eastern-style, Western-style and Tennessee-style. All three have their own unique characteristics, but they all share some commonalities. For example, you won’t find any vinegar-based sauces in Nashville. And all three styles use dry rubs instead of wet sauces as a seasoning for their meat.
Eastern-style barbecue is characterized by being sauced and having a sweet flavor profile. The sauce is often made from ketchup or molasses, and the meat is smoked over hickory wood for about four hours. This style of barbecue is popular with the locals because it’s reminiscent of what their grandparents ate when they were growing up.
Western-style barbecue is characterized by being dry rubbed before being smoked over oak wood for about 12 hours. This style is popular with tourists because it gives them an opportunity to try some traditional Southern cooking without having to eat fried chicken or grits every day!
Tennessee-style barbecue is characterized by being dry rubbed before being smoked over apple wood for about 24 hours (or longer). This style was developed by long-time pit masters who wanted a meat that was tender but still had lots of flavor! It’s great for those who like their meat extra juicy and flavorful!
Juicy, Tender Meat Is Essential
The secret to good barbecue is simple: juicy, tender meat that’s been cooked low and slow over indirect heat. And while there are many different types of barbecue (e.g., Texas style, Kansas City style), they all follow this same basic principle.
What The Difference Is Between Nashville BBQ And Other BBQ
Nashville BBQ has a unique flavor that sets it apart from other BBQ styles. The key difference is in how the meat is cooked and seasoned.
Nashville BBQ uses a dry rub that contains paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, brown sugar, salt and cumin. This rub is applied to the meat before it is smoked for several hours at low temperatures. It’s then brushed with a tomato-based sauce before being finished on the grill or in an oven.
The smoke-grilling process imparts a smoky taste that adds depth to the meat and helps to tenderize it for extra juiciness and flavor. The tomato-based sauce adds sweetness to balance out the smokiness of the meat and brings out more complex flavors from the spices in both components.
Remember to also check out the top 25 authentic things to do in Nashville.
1. Edley’s Bar-B-Que
Edley’s Bar-B-Que is family owned and operated by its founders, Will and Catharine Newman. The first location was opened in 2011 in the 12South Neighborhood of Nashville, TN. They eventually opened two other locations in Nashville as well as an Edley’s Bar-B-Que in Chattanooga, TN. It has been recognized by publications such as Southern Living, USA Today, and Garden & Gun. Edley’s Bar-B-Que has been awarded Best Bar-B-Que in Nashville for four years by the readers of The Nashville Scene.
2. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
West Tennessee’s legendary whole-hog BBQ tradition is the cornerstone of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. The restaurants have been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, and The Today Show and in publications such as Bon Appetit, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler, and Men’s Journal.
Pat Martin learned the art and craft of West Tennessee-style smoke and meat 25 years ago in the tiny town of Henderson, TN before making Nashville his home. It became a consuming passion that eventually led to a business when he opened the first Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in October of 2006 in Nolensville, Tennessee – just south of Nashville. Today, there are ten Martin’s locations in the Nashville area, Louisville Kentucky, Birmingham Alabama, and our newest location in Charleston South Carolina.
3. Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant
Puckett’s roots stretch way back to the 1950’s and a little grocery store in the village of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. Ever since then we’ve been focused on providing friends, new and old, with great food and Southern hospitality. Six restaurants later, that aim still rings true. Puckett’s has built a name on hosting live, local musical acts and serving Southern staples. Authentic comfort food classics, like the meat & 3 specials and our famous slow-smoked BBQ, in a laid-back and downhome atmosphere is what we aim for you to remember. We hope you’ll come visit us soon!
4. B&C Market BBQ
Very good and delicious BBQ located at the Nashville Farmers Market. Excellent pulled pork sandwiches and brisket with generous portions. Pulled pork was some of the best I have eaten, served with bake beans which were delicious. Brisket was melt in your mouth and full of flavor, must be the best brisket I have had in a long time. Cheese Grits were fabulous, with a cheese and peppery flavor, really enjoyed them and would reorder again. Good portions and counter service was great. Loved the young guy working the register.
5. Jack’s Bar-B-Que
Jack’s Bar-B-Que serves Tennessee pork shoulder, beef brisket, turkey, ribs, smoked sausage and smoked chicken. Patrons can choose from an array of traditional sides including baked beans, green beans, corn, baked apples, cole slaw and potato salad, and crowd favorite mac and cheese along with dessert options of chess pie or fudge pie. Jack’s Bar-B-Que is also available for catering meetings and events.
6. Loveless Cafe
USA Today named us the “Top Down-Home Dining Spot” and one of the “10 Great Places to get a Southern-style Biscuit.” I tell everyone, you cannot miss this place. While is may be outside of Nashville proper, it’s not that far and worth the drive. The service, the food, the souvenirs – none to be missed. You can play corn hold while you wait for your table. We were so full, we took our pie to go. They will ship home anything you want to buy (hams and jams are not to be missed) for a flat rate $12. We always buy some bacon, jams, and beets. A historic stop and worth it all the way around.
For over seven decades, Bar-B-Cutie SmokeHouse has been on an incredible journey. Having opened our first Bar-B-Cutie restaurant in Nashville in 1950, Bar-B-Cutie is certainly part of Nashville’s history and is making history in other places like Georgia and Texas. In fact, South Texas hosts more Bar-B-Cutie locations than any other BBQ restaurant.
8. Swett’s Restaurant
Swett’s Restaurant is a local Nashville, Tennessee institution that represents three generations of ownership by the same African-American family for over 62 years. Owner David Swett, continues the tradition established by his parents and shares the commitment to its promising future. Nestled in the very heart of Nashville, it specializes in southern homestyle cooking served in a cafeteria style. The restaurant attracts a real cross section of patrons that include from political officials to local celebrities. Students attending Fisk,Tennessee State, Mehary and Vanderbilt Universities accredit Swett’s for making them feel right at home by providing Sunday dinner every day of the week. Over the years Swett’s has gained a reputation as a destination location for visiting guests as well as celebrities who appreciate fine dining in a casual atmosphere.
9. Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Jim ‘N Nick’s was founded in Birmingham, AL in 1985 with a commitment to ‘go the extra mile’ in everything we do. From mastering the art of barbecue and traditional scratch-made trimmings to genuinely caring for the neighborhood, they are committed to quality and southern goodness in everything they do. It’s why there are no microwaves, no freezers, and no shortcuts in any of our restaurants. They’ve always understood that great food takes hard work. Each and every day, they show up early and roll up our sleeves to perfectly smoke our meats “low ‘n slow” with hickory wood. They believe you deserve a place where you can unwind and reconnect with family & friends. No matter how you get your Jim ‘N Nick’s, let us serve you like family. There are no egos, no strangers and no need for a button-down. Welcome to Jim ‘N Nick’s!
10. Mary’s Old Fashioned Pit Bar-B-Que
Mary’s is a historical restaurant as it has been around for well over 30 years and its still going. You get real BBQ good on a pit with hickory wood. Their in house hot sauce is amazing. It gets my thumbs up! The shoulder on cornbread with slaw and mild sauce is my fav!
Editor in Chief – Nashville To Do
Alex is an Australian expat living and working in Nashville, TN. After marrying a Nashville native and moving permanently to the USA, he realized what an amazing place Tennessee is. Alex is raising two children in the Volunteer State so not only is entertainment, amazing food and cool experiences at the top of his to do list, but family friendly activities as well.