What is Barbecue a.k.a. BBQ?
Barbecue is a term used to mean different things to different people. Barbecue is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is often defined as pieces of meat roasted over an open hearth with or without barbecue sauce. Barbecue is also defined as the actual grill or framework used for cooking with open fire. And, most of you have probably been to “a barbecue”.
As a verb, it is the cooking or roasting of the meat over an open fire and if that is not enough, barbecue is also the process of cooking with a sauce. Wikipedia refers to barbecue as “a method and apparatus for cooking food, often meat, with the heat and hot gases of a fire, smoking wood, or hot coals of charcoal and may include application of a marinade, spice rub, or basting sauce to the meat”.
In summary, barbecue (or barbeque, or BBQ, or Bar-B-Que or Bar-B-Q) is a method of cooking food (usually meat) over hot fire or hot coals. It is cooked in various styles at various regions. In the Southern United States, BBQ is a very slow cooking process, cooked over hot coal or charcoal or hardwood smoke, whereas, in United Kingdom, the BBQ food is cooked over high flamed fire and hence, is considered to be a very fast way of cooking food. “Southerners” and “Texans” would tell you that cooking with high heat and quick is not barbecue at all, but rather “grilling”.
Origins of BBQ/Grilling
The origin of barbecue is somewhat vague and often contested, depending on which part of the country you are from. Perhaps, the most interesting comment I have seen regarding the origin of BBQ was from the user name “triptipandey”, who placed a post on a bulletin board, “barbecue originated somewhere in Africa about seventy millenniums ago. They used an open fire approach, and sauces were unheard of”.
Many believe that barbecue is from the word barbacoa meaning sacred fire pit and found in the language spoken by the Taíno people in the Caribbean. The word translates as "sacred fire pit." The word describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks. Yet, another school of thought is that it originates with the French. In the U.S., there are several claims of barbecue in the 15th and 16th centuries. Some people believe that Christopher Columbus brought a sauce used for cooking Alpaca meat back from Hispaniola near the end of the 15th century. The Georgia Journal wrote (in 1997) that When DeSoto's men came through Georgia in 1540, they described natives near the Ocmulgee River roasting venison and turkeys over coals on a similar device, making it the first barbecue recorded in North American history.
There are numerous literature references from this general time frame and moving forward. The term is found in the South throughout the 1700s and in the 1800s the term “barbecue” became more popular with Western cowboys. Ranchers fed their cowhands the inferior, tougher cuts of meats like brisket. The cowboys learned to cook the meat at lower temperatures and for long periods of time. This made the meat tenderer and by adding basting sauces it became somewhat tasty.
The first commercially-produced barbecue sauce was from the Louis Maull co. in 1923. However, it was Heinz that started distributing barbecue sauce nationally in 1951.
Whatever the true origin, most people here in the U.S. would argue that barbecue was perfected in the U.S. In fact, you can almost find someone in any state in the U.S. claiming the tradition was first started by them. With that said, there is significant evidence that indicates many of today’s barbecue sauces have some connection with the Carolinas.
In America “barbecuing” is a favorite family outing or a weekend get together event for many US families and their friends. Today, more than seventy percent of the American population owns a BBQ grill.
There are three primary ways to flavor the meat while barbecuing:
Any combination of these techniques can be used.
- Dry Rubs
- Barbecue Sauces
- Smoking Woods