Ultimate BBQ Study: Rundown on America’s Preferences, Habits, Spend + More

Nothing ignites the American spirit like a classic backyard barbecue – except maybe a hot streak at the craps table. From sizzling burgers to mouthwatering brisket, it’s a feast that keeps Americans running back for more, much like the allure of a casino floor. So much so, the grillin’ industry hits a smokin’ hot $3.28B value in the US.

To celebrate the 4th of July, we fired up the grill and conducted the ultimate barbecue study (nationwide survey + weighted index), diving into the heart of backyard culture. From barbecuing habits and flavor preferences to ranking states by grill mastery and unveiling the ultimate BBQ-loving states, we’ve smoked out all the saucy details.  

Sizzlin’ Key Findings: 

  • 64.6% of Americans reveal that the 4th of July is their favorite day to BBQ
  • Americans spend $89.61 per barbecue session – that’s $1,433.76 per year! (Almost enough for a weekend in Vegas.)
  • America’s ideal BBQ plate: hamburger (34.6%), corn on the cob (48.8%), potato salad (21.5%), with ketchup (44.5%) as the go-to condiment 
  • Mississippi ranks #1 as the top BBQ-loving state, with a score of 83.6/100 
  • North Dakota leads as the biggest BBQ spender, splurging $166.70 per BBQ bash – or $2,283.79 annually – that’s high roller territory!
  • Kansas and Montana tie for #1 in self-rated BBQ mastery skills, both averaging 4.3/5 – surpassing the national average of 3.5/5  

Grillin’ Nation: BBQ habits and taste preferences 

What’s a better way to celebrate a beautiful sunny day than firing up the grill? With summer coming up, Americans are ready to turn the heat up and double down on their barbecuing, as planning to grill 8.6 times these next few months. That’s 53.7% more than their yearly average (16)! Since the typical American spends $89.61 per barbecue, they’re dishing out $770.64 this summer; or $1,433.76 per year!  

While there’s an array of BBQ plates, here’s the winning combo that won America’s hearts. According to our survey, they’re sinking teethes into a juicy burger (34.6%) smothered in ketchup (44.5%), of course. Let’s not forget the iconic buttery and salted corn on the cob (21.5%), and the creamy potato salad (21.5%). Seconds, anyone? It’s a spread that could rival any casino buffet.

But what’s the sizzle behind the infamous backyard bash? According to respondents, 58% find joy in indulging in classic BBQ cuisine: from smoked brisket, ribs, to mac and cheese, it’s a feast that caters to every tastebud. Furthermore, 45% view get-togethers with friends, family, and neighbors as the perfect excuse to fire up the grill; while 43% believe a sunny day to be the ultimate excuse to throw some barbecue some grub.  

One day stands out as the most anticipated backyard event in America – the 4th of July, of course! 64.6% crown Independence Day as the ultimate grillin’ day of the year. Name a better way to celebrate the most American holiday than a nice plate of hot dogs, macaroni salad, and corn – all while watching fireworks. It’s the ultimate celebration of all things red, white, and BBQ!  

State Smokin’ Showdown: America’s top BBQ-loving states  

To reveal the top BBQ-enthusiast states, we polled 4,000 Americans and fired up a weighted index that considers each state’s grilling frequency, BBQ-event attendance, dine-ins at BBQ joints, and barbecue bash spending.  

With a scorching score of 83.6/100, Mississippi crowns itself as the ultimate BBQ-enthusiast state. Mississippians are firing up their grills about 19.9 times per year, not letting weather conditions slow them down. Times that by their average spend of $81.80 per barbecue? They’re igniting a whopping $1,627.82 yearly investment for their passion! Mississippians also attend an average of 9.8 BBQ-like events annually (highest in the nation), while visiting their beloved BBQ joints about 9.7 times a year.  

Just next door, Louisiana shines as the 2nd most BBQ-obsessed state (77.4/100), firing up the grill a blazing 27.3 times (highest nationwide) annually – outpacing Mississippi! With a large spend of $105.40 per barbecue, they’re dishing out a hefty $2,877.42/year for the savory cuisine. While they do boast impressive grill stats, their BBQ event attendance (4.2) and restaurant visits (5.1) fall short, compared to Mississippi. Perhaps they favor their at-home grill grubs instead.  

South Dakota smokes the competition and places 3rd, with a solid score of 72.6. Boasting the 3rd highest grilling frequency (25.3) times per year, they’re no newbies to firing up a grill. Regardless of their modest spend of $65 per barbecue, their yearly foodie investment in backyard bliss totals to $1,644.50. Adding more flavor to South Dakota’s BBQ scene, they enjoy attending festivals 4.3 times a year, and dining out at favorite BBQ joints 7.8 times annually. They’re a state that savors every bite!  

To finish off the top 5 list, Alabama finishes in 4th place (70.8), while Missouri, boasting the BBQ capital of the world in Kansas City, ranks in 5th with 69.6 points.  

Where’s Texas (and other notorious BBQ states)? 

Surprisingly, BBQ giants like Georgia (13th), Texas (17th), South Carolina (20th), Florida (21st), North Carolina (22nd), Tennessee (24th), and New York (29th) didn’t lead the pack in grilling frequency or BBQ event attendance.  

On average, each of these 7 states seem to attend fewer than 3 BBQ events per year, with a maximum of 7 visits to BBQ restaurants annually. This translates to dining out at a BBQ joint roughly once every other month! 

It seems that these states prioritize quality over quantity, hinting at true at-home cooking prowess.  

America’s Grill Game: Who claims to be the best? 

Putting America’s BBQ skills in the spotlight, we asked our 4,000 respondents to rate their barbecue skills from burnt (0) to perfection (5) to reveal which states believe they’re the best grillers in the nation. Here are the sizzlin’ results!  

At the top of the grill, Kansas and Montana tie for 1st with a savory self-rated BBQ mastery score of 4.3 stars – about 81% higher than the national average of 3.5. Whether it’s a reflection of pure talent or a hint of self-serving bias, they’re clearly firing up their grill and confidence to the max. 

For the runner-up, New Hampshire holds a solid 4.1 star rating. It seems they prefer the sizzle of their own backyard grill over dining out, due to their sparse BBQ events (1.4 annually) and restaurant (2.1 annually) attendance.  

In a three-way tie for 3rd place, Alaska, DC, and Vermont share a barbecue skill score of 4 stars out of 5. Knowing they’re also in the bottom 3 rankings of our BBQ-loving states index, it appears these states value their home-cooked goodness over restaurant fare.   

Rounding out the top 5, Colorado claims 4th place (3.9), while Louisiana and Oregon tie for 5th, with a 3.8 star self-approval rating.  

Grill-O-Nomics: America’s top BBQ spenders  

North Dakota leads the grill spend game, splurging $166.70 per BBQ bash! Since they’re firing up their grills about 13.7 times a year, they’re racking up a sizzling total of $2,283.79 annually. Talk about some smokin’ hot spending, as it’s 81% higher than the national average ($1,433.76)! 

Ranking 2nd nationwide, Californians spend a meaty $110.90 per session. They burn through $1,397.34 annually for their BBQ fix, from their 12.6 average grill sessions alone!  

Connecticut snags 3rd place with a saucy $108.30 spent per session, or $1,667.82 annually. For a state that barbecues 15.4 times throughout the year, that sure is a lot of dough, just for grilling!  

Topping off the top 5, Rhode Island ranks 4th place nationally ($105.90/grill session), with Louisiana smokin’ in at 5th place ($105.40/grill session).  

Honorary Mentions: BBQ trailblazers 

Here’s a closer look at which states lead the nation in BBQ habits: 

Summer grill master: South Dakota will cease every opportunity to barbecue this summer as they’re averaging 14.8 grills this season!  

Year-round grill guru: Louisiana leads the nation when it comes to year round barbecues, with 27.3 sessions per year.  

BBQ event attendance: Attending 9.8 flavorful events annually, Mississippi is a regular in BBQ festivals and pop-up shops.  

BBQ diner extraordinaire: Feasting 11.2 times a year at their favorite joints, West Virginia is easily the restaurant industry’s best friend here. 

Biggest BBQ spenders: Splurging a whopping $166.70 per barbecue session, North Dakota clearly wastes no dime for a good time!  

A Grill-iant Conclusion  

Regardless of where states fall on the BBQ skill spectrum, one things for sure: Americans are united in their passion for smoky, tender barbecue. Let’s light those grills, gather our loved ones, and celebrate National Barbecue Day on May 16th in true American style!  


In June 2024, we conducted a nationwide survey of 4,000 US residents, asking about their favorite BBQ foods, year-round grill habits, and skills.  

When curating America’s ideal plate, we took the top favorite in the following categories: meat, grilled side dish, cold side dish, and condiments.  

From there, we created an index to analyze and weigh a multitude of factors to determine the most BBQ-loving states:  

  1. How often they BBQ per year (25%) 
  1. How many BBQ-like events they attend per year (25%) 
  1. How often they dine-in at BBQ restaurants per year (25%) 
  1. Average spend to BBQ (25%) 

Each state was then scored and ranked to determine which states are the most enthusiastic about barbecue.  

When collecting each state’s grill game, we asked them to rate their barbecue skills on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (spectacular).  

The average age of respondents was 41.1 years old. The representative sample comprised of 55.5% female, 42.6% male, 1.3% non-binary, and 0.5% transgender. 

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