There’s no other style of food quite like barbecue.

When a piece of meat spends hours upon hours inside a smoker, something magical happens, and the resulting product has inspired more fierce and passionate devotion than just about any other type of food on earth. But whether you’re a connoisseur or just an occasional rib-eater, we bet that there are some things you didn’t know about this wonderful style of cuisine.

Barbecue has many different definitions around the world; in Britain, for example, to barbecue is to cook directly over high heat (what Americans call grilling), and even in America, barbecuing and grilling are occasionally (and incorrectly) used as synonymous. But for today’s purposes, we’re talking about real barbecue: the process of hot-smoking meat low and slow.

There are different regional barbecue styles all across the country, and for a barbecue lover, one of the great joys of traveling across the country is sampling as many as possible. While there are plenty of nuances and micro-regional styles, there are four styles that anyone who claims to be a barbecue lover should know about.

So loosen your belt, get your favorite bottle of barbecue sauce ready, and prepare yourself to be in the mood for some smoked meat, because you’ll most likely be craving some by the time you’re done reading. You can go your whole life competing in barbecue competitions and still not know everything there is to know about this legendary style of cuisine, but we’ll give you a head start.