Traditionally, barbecue, is a way of slowly cooking meat over a fire, smoking it, or cooking it over wood or coals. This meat is observed and turned for over several hours.
The term is used interchangeably to refer to both the preparation and cooking of the meat and the actual place where the meat is cooked. It is always done outdoors or in outdoor ovens at a restaurant.
These restaurants that specialize in BBQ catering usually cook the meat at the restaurant, then serve it warm at the party site.
In the Southern section of the United States, barbecue is typically pork because historically pigs are the easiest to maintain and could be caught easily when the food supply was low. They were introduced to the American Indians by Spanish conquistadors.
The Indians then showed the Spanish how to smoke the meat. These colonists then moved on to South Carolina where the concept of barbecue that we know of today was born.
Each part of the South has its own barbecue flavor, which is usually in the sauce or in the rub, depending on where the barbecue represents. Some sauces are vinegar based while others are ketchup based. Some locales are known for their sides, such as slaw, corn bread, or beans..
Often, BBQ catering companies will specialize in a specific style, but some will serve it either way so that all guests will be happy.
While the BBQ catering restaurants usually serve their meat in ketchup and vinegar based sauces, barbecues in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee serve their pork in a sweet sauce that has a tomato base. It is often served as pulled pork on a sandwich with a side of coleslaw.
A different style of barbecue is Kansas City style where the eating establishments use various types of meat, such as burnt ends, pulled pork, ribs, sausage, brisket, and chicken. This is attributed to its history of being a meat-packing city.
Kansas City barbecue restaurants typically use hickory wood for smoking and burnt ends are one of the most popular dishes served in Kansas City.
When most people around the world think of barbecue, they primarily think of Texas style and claim that to be the style they serve in their restaurants, though most often they do serve a style that is considered to be of somewhere else.
If you desire a particular style of barbecue, check with one of your local BBQ catering professionals to see what kind they serve before you book them to cater your event.