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Encyclopedia > Barbeque
A member of the Airpork Crew barbecue team prepares pork shoulder at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
A barbecue on a trailer at a block party in Kansas City
A barbecue on a trailer at a block party in Kansas City Pans on the top shelf hold hamburgers and hot dogs that were grilled earlier when the coals were hot. The lower grill is now being used to slowly cook pork ribs and "drunken chicken"

Barbecue (in American English) or barbeque (BBQ) (in Commonwealth English) is a method of cooking food with indirect heat and smoke, or the end-result of cooking by this method. It is usually cooked in a covered environment heated by an outdoor open flame of wood, charcoal, natural gas or propane. Restaurant barbecue may be cooked in large brick or metal ovens specially designed for that purpose.

The word 'barbecue' is often used to refer to a casual party, usually outdoors or with an outdoor theme and usually with food that has been barbecued or grilled. For this reason many people consider any outdoor cooking, including grilling, as barbecue, which is frowned upon by purists. The device used for cooking barbecue can usually be used for both barbecuing and grilling and is often called a 'Barbecue grill', thereby adding to the confusion.

As a cooking method grilling is almost always a fast process over high heat and barbecue is almost always a slow process near indirect heat. For example, in a typical home grill with two separately controlled burners, grilled foods are placed over both burners, while if barbecuing, one burner is turned off and the food is placed over the cold burner and heated from the side. The meat is turned one or more times to ensure complete cooking.

This method of cooking breaks down the collagen in meat and turns tougher cuts into easy eating.


Regional variations

Barbecue has a lot of regional variations, based on several factors:

  • the type of meat used
  • the sauce or other flavoring added to the meat
  • when the flavoring is added during preparation
  • the role that smoke plays in preparation
  • the equipment and fuel used to cook the meat
  • how much time is spent cooking the meat

At its most generic, any source of protein may be used, including beef, pork, poultry, and fish. The meat could be ground, as with hamburger, processed into sausage or kabobs, and/or accompanied by vegetables. Sometimes the cut of meat (e.g. brisket or ribs) matters; sometimes the cut is irrelevant. Even vegetarian alternatives to meat, such as soyburgers can be barbecued. The meat may be marinaded or rubbed with spices before cooking, basted with a sauce or oil before and/or during cooking, and/or flavored in numerous ways after removed from the heat. Typically meat is covered with barbecue sauce which can be tomato or vinegar based. Vinegar-base sauce is typical of Southern barbecue while tomato-based sauce is Western style. Some forms of barbecue are barely distinguishable from grilled meats; most involve tougher cuts of meat, requiring hours of cooking over low heat that barely exceeds the boiling point of water. With direct heat grilling, the food is placed directly above the flame or source of heat. With indirect heat barbecuing, the food is off to the side and almost always under a cover, frequently with added smoke for additional flavor. Direct grilling is rapid cooking at a high temperature, while indirect barbecuing is much slower at a low temperature. Sometimes an open flame is required, with the fuel source irrelevant. In other cases, the fuel source is critical to the end result, as when wood chips from particular kinds of trees are used as fuel.


In Australia and New Zealand, barbecues are a popular summer pastime. Australasian BBQs do not involve the smoking or sugary sauces of an American BBQ. Instead plain or marinaded meat is grilled over the open fire. Seafood is sometimes cooked, although the barbecuing of prawns ('shrimp' in the USA) was virtually unknown before being popularised by an American TV commercial featuring Australian actor Paul Hogan.


Jamaican jerk chicken is an example of barbecue.


Bulgogi (불고기) is thinly sliced beef (and sometimes pork) marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and chilli pepper, cooked on a grill at the table. It is a main course, and is therefore served with rice and side dishes. Bulgogi literally means "fire beef" and is often called "Korean BBQ."

South Africa

The braai (abbreviation of braaivleis, Afrikaans "meat grill") started out as a major social tradition amongst the Afrikaner people of Southern Africa, though the tradition has since been adopted by South Africans of all ethnic backgrounds.

United States

Although differences in barbecue are blurring as are many aspects of U.S. regional culture, variations still exist.


Both pork and seafood are barbecued in Florida, with butter and lemon or lime juice as the base for the sauce.


Georgia barbecue is based on slow_cooked pork, with a sauce based on ketchup.


Beef, pork and chicken are dominant meats and are usually slow cooked. Throughout the eastern half of the state the sauces and styles resemble those found in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. A barbecue competition and contest is held in Lenexa a suburb of Kansas City.


Beef is the dominant meat for barbecue especially in St. Louis and the Ozarks. Often the beef is sliced and a tomato-based sauce is added after cooking.

In Kansas City in particular, barbeque is extremely popular Kansas City Bar-B-Q Connection (http://www.rbjb.com/rbjb/bbq.htm). Backyard barbeques and tailgating are considered pasttimes in the city and its surrounding area. Almost every type of barbeque is popular including beef, chicken, pork, sausage, ham and ribs.

Kansas City is the home of famous barbecue restaurants such as Arthur Bryant's, Gate's, Rosedale, BB's Lawnside, Zarda, and many others. There is usually a restaurant every few square miles. The area also hosts numerous barbeque competitions such as The American Royal.

Kansas City is particularly well known for its sauce. Typical KC BBQ is basted heavily in sauce during and after cooking. KC BBQ Sauce usually is rather rich, tangy and spicy. KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce was invented in the city by Rich Davis. However, KC Masterpiece is thicker, sweeter and darker in color than most Kansas City sauces. It is also important to note that Dry Rub is used extensively as well. The Kansas City style is also found in Missouri communities of Columbia, St. Joseph and Warrensburg.

North Carolina

Within North Carolina, there are multiple regional traditions, all based on the slow-cooking of pulled or chopped pork. On the east coast, the dominant ingredients to the sauce are vinegar and hot peppers. Proceeding west into the Piedmont (as in Lexington), the sauce becomes more tomato- or ketchup-based, but never as thick as commercial (Texas-style) sauces.

In the eastern part of the state, the whole hog is typically used; in the west, sometimes only pork shoulders are used for barbecue.

In general, a hog half is placed in a "hog cooker" over wood coals and cooked slowly, usually overnight. What wood to use is subject to some debate (often oak or hickory; never pine). In modern times, gas, electric, or charcoal heat are often used for sake of convenience, although most will agree that the long exposure to hardwood smoke improves the flavor of the final product and is generally preferred.

Other variations include cooking times, turning during cooking, and how finely the meat is chopped after cooking.

South Carolina

While the meat used in South Carolina is consistent throughout the state, slow-cooked pulled pork, three regional sauce variants can be found. In the Pee Dee and Lowcountry coastal region, a vinegar and pepper sauce is prevalent. In the Midlands area around Columbia, a mustard-based sauce sometimes referred to as "Carolina Gold" is the predominant style. In the Upstate, or Piedmont region, it shares a ketchup_based sauce also seen in North Carolina.


Memphis is known for

  • wet ribs, made with a mild, sweet barbecue sauce that's basted on the ribs before and after smoking;
  • dry-rub ribs, made with a spice rub applied during or right after they've been cooked; and
  • pulled or chopped pork sandwich topped with sweet, finely chopped coleslaw and served on inexpensive hamburger buns, which some locals insist is Memphis barbecue's highest form.

For people who simply can't get enough barbecue, there's also barbecue spaghetti, barbecue pizza, and barbecue nachos.

Memphis is also home to the "Memphis in May" World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC), an annual event which regularly draws over 90,000 pork lovers from around the globe. The title of "the largest pork barbecue cooking contest in the world" was bestowed on the WCBCC in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records.


Sliced brisket, sausage, and pork ribs are the most popular meats in Texas barbecue. Central Texans often refer to these three meats as The Holy Trinity. Chicken, beef ribs, and chopped beef are also often found. Even more exotic variants such as turkey, pork loin, pork chops, prime rib, mutton, and cabrito are sometimes available.

In Texas, barbecueing refers to what others call "hot smoking"—cooking with both smoke and low heat for hours over woods such as oak, mesquite, or pecan. Cooking with direct heat, such as a propane_fueled flame, is not referred to as barbecueing, but is instead known as grilling. Curing meat without heat is known as smoking. Meat prepared by Texas barbecue often has a red tinge even when fully cooked, and a pink smoke ring around the edges of the meat.

If used, traditional sauce consists of tomatoes with a vinegar base. It can be sweet or spicy and thick or thin, depending on the chef. At barbecue cookoffs in Texas, however, meat is generally judged without sauce, as sauce can cover up for poor-quality meats and cooking. Commercially available sauces usually bear little resemblance to traditional barbecue sauce, and are frequently made from tomatoes and corn syrup.

Since creating proper barbecue requires considerable expense of money and time, in that one needs a specialized smoker and has to start smoking many hours before the meat is ready, most Texans simply visit a local restaurant known as a barbecue joint. Such establishments typically serve the meat in a no-frills manner, on a plastic tray and butcher paper with white bread or crackers, or, to-go, in a brown paper sack. Traditional side dishes include potato salad, coleslaw (mustard or vinegar), pinto beans, which are often spicy. Banana pudding, peach cobbler and Blue Bell ice cream are popular dessert options. However, they are not always available—the film Kreuz Market: No Sauce, No Sides, No Silverware (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0279183/) depicts a popular barbeuce joint in Lockhart that lacks the three items mentioned in the title.

Slight regional variations in Texas barbecue exist. In Central Texas barbecue is more likely to consist of leaner meats, while East Texans prefer more fatty cuts. It is possible, however, to find both kinds of meats all over the state.

In Texas, barbecue, and the best barbecue joints, are popular topics both in individual discussions and the media. The documentary film Barbecue: A Texas Love Story (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0403867/) depicts the culture associated with Texas barbecue. Texas Monthly (http://www.texasmonthly.com/) magazine periodically performs roundups where they rate scores of barbecue joints across the state. The most recent roundup (http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/issues/2003-05-01/feature5.php) was in 2003.



The choice and combination of woods burned result in different flavors imparted to the meat. Different types of wood burn at different temperatures. The heat also varies by the amount of wood and controlling the rate of burn through careful venting.


This generally begins with purchasing a commercial bag of processed charcoal briquets. A charcoal chimney starter is a traditional (but generally underused) method for getting a consistent heat from your coals. Alternatively, they can be lit in a pyramid directly inside the charcoal grill after presoaking with lighter fluid (or using pre-treated briquets). Once all coals are ashed-over (generally 15-25 minutes), they are spread around the perimeter of the grill, and the meat is placed in the center for indirect cooking. For additional flavor and attractive appearance, thicker cuts of meat may optionally be seared over direct heat (outer perimeter of grill) prior to indirect cooking in the center. Water-soaked wood chips (such as mesquite, hickory, or fruit trees) are often added atop the coals for an extra smoky 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.

Natural gas and propane

Gas 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. They result in a very consistent and tasty result, although arguably much less flavorful. Many grills are equipped with thermometers, further simplifying the barbecuing experience.

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 of which must be disposed, and also in terms of air pollution. Extra maintenance may further help reduce pollution (see #External Links below).


The word varies in spelling; variations include barbeque, BBQ, and Bar-B-Q. Smoky Hale, author of The Great American Barbecue and Grilling Manual (ISBN 0936171030) traces the word back to its Caribbean roots in Taíno (one of the Arawak family of languages). In one form, barabicoa, it indicates a wooden grill, a mesh of sticks; in another, barabicu, it is a sacred fire pit. Traditional barbacoa implies digging a hole in the ground putting some meat (goat is the best, usually the whole animal) on it with a pot underneath (to catch the concentrated juices, it makes a hearty broth), cover all with maguey (cactus) leaves then cover with coal and set it in fire. A few hours later it is ready.

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Barbecue - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (4816 words)
Barbecue, (also spelled barbeque, or abbreviated BBQ) is a method of cooking food with the radiant heat and/or hot gasses of a fire, the cooking of food in a sauce that includes vinegar, the end-result of cooking by one of these methods, or a party that includes such food.
Barbequed oysters are served at the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival at the beginning of every summer.
However widely used, the spelling "barbeque" is a result of a gradual misunderstanding of the "BBQ" abbreviation.
Barbeque - definition of Barbeque in Encyclopedia (2193 words)
Barbeque is extremely popular in Kansas City Kansas City Bar-B-Q Connection (http://www.rbjb.com/rbjb/bbq.htm).
Backyard barbeques and tailgating are considered pasttimes in the city and its surrounding area.
Almost every type of barbeque is popular including beef, chicken, pork and ribs.
  More results at FactBites »



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