What Exactly is BBQ? Let’s Break It Down in 2022

Alan Ainsworth

Alan Ainsworth

BBQ master and all-round top bloke.

Last updated July 26, 2022

Simply put, Smoke cooking. Here’s an attempt to group the many definitions and uses of barbecue in a more meaningful, historical, multicultural, inclusive way than ever before.

Barbecue (verb)

This is a method of cooking.

Barbecue (noun)

Barbecue (adjective)

Southern Barbecue, Low and Slow Smoked Roasting

Roasting is a method of cooking that involves roasting food in an oven or open air. Smoke can be created from the combustion of hardwood. However, tea and herbs are sometimes used. Most commonly used to roast meats (including seafood and poultry), but can also be used to cook vegetables and other foods. Convection is the main method of heat transfer. The oven temperatures are typically in the 200-300AdegF temperature range.

Example. “Tonight, I’m going out to barbecue that damned dog if he doesn’t shut down.”

Spit Barbecue, Spit Roasting, or Rotisserie.

This is the oldest form of barbecuing. Original meat is impaled with a stick or sword or spear, and then rotated over or near heat sources and smoke. This concept was probably invented by cave dwellers and is the basis of Middle Eastern and Asian kebab cookery. Vertical rotisseries are Middle Eastern schwarma and Turkish doner-kebabs. Later mechanical devices were developed to turn the meat using a crank and a weighted pulley system. Modern rotisseries use motors.

Example: Henry VIII roasted whole beeves for hours to prepare for his wedding to Anne Boleyn.

Caribbean Barbacoa.

The AmerIndian technique of cooking, from which the term barbecue was derived, involved suspending food (usually fish) several feet above or around firewood or coals. This allowed the food to cook slowly and be exposed to smoke. Barbacoa is a term used to describe closed-pit cooking techniques.

Example: The Spanish explorer, according to his diaries, shared a barbacoa with the natives on May 17, 1540. They had small dogs and corn. Michael Quinion, an etymologist, says William Dampier used the term in English in 1699 to describe a wooden platform for sleeping that provided protection from snakes for Indians.

Open Pit Barbecue.

Radiation method for smoke cooking, derived from barbecoa. This was probably used by slaves in the Southern region of the United States. They would dig long pits in dirt that were 3′ by 3′ in diameter and 3′ deep. Then they would burn hardwood to make coals, place green saplings on the top and lay meat on top of these crossmembers. To prevent it from burning, the meat was seasoned with vinegar, water, and spices. The saplings were eventually replaced by metal gridirons and pits were constructed with bricks or stones above ground.


Closed Pit Barbecue

You can roast in an enclosed or mostly enclosed oven. This technique is versatile and can be used in many ways around the globe.

Modern Restaurant Barbecue

Modern Restaurant Barbecue is often made in a large box that has a ferris wheel-like arrangement. This is incorrectly called a Rotisserie. The meat is placed on wire shelves with long wires that revolve around a pivot, while the fats and juices flow on the shelves below. The heat is created by the use of gas burners located in the rear. Logs can also be placed in the burnbox to produce smoke and heat. A thermostat and timer control the whole thing. Another option is to use wood pellets made of sawdust. Pellets provide heat and smoke flavor. These units can produce high-quality food and are easy to set up and forget. They can also run unattended all night.

Example: Honey! Famous Dave’s just offered me the job of pitmaster. Tomorrow I will begin a 1-hour training session!

American Competition Barbecue

American Competition Barbecue is a type of barbecue where the food is cooked using indirect heat from hardwood charcoal, straight hardwood or hardwood pellets in well-insulated steel ovens that have precise temperature control and smoke control. This is often done by constricting airflow.

Example. “To win a contest dedicated to Southern American cooking traditions, you must use a stainless steel thermostat controlled electric ignition extruded pellet stove.”

Mexican Barbacoa

Barbacoa is used in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries today to refer to outdoor cooking, particularly spit roasting. In Mexico and Texas, barbacoa means the head of a steer wrapped with agave leaves and placed in a pit with coals and covered with dirt. It can be beef, lamb, goat, pork, or even lamb wrapped in aluminum foil, and then buried or baked in an oven. Although this is an old method of cooking, it has little in common with what we now call barbecue.

Example: “Que pasa, baby. Do you recall where I buried my barbacoa em?

Indian Tandoori Cooking.

Tandoors were made from clay and heated with coals. The meat was then inserted and sealed. Tandoors today are very similar to the Japanese kamado and American Big Green Egg.

Example: Is this the best price for the barbecue?

Greek Arni Koleftiko

Dr. Howard Taylor, a barbecue historian, tells the tale: “Accordingly to legend, thieves living high up would steal sheep and burn wood until the area is hot. Then they would butcher the lamb and wrap it in leaves or cloth. Once the cave was closed, they would seal the cave with a boulder and seal it with clay. They would then cook the meat for at least four hours. The lamb was then seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, salt and onion, as well as olive oil and other spices. Sometimes vegetables were also cooked with the lamb. This is a common practice in modern Greece.

Example: “After the wedding, we’ll host an arni Kleftko barbecue with lots and music by Abba.”

Hawaiian Imu

A pit underground lined with hot rocks. A whole Kalua Pig, also known as Kalua pig is cooked in an imu. The whole hog is wrapped in leaves or wet cloth and laid on the rocks. Finally, the pit is covered with dirt or sand.

Example: “It must have been a Hawaiian state law for all tourists to go to a Luau, eat Kalua Pig cooked in an Imu and dance the Hula.”

New Zealand Hangi.


Example: “If lamb is not your favorite, you can skip the hangi.”

New England Clam Bake

Clams, corn and other food are wrapped in wet seaweed, then buried in a pit filled with rocks or hot coals.

Exemple: “Am I an Old Fart if my ringtone says ‘This is a real nice clambake. And we all had a really good time.’ From Carousel by Rogers & Hammerstein?”

Bean Hole Cooking

The Penobscot Indians in Maine developed this method. They dug a large hole and lined it with rocks. Once they had heated the rocks with burning logs, they placed the beans in a clay pot into the hole. Finally, they covered it with dirt.

Example: I’m not going there. Your own example.

Char-broiling or Grilling

Cooking with indirect heat radiation over or below a flame, heat source, or temperature of 300AdegF. Cooking with a barbecue. You can cover the food with a lid. This is the most common definition used around the globe. According to etymologist Michael Quinlon, the first instance of the verb can be found in Aphra Behn’s 1690 work “Let’s barbicu that fat rogue,” which shows that the word was well-known enough to be used metaphorically. Seriously!

Example. “Tonight, I’m going barbecue that damn parakeet in case he doesn’t shut down.”


Grilling is a traditional method in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Example: “Man, I now need a new pair of bolas.” The gaucho new Argentinean gaucho forgot to remove the bolas from the ostrich before he placed it on the asado em>


Rotisserie barbecue is a method of cooking over charcoal or embers. It is very popular in Brazil. Although it was initially done outdoors, many restaurants now call themselves churrascaria and offer all-you-can-eat meals. Portugese is the origin of the word.

Example: I’m going to stop eating for a week in order to make enough room for Friday’s trip at the churrascaria.


yakiniku is a Japanese term for grilled meat. This is the Japanese traditional method of grilling small amounts of meat. It involves using a wooden skewer and a ceramic-lined trough that has been filled with charcoal. A konro is a grill and the fuel used is often a special hardwood charcoal, called binchotan charcoal. The most well-known dish is Yakitori. It’s made with tartare sauce (a sweet soy-based barbecue sauce), and you can find hundreds of yakitori ya stands or restaurants in cities like Chicago and New York.

Example: “At Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters’ last game, I sat on the bleachers and bought yakiniku from the vendors. It was great with beer. It was great fun. They beat the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. They might make yakiniku cat ?”


Satay, a marinated, grilled meat, is prepared on a barbecue in many Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Example. Peanut sauce is my favorite part of chicken Satay. Do they also have jelly sauce ?”

A cooking device that cooks food using barbecue equipment or methods, a restaurant, or a beautiful woman (slang).

A cooking device.

There are many outdoor cooking devices that can be used to cook with various materials, including steel, brick, and whose heat sources include gas, wood, charcoal, or electricity. These are often called barbecues. These devices are available in hundreds all over the globe. Also known as a “barbie”, in Australia.

Barbecue Methods and Equipment

Barbecue is a popular choice in many places around the world.

Chinese barbecue

Chinese barbecue is typically marinated pork loin, duck, or ribs that are roasted in an oven. It was once smoked for centuries, but it is rarely smoked anymore. While some restaurants still use charcoal, most now use gas. The idea that this could be called barbecue is ridiculed by fundamentalists. Some historians convincingly argue that barbecue was invented by the Chinese. Also known as char siu.

Korean barbecue

Korean barbecue is often thinly cut marinated beef. It is usually grilled by diners over a hibachi at the center of their table.

Mongolian Barbecue

Mongolian barbecue is not Mongolian, but Taiwanese. It’s meats and vegetables stir-fried on an iron grille.

Carolina Barbecue.

Barbecue is a cut of pork from whole hogs or pork shoulders. It’s usually served on hamburger buns with coleslaw. The slaw is often made with ketchup. Many places insist that barbecue must be made from whole hogs. If you only use the shoulder, it is not barbecue. Whole hog is served at “pig pickin”, where you can reach the carcass and grab what you like. Both sides agree that ribs should not be considered barbecue. Chicken? Do not make them laugh.

Packaged Barbecue meat.

The US Federal government regulates the labeling of food products that are sold in interstate commerce. This includes precooked meats sold at grocery stores. The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9 Chapter III, Subpart C Section 319.80, updated 1/1/1985 by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, states that barbecued meats such as products labeled Beef Barbecue’ and Barbecued Pork’ must be prepared using direct heat from burning hard wood or hot coals for sufficient time to develop the typical characteristics of a barbecued item, including a brown crust and the rendering of any excess fat During cooking, the product can be brushed with sauce. The weight of barbecued meat should not exceed 70% of that of fresh uncooked meat.

A cookout

An outdoor picnic or outdoor meal is a social event that involves food prepared outdoors. It doesn’t have to contain meat. This is the broadest and most commonly used definition. It has been used in this context since at least the 1600s. George Washington, in 1769, wrote in his diary that “he went up to Alexandria for a barbicue.” At their barbicue parties, Colonials served everything from squirrels and venison. The “Great American Barbecue” was an Austin event hosted by the American Party in which Sam Houston, the newly elected Texas Governor, was the keynote speaker. All Texas citizens were welcome to attend. There were thousands who attended. These events featured meat cooked over charcoal in pits dug into the ground. There was no digital thermostat or steel tube. A barbecue can now include any food that is cooked over open flames or coals. Sometimes, the food is wrapped in foil so that it never touches the flame.

Santa Maria Barbecue.

This event is named after Santa Maria in California. It involves cooking food over open charcoal or hardwood fire. To control the temperature, food is suspended from a grate that can be pulled or lowered using a crank and pulley. The substrate is typically tri-tip (beef sirloin), although it can include anything from clams and artichokes. Santa Maria Barbecue always serves beef rare or medium rare.

Kentucky Barbecue

Kentucky’s most famous burgoo event. Burgoo, a complex savory stew, is prepared in a large cast-iron cauldron that’s heated over an open fire.

Sheboygan Fry Outs.

Before smoke detectors, Wisconsin’s German settlers loved to make bratwurst sausages indoors in a pan. When they were cooking in the backyard, they called it a “fry-out” or “outdoor fry”. This term can now be used to describe all types of outdoor cooking.


A South African cookout is known as a braai, in Afrikaans. It is as much a part their culture as ours. On September 24, there is a National Braai Day that is an official holiday dedicated to barbecue. The “Bring and Braai”, a type of potluck where the host provides the fire and fuel, while the guests provide the food. Guests bring their own food such as boerewors (a coarsely seasoned sausage), sosaties, marinated mutton skewers, steaks and lobster. Braavleis means barbecued meat. pap is a side dish that’s a little like grits. It is made of cornmeal.

Barbecue Singsong

The “barbecue singing” is an interesting variation of the barbecue cookout in England. This is where food is cooked outside, and a social event takes place. There is also singing. A classic episode of BBC’s sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances”, Season 3 Episode 3 features Hyacinth, Richard and their barbecue singsong. Hyacinth claims the idea is a party game that Henry VIII invented. Only she is believed to have invented the “outdoor luxury indoor barbecue with finger buffet.”


A restaurant that serves barbecued foods.


An informal barbecue stand set up on St. Maarten, a Caribbean island. A few tables around a 55-gallon drum, often cut in half, along roadsides, in front of homes, or in someone’s yard. Foodies love their inexpensive lobster and shrimp dishes.

Barbecue (slang).

Jazz slang is used to describe a beautiful woman. “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”, a classic instrumental jazz tune composed by Lil Hardin Armstrong (her husband Louis Armstrong), does not refer only to a promenade with a pulled-pork sandwich. This may be the source of the expression “smokin hot”: For more information , click here .

Barbecue (nickname).

Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure novel “Treasure Island”, 1883, shows Long John Silver, a pirate, signing on to the ship Hispanola. He was the quartermaster, or mate responsible for food and drink and was nicknamed “Barbecue”.

Example: “The mere mention of his name causes me to refer to our ship’s cook Barbecue as the men called him.”

The flavor is associated with food prepared using barbecue equipment or methods.


A modifier is used to describe food that has been cooked on a barbecue.

Barbecue Sauce.

There are many sauces and bases that are used to prepare barbecue around the globe. These flavors are often associated with barbecue flavor. The main ingredients of these sauces are ketchup, tomato paste, vinegar and mustard. Sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup are also common in the US. They may also include soy-based sauces in other countries.

Barbecue flavor.

In South Texas, Barbecue Crab has been used to describe blue claw crabs. They are split and cleaned and then heavily seasoned with a spice mixture similar to a barbecue spice blend. Finally, they are deep-fried. Barbecue Shrimp is a New Orleans term that refers to whole shrimp with heads and tails, sauteed in butter and seasoned with Worcestershire sauce.

Barbecue Potato Chips, etc.

Scientists have developed flavorings that mimic the taste of barbecue foods. Marketers call it barbecue when they apply them to food.

We are grateful to Dr. Howard Taylor for his advice and historical knowledge that made this possible.