If you want to throw fuel on a barbecue get-together, start a debate about sauce, the type of meat and the heat source for cooking. Then stand back before you are consumed by the whoosh of the verbal fire.
In North Carolina, folks prefer a vinegar-based barbecue sauce on chopped pork shoulder. Over in South Carolina, mustard-based sauces are served over shredded pork butt.
In Missouri, the sauce on pork ribs gets its rich, deep color from molasses and a slight kick from chili.
Florida and Georgia, despite all their other regional feuds, tend to agree: Cooked sliced pork, pork back ribs and chicken are preferred over beef. Restaurant-style sauces are provided in hot and mild versions, with both getting a slight pucker from vinegar, mustard and ketchup and a hint of sweetness from brown sugar.
Pork rules in Tennessee, home of Memphis in May, an annual event that includes a world barbecue championship. For the record, Tennessee sauces generally start with a ketchup and vinegar base. In Texas, it's all about beef brisket.
These culinary lines are about as finely drawn as mopping meat with sauce. Styles overlap and diverse influences have tweaked recipes from coast to coast.
Most sauces are tomato-based. North Carolina adds vinegar; South Carolina-Georgia includes yellow mustard; Tennessee and Kansas City often dose with molasses; Alabama is spicy; Texas is dry-rubbed with sauce, if any, on the side.
In Central Florida we are lucky to have a variety of styles available. Welcome to our barbecue trail. We've scoured the state from the Georgia line to the Keys, the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It's a route lined with paper napkins, the occasional spork and lots of smoky flavor.
Come and get it.
4 Rivers Smokehouse: 1600 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park; 1047 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden; 1869 W. State Road 434, Suite 230, Longwood; 11764 University Blvd., Orlando; 4rsmokehouse.com; Texas-style with over-the-top desserts.
Al's Sand Bar, 111 W. Ruby St., Tavares; 352-742-1113; Blend of Southern styles, come by boat (Lake Dora) or car.
Art's Southern Style Smokehouse, 15502 Stoneybrook West Parkway, Winter Garden; 407-614-8910; arts-bbq.com; Meld of Memphis and Florida styles.
BC's General Store, 8730 County Road 48, Yalaha; 352-324-3730; Terrific ribs, chopped pork and chicken, homemade barbecue beans and slaw.
Backyard Boys BBQ, 1840 S. Ridgewood Ave., South Daytona; 386-767-5252; backyardboysbbq.com; Good St. Louis and baby back ribs.
Black Bear Smokehouse, 18750 U.S. Highway 441, Mount Dora; 352-383-2327; Competition grade barbecue with sauces representing all regions of the U.S.
Brian's BAR-B-Q, 795 N. Spring Garden Ave., DeLand; 386-736-8851; briansbbq.com; Competition grade barbecue.
Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que, 12100 Challenger Parkway, Orlando, 407-423-1212; 1049 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-478-1212; 1701 Rock Springs Road, Apopka, 407-388-1212; 5818 Conroy Road, Orlando, 407-295-1212; 1471 Lee Road, Winter Park, 407-628-1212; bubbalous.com; Virginia-style barbecue with a Florida twist.
Burke's Barbeque, 311 County Road 466A, Fruitland Park; 352-787-4227; burkespitbbq.com; Meld of Southern styles.
Cecil's Texas Style BBQ, 2800 S. Orange Ave., Orlando; 407-423-9871; cecilsbbq.com; Brisket rules here.
Dam Smoker Eustis, 36721 County Road 19A, Eustis; 352-357-6555; Facebook; Meld of Southern styles.
Daytona Pig Stand, 1633 N. U.S. Highway 1, Ormond Beach; 386-898-0360; Facebook; Killer baby back ribs.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 5414 Deep Lake Road, Suite 1152, Oviedo, 407-571-9506; 2525 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, 386-257-4227; dickeys.com; Texas-based chain.
Dustin's, 4908 S. Clyde Morris Blvd., Port Orange, 386-322-9177; 1208 S. Ridgewood Ave., Edgewater, 386-423-5299; 1375 S. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, 386-738-5607; 1320 W. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach, 386-677-5292; 411 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne, 321-242-7871; dustinsbarbq.com; Pulled or sliced pork and St. Louis style spare ribs are customer favorites.
Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ, 336 Moore Road, Ocoee; 407-347-9515; ellielous.com; Excellent dry rubs, ribs and Kansas City style "wet" sandwich.
Fat Boys' Bar-B-Q, 2912 13th St., St. Cloud; 407-892-4400; fatboysstcloud.com; Osceola County fixture for more than 30 years with an open, wood-burning pit.
Fat Boys' Bar-B-Q, 4132 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, 352-236-3271; Facebook; Meld of Southern styles.
Fat Boys Bar-B-Q, 1606 W. Vine St., Kissimmee; 407-847-7098; fatboysbarbeque.net; Meld of Southern styles.
Harry & Larry's, 54 Plant St., Winter Garden; 407-614-5950; harryandlarrys.com; Meld of Southern styles.
Hog Heaven, 37 N. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach; 386-257-1212; hogheavendaytona.com; The pork rib dinner and baby back ribs are house specialties.
Jack's Barbeque, 100 S. U.S. Highway 27, Minneola; 352-394-2673; jacksbarbeque.com; Tangy Southern-style, mustard-based barbeque sauce.
Keller's Real Smoked Bar-B-Q, 3893 Lake Emma Road, Lake Mary, 407-333-1444; 280 S. State Road 434, Suite 1047, Altamonte Springs, 407-786-7750; kellersbbq.com; Owners' parents founded Fat Boys.
Kings Taste, 415 Palmetto St., Eustis; 352-589-0404; kingstastebbq.com; Legendary mustard-based sauce.
Meat n Fire, 1925 S. Narcoossee Road, St. Cloud; 407-891-6070; facebook.com/meatnfire and meat-fire.com; Meld of Southern styles.
Not Just Ribs, 740 Ninth St., Winter Garden; 407-656-6100; notjustribsbbq.com; Well-seasoned smoked chicken and pork.
Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill, 860 S. U.S. Highway 27-441, Lady Lake, 352-751-5640; 27745 U.S. Highway 27, Leesburg, 352-435-4633; 2911 David Walker Drive, Eustis, 352-483-0137; 230 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, 352-394-0036; oakwoodsmokehouse.com; Meld of Southern styles with falling-off-the-bone baby back ribs.
Old Crow Real Pit Bar-B-Q, 41100 County Road 19, Umatilla; 352-669-3922; Barbecue and home-style cooking.
Porkie's Original BBQ, 256 E. Main St., Apopka; 407-880-3351; porkiesapopka.com; Great ribs and brisket.
Porkie's Tru-South Bar-B-Q, 900 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand; 386-279-0021; porkiesbbq.com; Don't miss the signature baby backs.
Slow & Low Barbeque Bar & Grill, 306 N. Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach; 321-783-6199; slowandlowbarbeque.com; Slow-cooked and hickory-smoked pork, turkey, chicken and beef are house specialites.
SmokeShack BBQ, 1808 W. International Speedway Blvd., Suite 201; Daytona Beach; 386-673-7427; thesmokeshackbbq.com; Meld of Southern styles.
Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, 2911 Vineland Road, Kissimmee, 407-397-7102; 1510 W. New Haven, Melbourne, 321-951-9777; 3400 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, 407-894-1511; 303 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando, 407-249-2009; 1490 State Road 436, Casselberry, 407-673-4901; 1000 W.P. Ball Blvd., Sanford, 407-688-8227; smokeybones.com; Meld of Southern styles, pork is cooked for 11 hours over hickory logs.
Sonny's BBQ, 2210 E. Semoran Blvd., Apopka, 407-814-8888; 7055 S. Semoran Blvd., Orlando, 407-992-8818; 310 S. Alafaya Trail, Orlando, 407-482-0888; 7460 Dover Garden Lane, Oviedo, 407-971-11315; 15800 U.S. Highway 441, Eustis, 352-589-6888; 1500 E. State Road 50, Clermont, 352-243-6422; 2005 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, 321-868-1000; 1500 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, 386-279-0166; 1396 W. North Blvd., Leesburg, 352-326-3000; 3506 Orlando Drive, Sanford, 407-321-9295; sonnysbbq.com; Beef shoulder, hand-rubbed with a signature spice blend and slow-smoked for up to 12 hours.
Sugarboo's Bar-B-Q, 1305 N. Grandview St., Mount Dora; 352-735-7675; sugarboo.com; Meld of Southern styles.
Sully's Smokehouse, 10820 County Road 44, Leesburg; 352-483-7427; Facebook; Meld of Southern styles.
T. Weston's Smokehouse, 1210 N. Main St., Wildwood; 352-748-9378; twestons.com; Competition grade barbecue.
Uncle Kenny's BBQ & Catering, 157 N. U.S. Highway 27, Clermont; 352-394-1225; unclekennysbbq.com; Competition grade barbecue.
Wildside BBQ Bar & Grill, 700 E. Washington St., Orlando, 407-872-8665; 7725 W. Highway 192, Kissimmee, 407-396-1166; wildsidebbq.com; Famous for pulled pork.
Woody's Bar-B-Q, 1220 S Main St., Wildwood, 352-748-1109; 19501 U.S. Highway 27, Lake Wales, 863-678-1844; 2227 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne, 321-951-9163; 2621 Enterprise Road, Orange City; 386-774-4227; 13600 U.S. Highway 1, Sebastian, 772-581-5767; woodys.com; Meld of Southern styles, founded in Jacksonville.
Woody's Express, 3801 Lake Mary Blvd., Lake Mary, 407-732-7604; woodys.com; meld of Southern styles.
Don't see your favorite barbecue joint? Send the restaurant's name to email@example.com and we'll add it to our online guide that covers all of Central Florida and a few outposts beyond.
A primer for novices
•For the most part, the pork barbecue belt runs from the Carolinas and Georgia to Tennessee and Arkansas and dips into Florida.
•Dry seasonings are rubbed into the meat, which is then cooked slowly.
•Sauce is important, usually applied at the end or served on the side. In Texas where barbecue usually means beef, particularly brisket, sauce is of lesser importance.
•Kansas City is a mix of pork and beef.
•Mopping means applying sauce while cooking; sopping means applying sauce after cooking.
Barbecue on wheels
Many food trucks offer barbecue, but these mobile vendors specialize in barbecue:
Caro-Bama BBQ, Facebook and caro-bamabbq.com; Best of Carolina and Alabama slow-cooking.
C&S Brisket Bus, Facebook and brisketbus.com; The name says it all — get the brisket.
Chef Street Station, Facebook; Caribbean barbecue.
Fat Daddy's BBQ, Facebook and fatdaddysbbq2011.com; Competition grade barbecue.
FireHouse BBQ, Facebook and firehousebbq.us; Competition grade barbecue.
Korean BBQ Taco Box, Facebook; Asian twist on the barbecue theme.
Matt Daddy's BBQ, Facebook; Competition barbecue, trained by a world champion barbecue pitmaster.
Up in Smoke BBQ, Facebook; Competition grade barbecue with killer ribs.