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All about Barbecue, BBQ - Barbecue History and Barbecue Tips ( & a word about grilling)

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by Cliff Lowe

We all know the three little words that make a woman's heart beat faster, but do you know that there are three little letters that will make most men's hearts palpitate? Yep! You guessed it. BBQ! (Tsk-tsk if you thought I meant the other three letter word!) How barbecue came to be identified with male cooking is a bit of a mystery but one assumes it has to do with camping and sports. However, the history of barbecue itself is even more elusive. Theories abound everywhere and almost every regional area has its own story of how barbecue, now called BBQ, evolved.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the history of the word, "barbecue" to the influence of French Haitians whose word for a method of open fire cooking was "barbe a queue.  " Literally translated this means "from whiskers to tail", which is a pretty fair description of what part of a beast is barbecued.


However, many people evaluate the history of barbecue and think it comes from the Spanish word "Barbacoa" which suggests barbecue is a Spanish concept. There is even an interesting idea about how the letters BBQ came to represent this style of cooking. It supposedly stems from earlier days when roadhouses and beer joints with pool tables would advertise, 'Bar, Beer, and Cues', later shortened to BBCue, and somehow evolved into BBQ. I also read somewhere that it was originally 'Beer, Burgers, and Que,'which, somehow, seems more reasonable. Perhaps, as barbecue history continues to be written, a thousand years from now, people will give credit to Barbie dolls. Maybe by then people will have 'Barbie-cues?' Oh well, never mind.

Whatever the origin of the word, the practice is just as nebulous. It stands to reason that primitive cultures all over the world naturally gravitated to cooking over open flame because it was all they had. So, to say that the practice of barbecue, as we know it, definitely evolved from one culture, or one area, would be incorrect. More likely, as the world grew smaller and cultures mixed, we combined ideas and methods until, today, we have thousands of different ways to practice the art. And, make no mistake, barbecuing is as much art as science. All cooking is, for that matter. Today, we have diluted and convoluted the word until the term has come to mean various ways of cooking such as over an open fire, over coals, on a spit, in an oven with sauce, over a fire pit, on a gas grill or even in an electric rotisserie.


Barbecue or Grilling?

Most of the country considers cooking on a gas or charcoal grill as barbecue, but, in fact, this is the grill, not barbecue. Likewise, cooking over an open flame is not, technically, barbecuing but dry roasting.

So what is barbecue? It is all of the above. Giving an accurate, all-encompassing definition is nearly impossible. I am, by barbecue, like a Supreme Court judge once was about pornography. In attempting to give a description of the practice he could only say, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it!" Same with BBQ or Barbecue, or 'Cue, or BBQ, or, as they say down under, 'having a Barbie' (shades of Ken and Barbie!) or whatever you call it: I can't exactly define it, but I know it when I see it (and taste it!).

Any meat can be barbecued. In the early part of the century, the area of New York was well known for barbecue turtle. New York does not now spring to mind when one thinks of BBQ. Nor does turtle, for that matter. On the eastern coast, and in the Deep South, pork tends to be the meat of choice while in Texas, naturally, beef is the first choice. BBQ (along with the Blues) came to Chicago via the migration of slaves seeking freedom and peace during the civil war. Chicago barbecue tends to favor the sweet, tomato-based sauce as in the southeastern US.

In the part of the world where I come from (Southern US) it is not barbecue until it has been cooked with the sauce and various spices that make up the concept of barbecue. And, down there, not all barbecue is done over a fire or hot coals. It is often done in an oven. And, sometimes, the recipe calls for a multi-step procedure such as grilling the meat, then putting it into a large roasting pan, covering with sauce, and baking for an hour. Sometimes the grilled meat (already glazed with sauce while roasting) is put into a large pot of boiling 'cue sauce and simmered a bit more before serving. However you do it, it is the way to a man's heart, especially if he gets to cook it, present it, and get all the praise. So moms, take a 'cue from me and this Father's day give Dad a B.B.Q. grill, then stand back and let him fly.


A Few Barbecue Tips

Be sure that whatever method you use to barbecue, you have very high heat.

Meat cooks better when at room temperature. It chars better, and the center of medium steaks will not be cold when served. It also cooks faster, so be on your toes!  To boost the smokiness of any meat, add a little liquid smoke flavoring to the sauce or brush on the meat while cooking. Tomato based sauces should not be brushed on the meat until just before it is ready to come off the grill. The high sugar content of these sauces along with the tomato base tends to scorch if long exposed to heat. I like my meat 'flamed', that is, I like to have big flames come up from the grill and lick the meat a bit before removing. To achieve this, just before removing that nice steak or ribs, pour about 1/2 cup of cooking oil on the coals beneath the meat. And, guys, it always seems to impress the ladies to see your manly self, braving those roaring flames.

When planning to serve ribs, allow at least 1 pound per person. If the ribs are to be used as appetizers, allow 2 to 3 individual ribs (depending on size) per person.

more articles:

introduction and nouveau texas cooking

texas barbecue, the staple of Texas life    everything you need to know about barbecue, grill, BBQ   learn about mesquite




a few barbecue, BBQ and grill recipes




for a complete list of grill and barbecue recipes, sides, rubs, marinades, sauces and more  click here

click for everything you need to know about your grill

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