Barbecue Primer

Guide to Barbecue Festivals and Cook-Offs

Can’t get enough of finger-lickin’, smoking-good ‘cue? Browse our roundup of some of the best barbecue events in the country.

By Elizabeth Passerella
Boxed meal of barbecued beef and sausage with bread and beansDavid Hensley/Getty Images

Atlanta Bar-B-Q Festival

Atlanta, GA
There’s live music and a cooking stage with demonstrations in addition to the professional pitmasters. During the People’s Choice sample event, visitors can buy $1 tastes from participating pro teams.
When: September


American Royal World Series of Barbecue

Kansas City, MO
Kansas City is mecca for Midwest barbecue, and this competition—which includes the KC Masterpiece Invitational for 100 qualifying teams plus an open contest with 500 more—is epic. Cooking demos, a barbecue expo with goods for sale, and cowboy (and girl) activities for the kids are all on the agenda.
When: September/October


Lexington Barbecue Festival

Lexington, NC
This town claims to be the barbecue capital of the world. Visitors can decide for themselves—the vinegar-based barbecue is sold at special tents throughout the festival—in between browsing local crafts and watching the pig-themed sand sculpture competition.

When: October


Time Warner Cable BBQ & Blues

Charlotte, NC
Teams don’t just compete in the typical pork shoulder/ribs categories; there’s also an “anything but” contest (think fruit, vegetables, and non-pig critters). Once you’ve had your fill, you can chill out and listen to live blues.
When: October


Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue

Lynchburg, TN
Known as “The Jack,” this competition is considered one of the most prestigious. Qualifying is tough, so serious fans get to watch the very best go head to head (or butt to butt, depending on how you look at it) for the big prize.
When: October


Texas Monthly BBQ Festival

Austin, TX
Moove over pigs; in Texas, there’s beef on the menu, too. Get your fill of brisket, ribs, and sausage from area barbecue joints. (And if you overdose on barbecue, Austin’s got plenty of Tex Mex.)
When: November

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