Barbeque (abbrev BBQ) is a form of cooking involving slowly smoking meats (usually beef, pork, chicken, or turkey) using aromatic woods such as Hickory or Mequite. Slow cooking means a medium size piece of meat could take several hours to cook. This often involves dry-marinating the meats with herbs. After the meat is mostly cooked, it is basted with (what else) BBQ Sauce.

A style of southern cooking characterized by spicy sauces. Common barbecue dishes include sausage, ribs, and beef brisket. Even bad barbecue is pretty good, and good barbecue will make a saint kick out a stained glass window. Many people who cannot make a bowl of cereal without a cookbook become gourmet chefs when it comes to barbecue.

Possibly this little essay, sent to me by a good friend of mine, original author unknown, will explain some of the mystique behind the social event that is the Australian BBQ.


Griff was at the barbecue and Joel was at the barbecue and I was at the barbecue; three men standing around a barbecue, sipping beer, staring at sausages, rolling them backwards and forwards, never leaving them alone. We didn't know why we were at the barbecue, we were just drawn there like moths to a flame. The barbecue was a powerful gravitational force, a man-magnet.

Joel said the thin ones could use a turn, I said yeah I reckon the thin ones could use a turn, Griff said yeah they really need a turn - it was a unanimous turning decision. Griff was the Tong-master, a true artist, he gave a couple of practice snaps of his long silver tongs, SNAP SNAP, before moving in, prodding, teasing, and with an elegant flick of his wrist, rolling them onto their little backs. A lesser tong-man would've flicked too hard; the sausages would've gone full circle, back to where they started.

Nice, I said. The others went yeah.

Kevin was passing us, he heard the siren-song-sizzle of the snags, the barbecue was calling, beckoning, Kevinnnnn ...come. He stuck his head in and said any room? We said yeah and began the barbecue shuffle; Griff shuffled to the left. Joel shuffled to the left, I shuffled to the left, Kevin slipped in beside me, we sipped our beer. Now there were four of us staring at sausages, and Griff gave me the nod, my cue. I was second-in-command, and I had to take the raw sausages out of the plastic bag and lay them on the barbecue; not too close together, not too far apart, curl them into each other's bodies like lovers - fat ones, thin ones, herbed and continental. The chipolatas were tiny, they could easily slip down between the grill, falling into the molten hot-bead-netherworld below. Carefully I laid them sideways ACROSS the grill, clever thinking. Griff snapped his tongs with approval,there was no greater barbecue honour.

P.J. came along, he said looking good, looking good - the irresistible lure of the barbecue had pulled him in too. We said yeah and did the shuffle, left, left, left, left, he slipped in beside Kevin, we sipped our beer.

Five men, lots of sausages. Joel was the Fork-pronger; he had the fork that pronged the tough hides of the Bavarian bratwursts and he showed lots of promise. Stabbing away eagerly, leaving perfect little vampire holes up and down the casing. P.J. was shaking his head, he said I reckon they cook better if you don't poke them. There was a long silence, you could have heard a chipolata drop; this newcomer was a rabble-rouser, bringing in his crazy ideas from outside. He didn't understand the hierarchy; first the Tong-master, then the Sausage-layer, then the Fork-pronger - and everyone below was just a watcher.

Maybe eventually they'll move up the ladder, but for now - don't rock the Weber.

Dianne popped her head in; hmmm, smells good, she said. She was trying to jostle into the circle; we closed ranks, pulling our heads down and our shoulders in, mumbling yeah yeah yeah, but making no room for her.

She was keen, going round to the far side of the barbecue, heading for the only available space. . . . the gap in the circle where all the smoke and ashes blew.

Nobody could survive the gap; Dianne was going to try. She stood there stubbornly, smoke blinding her eyes, ashes filling her nostrils, sausage fat spattering all over her arms and face. Until she couldn't take it anymore, she gave up, backed off. Kevin waited till she was gone and sipped his beer. We sipped our beer; yeah.

Griff handed me his tongs. I looked at him and he nodded. I knew what was happening, I'd waited a long time for this moment - the abdication. The tongs weighed heavy in my hands, firm in my grip - was I ready for the responsibility?

Yes, I was. I held them up high and they glinted in the sun. Don't forget to turn the thin ones Griff said as he walked away from the barbecue, disappearing toward the house. Yeah I called back, I will, I will. I snapped them twice, SNAP SNAP, before moving in, prodding, teasing, and with an elegant flick of my wrist, rolling them back onto their little bellies. I was a natural, I was the TONG-MASTER.

Until Griff got back from the toilet...

Barbecue 1. a beef dressed whole, as is done in an election campaign. To do this, the carcass of the animal, split to the backbone, is laid upon a large gridiron, under and around which is placed a charcoal fire.

2. A large gathering of people, generally in the open air, for a social entertainment or a political rally, one leading feature of which is the roasting of animals whole to furnish the numerous members of the party with needful food.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

This is a cardinal rule when barbecuing. Clean the grill.

Frankly, not doing so is downright disgusting.

I mean, think about it. A common error that is made is the assumption that the carbon deposits on the grill add flavor to the food you are cooking. Well, OK, that's not entirely an error, but let's think of what is on there if you never clean your grill.

Last week's jerk chicken.

That beer can chicken you had for Easter.

Some carne asada you cooked up for mother's day.

Ground beef from the hamburgers you cooked up on a whim some cold February morning.

Last summer's baby back ribs.

Are you getting sick yet?

Well, aside from that, the fact is that you probably don't want your hamburgers tasting like chicken - unless, of course, you're making turkeyburgers.

So as such, here's a few tips for keeping that grill clean.

* Brush it three times: when you light up, before you place your food, and after you serve the food. Use a wire brush.

* Use a non-stick cooking spray directly on the grill for things like steaks and burgers. Certain brands will have instructions for this, and suggest it anyway. Follow the instructions. It would probably help to not spray it over the open flame though.

* If the grill gets really dirty, use an oven cleaner of some sort. Easy-off is a common brand here in the United States. Make damn sure you clean it after the prescribed time; too soon and it won't work, too late and you're likely to forget, leaving you with lye flavored T-bone steak.

Other than that, you might have a few fairly clever ideas. I'd love to hear them, and will include them if you like.

rootbeer277 sez: "Grills are self-cleaning. Just turn it on as high as it will go and give it an hour or two." This will work damn good for a grill that's mainlined into your home's gas system (or an electric grill), and he notes that it probably applies to charcoal barbecues as well. Yeah, you have to heap on the coal every hour, but it's relatively inexpensive. Note you can do it for tanks of propane, but here in the US (where homes are mainlined to natural gas and propane comes at filling stations and supermarkets), that can be expensive and is considered wasteful.

happigirl sez: "Aussies often clean the plate on a BBQ using a can of beer on the hotplate - you pour it on, scrape and then rub with paper towels until it stops coming off black, adn then you add a bit more - the beer caramelises and makes the meat taste even better." I'm gonna have to try that one day for a steak, but I would imagine it applies specifically to unslotted grills - note she says "plate".

The original barbecue sauce was water, vinegar and salt. This is considered the only real barbecue sauce by some purists. Barbecuing as Americans know it was invented by the American slaves, who were given cuts of meat which were considered by the rich plantation owners to be undesirable. These cuts included pig feet, jowls, tails, and the ribs. Originally the meat was basted with the salt and vinegar sauce over a flame. Masters of barbecue would live to become free men as barbecue pioneers. As the recipes spread, they became more inventive. Later, the dry rub would be implemented, which is rolling or 'rubbing' the meat when it's raw with a mixture of spices and seasonings before grilling it over the flame. The ketchup-based sauce that has become the most widely known form of 'barbecue sauce' is the most recent incarnation, but a favorite for sure. These usually contain varying rations of tomato, molasses, onion, vinegar, salt, and sometimes garlic, honey, or sugar.

The meat is traditionally served up on a plate, pulled from the bone. This is called 'pulled pork'. This also makes a good sandwich, preferably white bread on a paper plate. But ribs, most know, are a great finger food as well. Cole slaw is the most common side dish for barbecue, but baked beans, corn on the cob, cornbread, collard greens and black eyed peas are close runners up.

In every part of the world except for the American South and mid-South, the term 'barbecue' is a noun describing a charcoal or gas grill, and a verb meaning to cook over said grill, which is a dry heat method of cooking.

In the American South and mid-South, which includes the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama and Arkansas, etc. it is a noun referring to the end product of a wet heat method of cooking, involving smoking a pig or part thereof, or at least a chicken, over a pit or other indirect heat source.

In practical parlance, barbecue is either rib meat of a pig, pulled-apart pork shoulder (also known as Boston Butt), and whole or half a chicken. These are typically rubbed with what's referred to as a rub, coarse spices and salt to flavor the meat surface, and/or marinated. When you order in some parts, especially Tennessee, you have to specify "dry" or "wet" - referring to your food coming to you additionally rubbed with "rub", or mixed with barbecue sauce.

One of the fascinating things about meat is that the best way to cook it "low and slow" - at most, two hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking meat causes the proteins in it to shrink, which causes them to lose moisture. Cooking meat that way causes the proteins to lose a minimum amount of moisture. At 120 degrees F, proteins lose only diameter, but above that they lose length, and yet more moisture. The genius of using a wet cooking/smoking method is that as the meat cooks and the proteins denature, sure, moisture is lost, but with the meat held fat side up, as the fat slowly melts it bastes the meat, and besides - given that the heat is moist, it also enmoistens the meat as it cooks. With minimal heat being put into the meat, it cooks thoroughly but slowly enough to resist moisture loss, leading to a positively heavenly mouthfeel.

Barbecuing, in the Southern way, is typically done in a smoker. A smoker is an apparatus that basically burns some kind of wood or charcoal, or a combination thereof, producing heat, smoke, and steam, but more importantly, NOT having the food being cooked directly over the heat source. The simplest possible arrangement is a food-grade barrel cut in half with an oxyacetylene torch and hinged so you can open it, with the fuel on one side, and the meat on a grill on the other side, NOT over the burning fuel. A pan of some kind of liquid, usually water but sometimes water/seasonings, water/beer, water/beer/seasonings etc. is placed over the burning fuel so that the cooking chamber is 200F, full of smoke, and saturated with steam. Some kind of temperature gauge is put into the chamber to measure ambient temperature, to warn you if the temperate varies too much above 200F. Getting too low? Add fuel. Too high? Open the hinge and let some heat out.

Smoking food also adds tons of complex flavors - the Maillard reaction causes the sugar and spices-rubbed meat to develop complex flavors as hundreds of molecules are created by the combination of sugars and amino acids under heat. Lignins in the wood combine with oxygen to create chemicals which stick to moist surfaces, infusing the meat with more complex flavor molecules.

It takes many hours to cook food this way, so it's usually a social occasion for Southern men, basically sitting around all night tending the fuel chamber and drinking beer.

If you want to get into it more, socially - there are barbecue competitions, and some men invest a considerable amount of money, in the tens of thousands - building a custom cooker mounted on a trailer that will do enough ribs and pulled pork to compete in any of a number of competitions in the mid-South and deep South. You can't just "Iron Chef" one plate specifically for a judge, you have to serve food all day, and you have no idea WHICH customer is the judge. It's part of Southern culture, and a great one. One of the biggest in the world is "Memphis in May", which is held, appropriately enough, in Memphis, Tennessee during the month of May. It's a huge event and one of the main draws on the circuit, if not its Superbowl.

Regional variations exist, of course, with various braggings and chest-poundings as to whose is better. Virginia and North Carolina tend to a watery, vinegar-based sauce - which is designed to allow the pork to absorb the flavors as opposed to coating it. South Carolina likes to use a thicker, tangy mustard based sauce, an unusual flavor to those familiar with smoky tomato based sauces - but a fascinating flavor nonetheless. Maurice's in South Carolina exports the stuff by the truckload and even was a supplier to Wal-Mart until his Confederate and Klan based sympathies surfaced, making him a pariah in many business circles. Georgia and Tennessee prefer the more traditional, thick spicy tomato based sauce. Many barbecue places offer a variety of sauces, to let the customer decide for his or herself which to use.

The Texans, on the other hand, refer to barbecue as beef, using brisket as the protein. This is generally disregarded by most Southerners as "not really barbecue", although beef is truly flavorful when cooked this way.

Whether you like it dry, wet - as slabs of ribs, a mess of pulled pork or some combination thereof, served with sweet tea, collard greens and yams, this is probably one of **the** most Southern dishes on Earth. Simply pouring Heinz barbecue sauce on grilled meat is not enough to call it true barbecue: ask anyone who's had the genuine article.









Bar"be*cue (?), n. [In the language of Indians of Guiana, a frame on which all kinds of flesh and fish are roasted or smoke-dried.]


A hog, ox, or other large animal roasted or broiled whole for a feast.


A social entertainment, where many people assemble, usually in the open air, at which one or more large animals are roasted or broiled whole.


A floor, on which coffee beans are sun-dried.


© Webster 1913.

Bar"be*cue (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Barbecued (); p. pr. & vb. n. Barbecuing.]


To dry or cure by exposure on a frame or gridiron.

They use little or no salt, but barbecue their game and fish in the smoke. Stedman.


To roast or broil whole, as an ox or hog.

Send me, gods, a whole hog barbecued. Pope.


© Webster 1913.

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