Memphis-style barbecue is mostly made using pork, usually ribs and shoulders, though many restaurants will still serve beef and chicken. Memphis-style barbecue is slow cooked in a pit and ribs can be prepared either "dry" or "wet". "Dry" ribs are covered with a dry rub consisting of salt and various spices before cooking and are normally eaten without sauce. "Wet" ribs are brushed with sauce before, during, and after cooking.

After World War II, barbecue became a viable commercial venture in Memphis. Small restaurants, known as "joints", began to open with a purpose-built pit for slow-cooking the meat. Many small neighborhood joints in low-income areas, such as Payne's, Leonard's and Interstate, have gained notoriety as they reflect the roots of Memphis barbecue

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