Americans are passionate about their BBQ foods, with conversations around the grill often sparking fiery debates over which is best: North Carolina style vs. Kansas City style, wet rub vs. dry rub, or brisket vs. pork.
Perhaps no topic gets eaters more heated than where to find the best BBQ in the U.S.
From Kansas City, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee, to Lexington, North Carolina — a small town with a big appetite for BBQ — many cities have awarded themselves the title of best city for BBQ.
These claims to the BBQ throne are tough to settle without hard data. So we've cooked up a new ranking of the 50 best BBQ cities — based on research on prices, restaurants, BBQ events, and search activity — to provide evidence-based answers.
We ranked the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. using several metrics, weighted in the following manner:
- 8x: BBQ restaurants per capita
- 6x: Average Yelp rating of BBQ restaurants
- 4x: Google Trends score for 10 BBQ terms: barbecue, BBQ, BBQ grill, BBQ near me, BBQ restaurant, BBQ sauce, BBQ ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and how to BBQ
- 4x: Number of Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series BBQ competitions hosted (last 10 years)
- 4x: Major BBQ events (cook-offs, festivals, etc.)
- 2x: Average distance between BBQ restaurants (in miles)
- 2x: Whether a state resident has been inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame
- 2x: Regional price for 1 pound of BBQ meat (poultry, beef, and pork averaged together)
- 2x: Percentage of local annual income required to buy 4 pounds of BBQ meat per month in a year
Wondering which city came out on top? Read on to find out if your city's BBQ scene is cooking with gas — or if it's more sizzle than steak.
🐖 BBQ Cities Key Takeaways
- San Antonio is America's best BBQ city, earning high marks for low prices, an abundance of BBQ restaurants, and other pluses.
- Phoenix is the worst city for BBQ, plagued by high prices and relatively few BBQ joints per capita.
- Overall, Texas is the best state for BBQ, with two cities from the Lone Star State taking the top two spots on our list and another in our top 15.
1. San Antonio, Texas
🏆 The Cook-Off Capital
San Antonio is slated to host four major BBQ competitions over the next 12 months — no other city in our study is hosting more than two.
The home of the Alamo is one of the most memorable cities for BBQ enthusiasts. In addition to hosting multiple BBQ events, the city ranks highly in several of our other metrics.
Of the 50 cities we ranked, San Antonio has the fourth-most BBQ restaurants per capita — 4.2 per 100,000 residents. The city has a BBQ restaurant every 4.6 miles, better than the average city we studied, which has one every 5.4 miles.
San Antonio matches that quantity of BBQ shops with excellent quality, evidenced by the chopped brisket from 2M Smokehouse. It's especially fitting because San Antonio ranks No. 1 on our list in Google search activity for brisket.