Discover why the “slow and low” traditions of South Carolina barbecue keep visitors coming back for seconds
There is a lot of bragging and bluster in barbecue, but there’s only one truth: pit–style barbecue started in South Carolina. Hundreds of years ago on St. Helena Island, Native Americans taught the Spanish settlers how to cook their hogs in a pit. It seems the Spanish liked it, as it’s still here and tasty as ever—just waiting for you to dig in at any one of the authentic barbecue places across the state.
When it comes to South Carolina barbecue, patience is a virtue. Pitmasters across the Palmetto State know it’s the time–honored tradition of cooking pork “slow and low” that keeps visitors coming back for seconds. While the side dishes have changed over time, the fundamental essence of South Carolina barbecue remains the same—this is barbecue worth traveling for.
South Carolina is also the only state in the nation where you’ll find all four of the basic types of barbecue sauce: mustard, light tomato, heavy tomato and vinegar and pepper. At one time, you’d know what type of barbecue you’d be served by what part of the state you were in. Along the coast you’ll find a spicy vinegar–and–pepper sauce that dates back hundreds of years. The tangy mustard–style sauce, developed by German settlers in the Midlands, is most associated with South Carolina. Light tomato sauce—basically vinegar and pepper with ketchup or tomato added—is found in the upper middle part of the state while heavy tomato sauce is the choice in the mountainous western and northwestern part of the state.
Barbecue sauces are like college sports in the South—everyone has a stated and unbreakable opinion. That’s why most places now serve sauces on the side instead of using them during the cooking process. With four sauces to try, you may want to order two helpings of our world–famous pulled pork.
Download the free SC BBQ Trail Map and find your perfect plate in the Palmetto State.