1 meat that has been barbecued or grilled in a highly seasoned sauce [syn: barbeque]
2 a cookout in which food is cooked over an open fire; especially a whole animal carcass roasted on a spit [syn: barbeque]
3 a rack to hold meat for cooking over hot charcoal usually out of doors [syn: barbeque] v : cook outdoors on a barbecue grill; "let's barbecue that meat"; "We cooked out in the forest" [syn: cook out]
- braai (South African English)
- To cook food on a barbecue; to grill.
- Finnish: grillata
Barbecue or barbeque (abbreviated BBQ, Bar-B-Q or Bar-B-Que or diminuted, chiefly in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to barbie, and Braai in South Africa) is 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. The term as a noun can refer to foods cooked by this method, to the cooker itself, or to a party that includes such food. The term is also used as a verb for the act of cooking food in this manner. Barbecue is usually cooked in an outdoor environment heated by the smoke of wood or charcoal. Restaurant barbecue may be cooked in large brick or metal ovens specially designed for that purpose.
Barbecue has numerous regional variations in many parts of the world. Notably, in the United States, practitioners consider barbecue to include only relatively indirect methods of cooking, with the more direct high-heat methods to be called grilling.
In British English usage, barbecuing and grilling refer to a fast cooking process directly over high heat, whilst grilling also refers to cooking under a source of direct, high heat--known in the US and Canada as broiling. In US English usage, however, grilling refers to a fast process over high heat whilst barbecuing refers to a slow process using indirect heat and/or hot smoke (similar to or possibly identical to roasting). For example, in a typical US home 'grill', food is cooked on a grate directly over hot charcoal; while in a US 'barbecue', the coals are dispersed to the sides or at significant distance from the grate.
Alternatively, an apparatus called a smoker with a separate fire box may be used. Hot smoke is drawn past the meat by convection for very slow cooking. This is essentially how barbecue is cooked in most US 'barbecue' restaurants, but nevertheless many consider this to be a distinct cooking process called smoking.
The slower methods of cooking break down the collagen in meat and tenderize tougher cuts for easier eating.
EtymologyThe origins of both the activity of barbecue cooking and the word itself are somewhat obscure. Most etymologists believe that barbecue derives ultimately from the word barabicu found in the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean. The word translates as sacred fire pit and is also spelled barbicoa or barabicoa. The word describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks.
Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing some meat (usually a whole goat) with a pot underneath it, so that the juices can make a hearty broth. It is then covered with maguey leaves and coal and set alight. The cooking process takes a few hours.
There is ample evidence that both the word and cooking technique migrated out of the Caribbean and into other cultures and languages, with the word moving from Caribbean dialects into Spanish, then French and English. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the word as having been introduced into the English language by British buccaneer William Dampier.
The word evolved into its modern English spelling of barbecue and may also be found spelled as bar-b-que, bar-b-q or bbq. In the south eastern United States, the word barbecue is used predominantly as a noun referring to roast pork, while in the southwestern states cuts of beef are often cooked.
The word barbecue has attracted two inaccurate origins from folk etymology. An often-repeated claim is that the word is derived from the French language. The story goes that French visitors to the Caribbean saw a pig being cooked whole and described the method as barbe à queue, meaning from beard to tail. The French word for barbecue is also barbecue and the "beard to tail" explanation is regarded as false by most language experts. The only merit is that it relies on the similar sound of the words, a feature common in folk etymology explanations. Another claim states that the word BBQ came from the time when roadhouses and beer joints with pool tables advertised Bar, Beer and Cues. According to this tale, the phrase was shortened over time to BBCue, then BBQ.
American SouthIn the Southern United States, barbecue initially revolved around the cooking of pork. During the 19th century, pigs were a low-maintenance food source that could be released to forage for themselves in forests and woodlands. When food or meat supplies were low, these semi-wild pigs could then be caught and eaten.
According to estimates, prior to the American Civil War Southerners ate around five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef they consumed. Because of the poverty of the southern United States at this time, every part of the pig was eaten immediately or saved for later (including the ears, feet, and other organs). Because of the effort to capture and cook these wild hogs, "pig slaughtering became a time for celebration, and the neighborhood would be invited to share in the largesse. These feasts are sometimes called 'pig-pickin's.' The traditional Southern barbecue grew out of these gatherings."
Each Southern locale has its own particular variety of barbecue, particularly concerning the sauce. The Carolinas, for example, tend to prepare tangier vinegar-based sauces. Memphis barbecue is best-known for tomato- and vinegar-based sauces. South Carolina is the only state that includes all four recognized barbecue sauces, including mustard-based, vinegar-based, light and heavy tomato-based. In some Memphis establishments
Central Texas was settled by German and Czech settlers in the mid 1800s, and they brought with them European-style meat markets, which would smoke leftover cuts of pork and beef, often with high heat, using primarily native oak and pecan. The European settlers did not think of this meat as barbecue, but the Anglo farm workers who bought it started calling it such, and the name stuck. Traditionally this barbecue is served without sauce, and with no sides other than saltine crackers, pickles, and onions. This area also produces sausages derived from German influences, such as Elgin hot links. This style is found in the Barbecue Belt southeast of Austin, with Lockhart as its capital. is held each October in Kansas City, Missouri. This event comprises two distinct competitions held over the course of four days. The first contest is the Invitational Contest, with competing teams being required to obtain an invitation by winning other qualifying contests throughout the year. The second competition is an Open contest, that any team can compete in. This open contest is the largest championship barbecue competition in the world, with the 2007 event attracting 496 teams.
- The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held annually in Memphis, Tennessee during the Memphis in May festival. Other barbecue competitions are held in virtually every state in the United States during the warmer months, usually beginning in April and going through September. One of the best-known was the "Ribfest" first organized by former Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, which competition attracted over 400 contestants in 1982, ballooned to 750 entries and over 10,000 attendees by 1990, and helped popularize to a much wider audience the distinctions between different regional styles.These events feature keen competitions between teams of cooks and are divided into separate competitions for the best pork, beef and poultry barbecue and for the best barbecue sauces.
TechniquesBarbecuing encompasses two distinct types of cooking technique. One type is grilling over direct heat, usually a hot fire (i.e. over 500°F) for a short time (minutes). Grilling may be done over wood, charcoal or gas fires. The other technique is often called smoking and is cooking by using indirect heat or low-level direct radiant heat at lower temperatures (usually around 240°F) and longer cooking times (hours).
WoodThe choice and combination of woods burned result in different flavors imparted to the meat. Woods commonly selected for their flavor include mesquite, hickory, maple, guava, kiawe, cherry, pecan, apple and oak. Woods to avoid include conifers. These contain resins and tars, which impart undesirable resinous and chemical flavors. If these woods are used, they should be burned in a catalytic grill, such as a rocket stove, so that the resins and tars are completely burned before coming into contact with the food.
Different types of wood burn at different rates. The heat also varies by the amount of wood and controlling the rate of burn through careful venting. Wood and charcoal are sometimes combined to optimize smoke flavor and consistent burning.
CharcoalThis generally begins with purchasing a commercial bag of processed charcoal briquettes. An alternative to charcoal briquettes is lump charcoal. Lump charcoal is wood that has been turned into charcoal but unlike briquets it has not been ground and shaped. Lump charcoal is a pure form of charcoal and is preferred by many purists who dislike artificial binders used to hold briquets in their shape. Charcoal cannot be burned indoors because poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) is a combustion product. Carbon monoxide fumes may contribute to the pink color taken on by barbecued meats after slow cooking in a smoker. Many barbecue aficionados prefer charcoal over gas (propane) for the authentic flavor the coals provide.
A charcoal chimney starter is an inexpensive and efficient method for quickly obtaining a good charcoal fire. A few pages of newspaper are wadded up underneath the chimney to start the fire. Other methods are to use an electric iron to heat the charcoal or to soak it with aliphatic petroleum solvent and light it in a pyramid formation. Charcoal briquettes pre-impregnated with solvent are also available. Although the use of solvents is quick and portable, it can be hazardous, and petroleum solvents can impart undesirable chemical flavors to the meat. Using denatured alcohol ("methyl hydrate", "methylated spirit") instead of commercial petroleum-based lighter fluids avoids this problem.
Once all coals are ashed-over (generally 15-25 minutes, depending on starting technique), they can be spread around the perimeter of the grill with the meat placed in the center for indirect cooking, or piled together for direct cooking. Water-soaked wood chips (such as mesquite, cherry, hickory or fruit trees) can be added to the coals for flavor. As with wood barbecuing, the temperature of the grill is controlled by the amount and distribution of coal within the grill and through careful venting.
For long cooking times (up to 18 hours), many cooks find success with the "Minion Method", usually performed in a smoker. The method involves putting a small number of hot coals on top of a full chamber of unlit briquettes. The burning coals will gradually light the unlit coals. By leaving the top air vent all the way open and adjusting the lower vents, a constant temperature of 225°F can easily be achieved for up to 18 hours.
Natural gas and propaneGas grills are easy to light. The heat is easy to control via knob-controlled gas valves on the burners, so the outcome is very predictable. Gas grills give very consistent results, although some charcoal and wood purists argue that it lacks the flavors available only from cooking with charcoal. Advocates of gas grills claim that gas cooking lets you "taste the meat, not the heat" because it is claimed that charcoal grills may deposit traces of coal tar on the food. Many grills are equipped with thermometers, further simplifying the barbecuing experience. However propane and natural gas produce a "wet" heat (combustion byproducts include water vapor) that can change the texture of foods cooked over such fuels.
Added wood smoke flavor can be imparted on gas grills using water-soaked wood chips placed in an inexpensive "smoker box" (a perforated metal box), or simply a perforated foil pouch, under the grilling grate and over the heat. It takes some experience in order to keep the chips smoking consistently without catching fire; some high-end gas grills include a built-in smoker box with a dedicated burner to simplify the task. Using such smokers on quick-grilled foods (steaks, chops, burgers) nearly duplicates the effects of wood and charcoal grills, and can actually make grilling some longer-cooked foods, such as ribs, easier, since the "wet" heat makes it easier to prevent the meat from drying out.
Gas grills are significantly more expensive due to their added complexity, and higher heat. They are also considered much cleaner as they do not result in ashes, which must be disposed of, and also in terms of air pollution. Proper maintenance may further help reduce pollution. The useful life of a gas grill may be extended by obtaining replacement gas grill parts when the original parts wear out. Most barbecues that are used for commercial purposes now use gas for the reasons above.