Thick, tangy, slightly sweet & so finger-lickin’ good 

SERVES: 4 – 6
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOKING TIME: 2 – 3 hrs slow cooking
IDEAL FOR: crowd-pleaser, family meal, snack, barbecue

What is it?

Carolina-style barbecue rib is all about the sauce.

It’s a vinegar and mustard-based sauce.

So you get a great combo of sweet and tangy flavours perfect for grilled or smoked pork (or chicken).

In the mid and southwest, their sauces are ketchup and molasses-based.

Southern-style barbecue

Barbecue’ is derived from Spanish ‘barbacoa and means “to preserve (meat) by drying or slowly roasting”.

Americans love a good pit barbecue (basically cooking meat outside).

And they are pros at it.

They’ve been doing it since colonial times with it first mentioned in 1672.

It’s usually a slow cook method to develop smoky flavours in the meat and then often smothered with some amazing sauce.

Southern-style barbecue is very much a part of the South’s cultural identity.

4 styles of Southern barbecue

There are four main styles...

Carolina and Memphis – which use pork and are the oldest styles.

And Kansas City and Texas – which use beef (as well as pork), and evolved from the original ‘Deep South’ barbecue.

Carolina styles

Carolina barbecue is pork, served pulled, shredded, or chopped, but sometimes sliced.

It may also be rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and basted with a mustard and vinegar liquid during smoking.

But within the State of Carolina, they then have their own variations on the method of barbecue and the sauce.

Here’s a quick-fire look at the regional differences.

First up, the regions of Carolina…

South Carolina sauce

  • Also known as “Carolina Gold”
  • Made up of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and other spices.
  • Pulled pork and ribs

Eastern North Carolina

  • Barbecue the “whole hog”.
  • Use a thin sauce made of vinegar and spices (often simply cayenne pepper).

Western North Carolina

  • Only use the pork shoulder, which is mainly dark meat.
  • Use a vinegar-based sauce that includes the addition of varying amounts of tomato.

Other barbecue styles

Kansas City

  • Kansas City-style barbecue uses beef, pork, and lamb
  • Smoked with a dry rub, slow-cooked and a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce is served as a table sauce.


  • Primarily they do ribs (“wet” and “dry“) and the barbecue sandwich (i.e. pulled pork).
  • Wet ribs are brushed with sauce before and after cooking.
  • Dry ribs are seasoned with a dry rub.


There are four generally recognized regional styles of barbecue in Texas:

  • East Texas style, which is essentially Southern barbecue and is also found in many urban areas
  • Central Texas “meat market style”, which originated in the butcher shops of German and Czech immigrants to the region;
  • West Texas “cowboy style”, which involves direct cooking over mesquite and uses goat and mutton as well as beef; and
  • South Texas barbacoa, in which the head of a cow is cooked (originally underground)

Don’t worry, I’ll be posting more recipes for these other styles.

Because you can never get enough of sticky ribs!

If you have a favourite recipe for ribs, leave a comment, below…

Carolina Style ribs

Course Main Course, Snack
Keyword pork ribs
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Cost £


  • 2 kg pork ribs (ideally baby back ribs)
  • 50 g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp English mustard powder
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp garlic granules

Basting sauce

  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 75 g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 -2 tbsp hot chilli sauce (or add as much as you like)
  • 250 ml yellow mustard
  • 150 ml cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp treacle (or honey)


  • Heat oven to 160C/140C fan.
  • Mix together the sugar, paprika, mustard powder, celery salt and garlic granules in a bowl, and rub all over the ribs.
    Place in 2 large roasting tins with racks set inside (if you don’t have racks, that’s fine).
    Pour 150ml water into the bottom of each tin, cover tightly with foil and roast for 3 hrs until nearly falling apart. (f your roasting tins are on different shelves, swap them over halfway through the cooking time).
    Once cooked, remove and drain the cooking liquid.
  • To make the baste, mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook for 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  • Heat an outdoor barbecue. Use low heat to barbecue the ribs.
    Cook the ribs for 3-4 mins each side, brushing regularly with the baste, until golden and sticky.
    Alternatively, heat oven to 220C/200C fan and roast the ribs for 25-30 mins, turning the ribs over and rotating the tins halfway through the cooking time