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.