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BBQ and Its History

Updated on September 13, 2011
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

by M.Minderhoud on wikimedia commons
by M.Minderhoud on wikimedia commons

Barbeque (BBQ) is a staple of American food.  In fact, so many Americans are passionate about it that they will literally fight over whose is the best and what makes a good BBQ.  Some say it is cooking over a flame or hot coals.  I’m sorry to say that to me that is grilling.  Barbeque to me is when you add the sauce that makes it what we drool over.  But where did it all start?

by foodista on wikimedia commons
by foodista on wikimedia commons
by Wie146
by Wie146
by Peterjhpark at en.wikipedia
by Peterjhpark at en.wikipedia

Defining BBQ and the Roots

Cooking over coals has been done for centuries in many of the Pacific islands.  As explorers discovered this new way of cooking, it began to spread around the world.  When the Americas were being explored and colonized by Europeans, they took that way of cooking with them.  Food for them was the wilderness around them.  They let their pigs go wild and only hunted for them when food was low and they needed the meat.  They would go out, kill a pig, and begin cooking it over a flame. 

As the colonies grew and matured so did barbeque.  It was during this time that the infamous BBQ sauce began to be used and turned just plain grilling into BBQ.  References have been found regarding sauces with mustard basis more than two hundred years ago.  BBQ was coming into its own.

As the country was building up to a civil war, it was also developing how it did BBQ.  Farmers began to domestic the pigs which yielded a more tender piece of meat.  Since pigs were easy to tend to, they became the more common food used in a BBQ. 

What you have to understand here is that when a pig was cooked, there was a lot of meat.  In fact even killing the pigs was a community event.  Since the killing was for all, so became the eating.  Having a BBQ is not a solitary affair.  It is a party.  Whole communities gather for a BBQ.  Many times it was the center of festivals and family events.

As the years went on, so did the art form we call BBQ.  Various meats were tried and tested.  Sauces became closely guarded secrets.  Eventually contests arose to who made the best BBQ. 

Basically BBQ took over the country.  As the 1900’s began, small diners specializing in BBQ sprung up.  It crossed every racial and economic barrier.  Everyone loved it.  You were pretty much guaranteed to find a place serving BBQ in any town you visited especially in the south.

What can be barbequed?  Any meat on the planet.  There is always the foundational pork and beef.  Have you had barbecued venison, rabbit, fish, or shrimp?  They are wonderful.  You can have a barbequed beef brisket.  Take a pork roast, cook it, and then pull it apart and cook again in some delicious BBQ sauce.  Smoother shrimp in the sauce, skewer them, and lay them on the grill.  BBQ chicken is always a winner.  It is a messy meal so make sure that each person has one packet of napkins to clean their hands – after they have licked them, of course!

Now to the all important sauce! Please do not be mistaken that BBQ sauce is just dressed up ketchup or some such notion!! This is vital. You need to know how to make a sauce. Or you can go to the store and buy some. I know. Some BBQ disciples are swooning that I would say such a thing. But have you tried Sweet Baby Ray’s? To me that is the best store bought sauce in the whole world.

For homemade, you can explore an entire spectrum of possibilities and still have it called BBQ sauce.

The basis for a traditional BBQ sauce is tomato sauce. From there you add in vinegar, seasoning and spices. Worcestershire Sauce is a very common ingredient in sauces. You will usually find brown sugar, onions, or molasses.

Another basis for many sauces is mustard. There is more than just plain old yellow mustard out there, folks. Take the mustard and add many of the same BBQ ingredients already listed and you will have a sauce worth standing up for.

In the south there is a white BBQ sauce in which mayonnaise is the basis. Add some vinegar, and other seasonings and you might need an extra towel for the mouth-watering results.

To many BBQ is an art form. There are hundreds of not thousands of contests for the best BBQ and sauce. They take it very seriously. A few marriages have broken up over such a thing. Give BBQ a chance this summer. Try various sauces and meats and invite the whole neighborhood. You won’t regret it.

Note: Lots of napkins, wipes, and paper towels should be offered at a BBQ along with plenty to drink. Good sides are corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.



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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      What a terrific and readable hub, R! I love BBQ, who doesn't? It means summertime and parties, and tastes GREAT!

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      Very interesting hub, RGraf! I often forget to think about a foods origins when I am eating! But this was a great idea! America loves their BBQ!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      I am writing about a great BBQ Chef and wanted to bring in the history! Wow! Great timing - thank you very much! Will be sure to link back to this great article! Last night I was speaking with the award winning chef Matthew Whiteford and he was telling me about Kingfisher Grills and the Big Green Egg! Off to review.