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The Long & Tasty History Of The BBQ

Updated on February 26, 2010

The History Of The BBQ Goes Back To The Dawn Of Humanity

 The illustrious history of the BBQ goes back to the earliest hominids roasting meat over a flame. The origin of the word barbecue in the history of the BBQ, however, is fairly obscure. It is believed that the word itself comes from barbacoa, the Taino word for ‘sacred fire pit’. The Taino people, located in the Caribbean, use this word to describe a grill made of a wooden platform laid over sticks that is used to cook meat. A large hole is dug in the ground and a pot placed underneath the platform is used to catch drippings from the meat being cooked. Most commonly, a whole goat is roasted. The meat is covered over with maguey leaves and coals are placed on top and lit. Within a few hours, the meal is ready to eat. As we can see, not much has changed in the entire history of the BBQ!

Open fire was the first method used for cooking food.
Open fire was the first method used for cooking food.

The History Of The BBQ... Or Barbeque... Or Bar-B-Q...

 The most common spelling of the word is barbecue, however regional variations may include barbeque and abbreviations like BBQ or Bar-B-Q. In south eastern areas of the U.S., barbecue usually refers to roast pork, while in south western areas, mainly beef is cooked.

There have been false claims of the origin of the word barbecue. One such story claims the word comes from the French, when some French people visited the Caribbean and saw a whole pig being roasted and deemed the cooking technique as barbe à queue. Barbe à queue means “bore with tail”, or to pierce with a twisting motion of a tool. Many language experts consider this explanation to be untrue. The only possible merit with it is that the words sound similar. 

Another common claim is that the abbreviation BBQ comes from the time of beer joints and road houses that had pool tables. They were often advertised as “Bar, Beer and Cues”, and over time the phrase was condensed to B-B-Cue and then later to BBQ.

No matter what you call it, a BBQ is a device used to cook food, most commonly meat, by the hot gases or heat of propane, gas, charcoal, wood or any other source of fire. The cooking process may include applying sauces, spice rubs, or marinades to flavor the meat. As a noun, barbecue can refer to the cooking device itself, or to a social gathering that included barbecued food. As an adjective it refers to the method in which the food is cooked or it can be used as a verb to describe the actual act itself, cooking food in that manner.

Cooking over flames was made easier by the use of a metal grate.
Cooking over flames was made easier by the use of a metal grate.

Throughout The History Of The BBQ Hardwoods Have Been Used

 Most often, a barbecue is located and used in an outdoor location. This is ideal for ventilation of the smoke and heat produced from cooking. Many restaurants advertised as “grills” will have large metal or brick ovens that are specially designed to cook food in a manner similar to a barbecue.

Many regions throughout the world describe the barbecue method in different ways. In the southern USA, barbecue involves the use of hardwood smoke and uses indirect heat as a cooking method. Applying food to the direct heat is referred to as grilling.

Just one of the tasty dishes you'll find at a barbecue restaurant!
Just one of the tasty dishes you'll find at a barbecue restaurant!

The History Of The BBQ Includes Grilling & Smoking!

 Here in Canada and the United States, broiling means to cook directly beneath a source of high heat, while in Britain this method is referred to as grilling. The British also describe barbecuing as a quick cooking method over high heat, a process that Americans know as grilling. We consider “barbecuing” to be a nice, slow cooking process, similar to roasting, that involves hot smoke or indirect heat.

Another common method of barbecuing is called smoking. A smoker is usually an all metal device that houses a smaller, separate fire box used to heat flavored wood chips. The smoldering chips create smoke that is drawn past the food for a long, slow cooking process. This is how most restaurants cook their barbecued food. The slow cooking method breaks down the meat collagen and makes tough cuts extremely tender and delicious!

Learn How To BBQ Sausage!

Disclaimer: The information on this Hub page does not constitute medical, legal, commercial, product, and/or service advice or endorsement of any vendor, supplier and/or brand, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author. Listing of an entity or service on this Hub page is not a warranty of the quality or efficacy of the products or services furnished by any entity. The author is not directly compensated by any entity other than the advertising placement services shown on this page.


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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      9 years ago from Toronto


    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Excellent history lesson.


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