The History of Barbecues

The History of Barbecues

Nowadays, barbecue refers to the process of slow-cooking meat that needs smoke, low temperature and longer periods of time. The most commonly used meats for barbecue are pork shoulder, ribs, brisket, whole hogs, mutton roasts and other pork and beef roasts. The word barbecue is used to refer not only to the cooking process, but also to the whole event when this type of food is being served.

Barbecue Origins

No one knows for sure where was barbecue invented and who invented it. There is a chance that the term comes from the Taino Indian word barbacoa, which means meat-smoking apparatus. Another possibility is for the word comes from the French expression barbe a queue, meaning whiskers to tail. However, in America, barbecue originated in the late years of the 19th century during Western cattle drives. The cowboys used to consume tough and stringy pieces of meat, often brisket which required cooking for seven hours before it could be eaten.

Barbecue Cooking Styles

Texas Style Beef Brisket

This barbecue cooking style involves one of the toughest pieces of meat. This is why it can take a very long time to be cooked. It is served sliced with thick tomato sauce.

Owensboro Mutton

This is an unusual tradition traced back to the early 1800s. This is when sheep production became a profitable business in the United States. It involves sliced meat on white bread with a vinegar sauce and is cooked mainly in Owensboro Kentucky.

Pulled Pork

This delicacy is probably the original American barbecue. Slow smoked meat from the whole hog or selected cuts turns very tender and it is pulled apart by hand, then dished up on buns with vinegar sauce on top.


This is the most popular barbecue style and tastes best when cooked the traditional way. There are several styles in which the pork ribs are smoked, but generally they are cooked in whole racks and topped with thick tomato sauce.

Barbecue Sauces

Barbecue sauce is the sauce that is often poured onto the meat while it is being barbecued and/or used as a dipping condiment when being served. Most barbecue sauces are made of mixed spicy, sweet and sour ingredients. The most popular sauces are made of tomato sauce with vinegar and sugar. In certain regions of American southern regions, vinegar- and mustard-based sauces are popular too. Barbecue sauces are often used with other foods too. Different regions have their own barbecue sauce styles and sometimes they even keep the recipes secret.

Here are some of the most popular barbecue sauces with their ingredients:

  • Kansas City: thick, red-brown tomato molasses
  • South Carolina: vinegar, mustard, black pepper
  • North Carolina: liquid vinegar, pepper flakes
  • Alabama: white mayonnaise
  • Texas: tomato sauce with hot chilies and cumin
  • Arkansas: thin tomato and vinegar sauce with pepper and molasses

Built-In vs. Free-Standing Barbecue Grills

Built-in grills are barbecue heads built or framed into a permanent cabinet, finished with tiles or rocks. Building a grill with all the accessories you need into a customized cabinet gives you the opportunity to create the perfect outdoor kitchen for summer barbecues.

However, a free-standing grill gives you more flexibility when it comes to where you put it. It can be easily moved around and hooked up to a fuel source. Free-standing barbecue grills come in a wide range of sizes and accessory options, such as rotisseries, smoker boxes or side burners.

Most people do not distinguish between barbecuing and grilling. While grilling is a fast cooking process over high heat, barbecuing is a slow process, over indirect heat or hot smoke. Even though barbecue is traditionally prepared in outdoor environments, it has also become very popular in restaurants, where it is cooked on large metal or brick ovens especially built for this purpose.