While the tenets of barbecue in Texas and Kansas City have been clear for a long time, Florida's pit style has remained nebulous.
But a new characteristic is flourishing throughout the Sunshine State, lending some culinary credence to a state often criticized for lacking its own cuisine. And like any good local 'cue, the secret comes from the pit masters' own backyards: citrus wood.
Offering relief from the heat-packing barbecue styles of other regions, barbecue prepared by Florida experts is mild but still flavorful thanks to wood and chips from various citrus trees.
Tom Kindred, who opened Boomer's BBQ in Ft. Pierce last July, smokes his meat with citrus wood he gathers from old groves. The resulting smoke gives his meat a depth of flavor that complements the acidic marinades he makes from local grapefruit and orange juice.
And in the Citrus Ridge, Larry Baker of Mount Dora BBQ, also uses citrus wood, especially from grapefruit and Eureka lemon trees.
Rob "Rub" Bagby, president of the Florida BBQ Association and the top-ranked pit master in the nation, lauds citrus smoke for its light, slightly sweet flavor, which works especially well with more delicate proteins, like pork, chicken and fish, especially a whole smoked mullet (click here to download the recipe).