WHETHER you spell it BBQ, Bar-B-Que, or Barbecue, it all means the same thing: Good times in the backyard. Sizzling, juicy meat cooking on the grill. Cold beer and warm sunshine.
Summer is barbecue season, and so, in the never-ending quest to inform and educate the public, we here at Information Please have gathered some interesting facts, history, and basic tips on the barbecue. Before you put another shrimp on the barbie, check out Information Please's feature on the all-American barbecue.
First off, there's a difference between barbecuing and grilling. Most backyard chefs are actually grilling rather than barbecuing. Grilling involves placing the food directly over the heat source, be it coals, gas-fired flame or whatever. Barbecuing means cooking food slowly via indirect heat and smoke.
Barbecue purists tend to look down their highly-trained noses at grilling. Grilling generally involves smaller flippable pieces of meat like hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken wings, and steak tips. You won't find a bag of briquettes or a jug of lighter fluid near the true barbecuer's pit.
But for most of us "grillers" these things work just fine. In fact, gas grills are invaluable to those who love to cook outdoors but don't have the time for other types of grills.
Barbecuing primarily involves wood-fired flames that produce smoke that slow-cooks the meat, adding extra flavor that coals or propane won't. Barbecuing is usually used on larger pieces of meat like pork roasts, beef brisket, and ribs.
Grills come in many shapes and sizes from the tiny back-porch hibachi right on up to the king-size professional wood smokers that can handle upwards of 100 pounds of meat at a time. Another type of grill that has become popular recently is the water smoker. The water smoker is either electric or coal-burning. Burning wood chips and boiling water combine to slow cook the meat while the circulating steam constantly bastes the food to keep it juicy.
Here are some basic tips for the next time you grill, barbecue or go over to the know-it-all neighbor's house for a cook-out:
Sadly, historical documentation on the origins and development of the barbecue over the ages has been sketchy, and surprisingly, few scholars have embraced the subject as one deserving serious academic study. Information Please, however, pored over every available source to bring you the most complete history of barbecue ever attempted. Basically, it goes like this:
People have been cooking over fire since cavemen roamed the world. Just watch any episode of the Flintstones. Fred and Barney ate tons of Brontosaurus burgers. Opinions on how the modern barbecue originated vary: some think the French popularized it, others look to the Caribbean. The consensus seems to be that barbecues came to the United States sometime during the late 1700's.
By far the most authoritative source for barbecue information on the web is at barbecuen.com. They have everything from recipes and how to's, to an entire section for beginners.