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Barbecue or barbeque  (abbreviated BBQ 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 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 A barbecue in a public park in Australia
A barbecue in a public park in Australia
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, or with propane and similar gases. 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 other countries, notably Australia and many parts of Europe, barbecue is either fried or grilled, and generally barbecue appliances do not have a lid.

In British English usage, barbecueing refers to a fast cooking process directly over high heat, whilst grilling 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 barbecueing refers to a slow process using indirect heat and/or hot smoke. 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.



The 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

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'.
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 gril is now being
used to slowly cook pork ribs
and 'drunken chicken'.

alight. The cooking process takes a few hours. There is ample evidence that the 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 in the Americas. 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.

The American South
In 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 and in Kentucky, meat is rubbed with dry seasoning (dry rubs) and smoked over hickory wood without sauce; the finished barbecueis then served withbarbecuesauce on the side. In Texas, meanwhile, barbecue is often eaten with no sauce at all so as not to distract from the natural flavor of the meat in question (which, in Texas, is generally beef, however chicken is also common, a meat not often found barbecued in other states).

The barbecue of Georgia and Tennessee is almost always pork served with a sweet tomato-based sauce. A popular item in Memphis is the pulled pork sandwich served on a bun and topped with cole slaw. Pulled pork is prepared by shreading the pork after it is barbecued.

Events and gatherings

A barbecue on a trailer at a pig pickin' in Kansas City, KS.The word barbecue is also used to refer to a social gathering where food is served, usually outdoors in the early afternoon. In the South outdoor gatherings are not typically called barbecues but rather cookouts. Also, in the South when you hear the word barbecue, it almost always is referring to the food - pork BBQ. The device used for cooking at a "barbecue" is commonly referred to as a "barbecue," barbecue grill," or "grill."

Beef steaks over wood.
Beef steaks over wood.

  • In Australia, the barbecue is an important cultural expression of the outdoor lifestyle and social interaction. Australian actor Paul Hogan is famous for the phrase "I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you" in tourism advertising, though this has little to do with Australian terminology. Among other things, Australians will usually cook basic meats such as snags (sausages), chops (lamb chops) and steaks, and it is often accompanied by beer, conversation and other activities, such as a social game of footy or a game of social cricket.
  • South Africa has a strong barbecue (locally known as "braai") tradition. Indeed, the braais are utilized in cooking almost daily by many South African families.
  • 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. 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.

The choice and combination of woods burned result in different flavors imparted to the meat. Woods commonly selected for their flavor include mesquite, hickory, maple, pecan, apple and oak. Woods to avoid include conifers. These contain tar, which imparts 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 tar is 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.


This 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. Many barbecue aficionados

Beef steaks over wood.
Beef steaks over wood.

prefer charcoal over gas (propane) for the authentic flavor the coals provide. However, given the convenience and unique flavor of gas, this topic is a considerable point of contention in the BBQ community.

Chimney Starter in useA 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 cooks (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.

A convenience-oriented barbecue trend continues worldwide, including disposable barbecues and instant self-lighting charcoal.

For example, the Disposable Barbecue is a complete BBQ with charcoal and grid. The manufacturer claims that it is easy and clean to use because it lights with a single match and after use the whole thing can just be thrown away.

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. 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. This ignores the fact that wood and charcoal also produces water vapor when burned.

A typical propane barbecue grill in a backyard in California.
A typical propane barbecue grill in a
backyard in California.

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.

Infrared BBQs work by heating ceramic tile that in turn emit infrared radiation. The benefits are that heat is uniformly distributed across the cooking surface and temperatures can reach 700 degrees Fahrenheit, enabling a technique of quickly searing food items. This technology was patented by a company called Tec Infrared, but the patents have expired as of the year 2000 and other companies have started offering infrared grilling equipment.

Solar power
There have been a number of designs for barbecues that use solar power as a means of cooking food. The device usually involves the use of a curved mirror acting as a parabolic reflector, which focuses the rays of the sun on to a point where the food is to be heated.

Other uses
The term barbecue is also used to designate a flavor added to foodstuffs, the most prominent of which are potato chips. This term usually implies a strong smoky flavor, and often denotes a flavor reminiscent of barbecue sauce.

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This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

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