BBQ Cooking Around the World
BBQ cooking is most often associated with American cuisine, but actually, it’s a popular cooking technique around the world. BBQ cooking is the oldest cooking technique, too. We humans have been roasting and smoking meats over a fire or hot coals for thousands of years, although we used a different barbecue sauce back then. Okay, that was just a little joke. Sorry- I couldn’t resist. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that BBQ cooking is beloved by mankind just about everywhere, although the foods and specific cooking methods differ.
Below are just a few countries in which barbecuing is appreciated, along with a little info about favorite practices.
India –Many food in India are cooked in a chula – a brick oven that uses hot coals for heat and flavor. Indians cook meats and vegetables in the chulas.
Jamaica –Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean are famous for their jerk – meat seasoned with peppers and spices and cooked over green pimento wood. The most popular jerk dishes in Jamaica include goat, pork, and chicken.
South Africa –The most popular barbecue dishes in South Africa are steaks, sausages, and shish kebobs. Pork is often flavored with curry and cooked with fruits like apricots.
Argentina –Argentina, of course, is famous for its beef, so it should come as no big surprise that steaks are usually the meat of choice for barbecuing. For a traditional Asado, kind of an Argentinean version of the Southern pig pickin’, a whole steer is often cooked on metal crosses over a fire pit.
Korea –Korean barbecue consists of both marinated and un-marinated meats. When the meats are marinated before cooking, the marinade usually includes soy sauce, onions, sugar, and garlic. Meats are cooked over soot or charcoal and include beef, chicken, pork, and other meats.
Philippines –Ironically, Filipinos seem to enjoy the same type of BBQ cooking that we do a lot here in the South – cooking a whole hog or pig over low coals. The pig is basted with its own fat, creating lots of crunchy skin on the outside.
Puerto Rico –A popular barbecue dish in Puerto Rico is pork shoulder, or as we usually call them in the states, Boston butts. In the rural areas of Puerto Rico, the butts are flavored with garlic and cooked on a spit. As the meat cooks, it’s brushed with annatto oil.
As you can tell from the different cookers and methods used with BBQ cooking in different locations, BBQ grills aren’t necessarily required – at least, what most of us in the U.S. consider a BBQ grill. A typical modern BBQ grill is designed for cooking meat rather quickly at a relatively high temperature, usually over charcoal or gas. If the grill has a tight fitting lid, a lower heat and longer cooking time can be used. This can be done by building the fire on only one side of the grill and placing the meat to be cooked on the other side of the grill. With this method, the coals will have to be replenished periodically. With gas grills, some type of wood will need to be used to get smoke for the smoky flavor most folks enjoy.
Which is better - a gas grill or a charcoal grill? People have different opinions on the subject. Personally, I prefer charcoal grills, as it's pretty hard to match the flavor of chargrilled meats. On the other hand, gas grills are quicker. You don't have to wait for the coals to reach the perfect temperature. You can also control the heat more easily on a gas grill. We have both types of grills and use them often. Gas grills are fine for meats that cook quickly, like fish fillets and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. For thicker meats that take longer to cook, I really like to take advantage of the smoky flavor provided by charcoal.
BBQ smokers cook lower and slower than grills. In other words, they sustain a lower cooking temperature, so the meat has to cook for a much longer time. There’s a big benefit to this cooking method. The extra cooking time allows tough fibers in the meat to break down, creating a very tender piece of flesh. Many BBQ smoker also have a receptacle for liquid, usually referred to as a water pan. As the smoker heats, steam rises from the water pan, making a moist heat. BBQ smokers are best for large, thick cuts of meat, including beef briskets, pork or venison hams, pork shoulders, pork loins, whole chickens, and turkeys. Slabs of ribs do well on a smoker, too.
I think we'd be lost without our smoker! We use it all the time. It can hold a lot of meat on its two racks, and we load it up on holidays and special occasions when we want to feed a crowd. The meat doesn't require much tending, either. For the most part, once the meat is placed on the meat smoker, it's just a matter of waiting.
How to Build a BBQ Pit:
Here in the South, many people build their own BBQ pits. A BBQ pit is basically a square or rectangular structure made of brick, cinderblock, or stone. Near the top is a metal grate. The grate is usually several feet above the bottom surface, where the wood is placed. We used to have a homemade BBQ pit, and it turned out some amazing barbecue! We used wood coals as a heat source. We’d build a fire near the BBQ pit, and when some of the wood made coals, we’d shovel them into the pit. Of course, we’d usually have to keep feeding more coals as the meat cooked. BBQ pits are great for cooking a lot of meat at one time, like a whole or split pig. Sometimes we’d load our pit with ten or twelve pork shoulders when we wanted to feed a big crowd.
How to Build a BBQ Pit? Watch the video for some great ideas. One thing I'll tell you from our experience with BBQ pits is to plan carefully for the location. Remember - this is a permanent structure that you can't move around like you can with most gas grills and charcoal grills. You want it close enough to your kitchen so that it's fairly easy to carry food back and forth, but you don't want it so close to your house that it's going to fill your home with smoke.
Pulled Pork Recipe:
I can’t leave without paying homage to that wonderful southern BBQ phenomenon – pulled pork. In the Deep South – the southeastern part of the US – barbecuing is almost a religion, and it’s definitely an art form. A few cooks like to grill or smoke beef brisket or beef ribs, but when most southerners think BBQ, they think pork – ribs, loins, hams, or shoulders.
Of all the pork recipes for grilling and smoking, pulled pork is tops for many southerners. Just in case you’ve never had the privilege of sampling pulled pork, I’ll explain. Pulled pork is made from a large hunk of meat that’s been smoked “low and slow” over wood. the preferred cut is the pork shoulder, or Boston butt. After a butt has cooked for hours over wood, the fat and collagen break down, resulting in incredibly juicy meat. Most grill masters cook the pork until it’s ready to fall apart, and once it’s taken off the smoker, the muscle fibers are shredded, or “pulled.” At that time, the small pork fibers might be combined with vinegar, spices, and/or barbecue sauce, or the meat can be served plain, often with a sauce on the side. Oftentimes, the pork is made into pulled pork sandwiches.