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"BBQing/Barbecueing" vs "Grilling"


Norm Matthews
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I am not overly worried about the semantics of the words. Most people I know call anything cooked on live fire source or indirect  with smoke, BBQ  and I understand what they mean.  I  tend to use them as separate terms though , as it is useful to have words that describe low and slow or fast and hot cooking methods with people that understand the distinction.  I am more upset by recipes that call something bbq simply because it has bbq sauce on it.   I am sorry but dumping bbq sauce on something cooked in a crockpot or oven  does not make it bbq. 

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The OED is, as always interesting on the history of the word.

 

They trace its origin to the Spanish Sp. barbacoa, or Haitian barbacòa meaning 'a framework of sticks set upon posts'.

 

They ridicule the French suggestion 

 

 

Meanings in order of original usage given are

 

1. A rude wooden framework, used in America for sleeping on, and for supporting above a fire meat that is to be smoked or dried. (1697)

2. An iron frame for broiling very large joints. (1736)

3. A large social entertainment, usually in the open air, at which animals are roasted whole, and other provisions liberally supplied. (1733)

4. A hog, ox, or other animal broiled or roasted whole (1764)

5.An open floor on which coffee-beans, etc. may be spread out to dry. (1855)

6. A structure for cooking food over an open fire of wood or charcoal, usu. out of doors, and freq. as part of a party or other social entertainment.(1931)

As a verb 

 

1. To dry or cure (flesh, etc.) by exposure upon a barbecue (1661)

2.To broil or roast (an animal) whole; e.g. to split a hog to the backbone, fill the belly with wine and stuffing, and cook it on a huge gridiron, basting with wine. Sometimes, to cook (a joint) with the same accessories. (1690)

They also define 'to grill' as 'to broil'.

 

Europeans were fascinated by the slow heat the indigenous Americans   used to cook their foods on raised grills.  One marveled that they would put the food on in the morning, go away for the whole day and then come back to have the food finally cooked. 

 

Low and slow is real BBQ.  Cooking over hot coals is grilling or broiling.  I know the word "BBQ" has been used and will be used to indicate the "shrimp on the barbie" kind of cooking.  But anyone who has tasted honest to God low and slow BBQ honors that ancient technique and shrinks to hear that marvelous term used for possibly delicious but not heavenly foods and cooking styles. 

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oh the games one can play with words (g)

 

most cooks accept the definition of grilling as heat from below, and broiling as heat from above.

looking back in history, where was the first "heat from above" doohickey invented / used?  lots and lots and lots of 'example' of stuff over, on and in "coals" - but which housewife where stuck something under the grate-heaped-with-coals to broil from above?

 

oh dear, then there's the vertical spit/heat source arrangement - mostly in Greek custom now-a-days aka gyro....

oooops!  then there's the chicken rotating on a horizontal spit with horizontal radiant heat elements at the back.....

 

so finally we get to the "world famous classic" joints which in major volume product have rotating trays in a heated smoky chamber of some temperature, for hours/days/years . . . now hold on a sec - I've got an oven and when stuff drips it makes lots of smoke in the oven/kitchen - so am I roasting or bbq'ing?

 

or 'fire pits' that are yards and yards long with hinged lids and grates holding the meat and the heat from below....people raking the coals and ashes from one end to the other . . .

 

perhaps BBQ is more better considered a "dish" than a "method?"

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My son is half Korean and we have kalbi quite often.  It's delicious.  Here is an overview of traditional BBQ as it was practiced around the country.  Now days the terms are more flexible and methods are not as regional as they were a century or more ago.

 

Today, regional styles are more mixed and interchangeable.  People from all over pick and choose parts of different BBQ styles and adapt them to suit and/or create new combinations

 

The following is a brief look at old traditional BBQ areas around the country and a very cursory look at the general trends in each area. There are exceptions and at the risk of being stereotypical, I humbly submit the following. Please feel free to criticize or elaborate as you see fit. 

 

A brief survey of BBQ.

 

Barbecue in the USA started out as a Southern thing. It probably started in the Virginia colonies and they learned about it from Native Americans, African Slaves and Caribbean traders.  In the South, BBQ meant pork. Pork was the choice of large gathering cook outs because it was cheap. Hogs could run wild and forage for themselves.  Farmers didn’t have to feed them and they didn’t compete with people by eating the same food. 

 

Barbecue was perfect for wild hogs because the long slow cooking over a smokey fire made tough stringy meat delicious.   BBQ often brought people together since a hog could feed from 40 to 100 people.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wrote about BBQ;s the attended. Scarlet O’Hara met Rhett at a BBQ.  BBQ could bring crowds to church and votes for politicians.

 

Even though everyone could agree that BBQ was a good thing, there were strong feelings that people could argue about. Chopped or pulled, whole or shoulder, tomato baste or vinegar.  It was really about keeping traditions alive and stubbornly insisting that it be done right instead of the easy way.

 

North Carolina

 

The East Carolina traditional BBQ is the closest to the earliest forms of slow cooking.  It is whole hog, open pit and it‘s  an apple cider vinegar and red pepper based sauce.  It is served with hush puppies, cole slaw and Brunswick stew

 

Tom Solomon’s 10 commandments for barbecue (East Carolina BBQ)

 

1.Thou shalt not have any barbecue but The One True Barbecue before thee

 

2. Thou shalt not barbecue beef, not chicken, but only pork

 

3. Thou shalt not cook with gas, nor with infrared horizontal ovens, but only with hardwoods such as hickory or oak, or apple if you must.

 

4. Thou shalt not make for yourself a graven sauce, or any likeness of any commercial sauce like unto that made in factories in Texas or Kansas City; thou shalt not use tomato, nor ketchup,nor honey,nor mustard; but only have apple cider vinegar and red pepper before thee.

 

5. Thou shalt not take the name of Eastern North Carolina Barbecue in vain.

 

6. Thou shalt remember the pit day of Thursday, and keep it holy.

 

7. Honor thy pit master and thy waitress, that your barbecue may be always plentiful and your ice-tea glass be always full.

 

8. Thou shalt not consort with health inspectors, nor with environmental zealots, nor with vegetarians, for verily it is so that Hitler was a vegetarian, and Hitler was bad.

 

9. Thou shalt have hush puppies  and slaw and Brunswick stew with thy barbecue

 

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife- unless she professeth to love thy barbecue, is attractive, and will bring you beer as you tend thy pit.

 

Tom Solomon’sOne True Barbecue Sauce

 

16 ounces apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 1/2 Tablespoons Phu Quoc brand nuoc mam*

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 

Mix all ingredients and let stand for one or two days before using. Mix with pulled pork barbecue before serving if using as a dip.  

 

Note. It is important to use the Vietnamese nouc mam. Other brands tend to be too salty and fishy to blend with the other ingredients.

 

*In the 1600’s and 1700’s people use a concoction called English Ketchup. It contained clams.  This recipe comes close to duplicating the original recipe used by the early colonists except their sauce contained clams.  Phu Quac replaces the clams in the original recipe.

 

Lexington Style

 

Usually consists of pork shoulder, is closed pit, pulled off the bone but you can order it chopped or sliced. Sauce may have a touch of tomatoes or ketchup added. Served with hush puppies, BBQ potatoes and cornbread.

 

South Carolina 

 

has it’s own terrain, personality and BBQ. It is most famous for it’s mustard based sauce but you can find vinegar, tomato or ketchup based sauces in different areas around the state.  Pork tends to be whole hog with hams and shoulders apparent too. It is chopped or pulled.  One side that is different in parts of South Carolina is BBQ hash, a mixture of meats and rice in place of Brunswick stew. 

 

Georgia

 

Pork is the star but you can find beef, chicken, turkey and even lamb, but mostly it is pork slow smoking.  Brunswick is in Georgia so they claim the stew and BBQ hash is popular in places too.  Sandwiches come on plain white bread. Collard greens, potato salad and coleslaw are common side dishes.

 

Alabama

 

Along the gulf coast, Texas style beef brisket is popular, Toward Tennessee, Memphis influences are around but the red sauce is often spicier. You will find white sauce made with mayonnaise, vinegar and black pepper. Popular sides are onion rings, fries, potato salad and slaw

 

Kentucky

Western Kentucky its shredded mutton, in Eastern part of the state it’s pork and has a lot in common with the Carolinas style.  Mutton is served with a tomato based sauce the comes in mild, hot and extra hot versions.  Naked mutton- no sauce, just chopped is popular there too. A popular side dish is a stew called Burgoo. Western Kentucky style sauce is not tomato based at all. It actually is based on worcestershire sauce and vinegar (plus spices). Mutton and pork are available sliced or chopped (NEVER "pulled"). Chopped is usually reserved for sandwiches (usually on a bun with pickle and onion). A "barbecue plate" is often sliced pork or mutton, with pickle and onion slices and a slice each of white bread and "German" rye (which is the same shape and texture of white bread, but with a tan). Sides are usually cole slaw and potato salad.

 

Arkansas

 

Generally east means pork, west means  beef but trends blend.  Sauces are browner, thicker and sweeter than in most of the South.  Cole slaw, baked beans and french fries are all common sides.

 

Texas

 

A very large state with a few thousand BBQ spots. Cattle is king and brisket is most popular but you can get ribs, sausage, pork, chicken, mutton, rattlesnake and armadillo. In West Texas cabrito ( young goat) popular. In South Texas there is a dish where the head of a cow is wrapped in burlap and cheesecloth and BBQed.

 

Closed Pit BBQs are most often used and portable ones shaped like beer bottles, longhors steers or pistols are like Texas art forms. 

 

Mesquite is legendary but it burns too hot and fast and more Texans use hickory, oak and pecan. Dry rubs inclued the typical stuff plus influences from the south and Mexico such as chili powders, cumin and garlic. Sauces may be mopped on during the cooking or at the last 30 minutes or left off completely. Sauce is usually tomato based, a bit thinner than in the midwest and typically is made of ketchup, Worcesteshire sauce, chili powder, dry mustard and sugar, with paprika, garlic, cumin, onions or even vinegar sometime added.

 

Sides include Pinto beans, coleslaw, various kinds or potato salad, corn on the cob,mac and cheese, and all manner of peppers. Don’t be surprised if your BBQ is served on brown butcher paper.

 

 

Memphis in May is where one of the world's largest BBQ contests take place and it is all about pork. It is the World Championship Barbecue Contest. There is a side contest for everything else but the main thing in Memphis is hog. I hear some people even BBQ spaghetti and pizza though. 

 

The big controversy in Memphis is wet or dry ribs. Wet ribs are served with sauce, dry ribs are served without or "naked". Sometimes dry ribs have sauce on the side but that is not allowed in competition. You must either put it on or leave it off completely.

 

 

Typical sauce in Memphis is tomato based and both hot and sweet with some vinegar. Sweet can come from marmalade, brown sugar, molasses, but the sweet does not dominate. Hot comes from cayenne, black and red pepper. Some even include things that range from Italian Dressing to Coca Cola.

 

Sides are BBQ baked beans, skin-on fries, coleslaw and onion rings. One popular signature sandwich is pulled pork with sauce on a bun and topped with coleslaw.

 

Kansas City ( I am prejudiced. KC is my hometown)

 

Barbecue and Kansas City were fated for each other. Influences from the East came to Kansas City as the jumping off point for settlers heading west on the Oregon and California trails. Cattle drives from Texas terminated in Kansas City with the Santa Fe and Chisholm trails. Two rivers join in KC to provied water connections to the Mississipi and Ohio rivers with contacts east and south to Memphis and New Orleans.   Later trains brought cattle to KC from Abilene and Dodge Cty where they off-loaded for food and water. Kansas City was grain exhange and pork meat packing center.  Beef was a natual addition to the meat processing plants after they were fattened up on grain at the stock yards

 

 

1907 Henry Perry opened first BBQ restaurant in Kansas City. As far as known, it was the only one in the nation at that time.  There were possibly a couple earlier ones in the South, but at the time his was the only one known.  25 years later there were over 1000 BBQ stands in K.C..  By the time of his death, he was known as the BBQ king and had three restaurants. 

 

In the 20’ and 30’s Kansas City virtually ignored prohibition with honky tonks, gambling and speak easys.  Jazz developed a singular style in KC. It was a mecca where all kinds of styles of music and BBQ came together and blended to create lots of diversity. You will find whole hog, Memphis ribs and Texas beef combined with a style of it’s own.   You can find BBQ chicken, fish, sausage, just about everything.

 

Charlie Bryant was manager of one of Henry Perrys other restaurants. He took over the operation when Henry died in 1940.  Charlie’s brother, Arthur Bryant also worked for Mr. Perry.  Arthur and took over when Charlie retired in 1946. Arthur changed the sauce. He thought Henry and his brother made it way too hot.  Some consider Arthur Bryants the most famous barbecue joint on earth. His bbq is the standard by which others are judged. Some hate his style others love it. Calvin Trillin (1974 essay for The New Yorker) called it the best damned restaurant in the world.  Now days it is no longer in the family. It is now the property of a white-owned restaurant company, has suburban branches and the sauce is for sale around the country. Arthur resisted bottling his sauce because -I am told- he didn’t want to put the ingredients on the label.

 

Burnt Ends.  Arthur Bryant used to trim off the blackened (not burned) ends of his brisket and put them out for people to nibble on while waiting in line to order.  They became so popular that most restaurants carry a version of them today. 

 

Arthur Pinkhard..Henry Perry’s pit master at his original restaurant.  After Perry’s death, he went to work for another BBQ restaurant, Old Kentuck. 1946  George Gates bought the run down restaurant. Arthur came with the restaurant and taught the Gates family all about Henry Perry’s techniques: slow cooking meats over wood coals.   He retired in the early 50’s, and died not long afterwards.  Gates and Son’s is owned by Ollie Gates today. He is the most successful bbq restaurant entrepreneur in Kansas City.

 

Sauces are deep red, thick and pungent. Some are sweet like Memphis.  Dry rubs are commonly used and include paprika, salt, black and red peppers, sugar and garlic powder.

 

The Kansas City Barbeque Society has a few thousand members in all 50 states and several other countries and sponsor or sanction a network of BBQ contests all over the country.  There are at least 20 BBQ contests each year in Kansas city, the American Royal being touted as the largest in the world ( the World Series of BBQ)

 

Sides include coleslaw, dirty rice, potato salad and Kansas City baked beans which include beef drippings and beef brisket bits (burnt ends) added. 

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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most cooks accept the definition of grilling as heat from below, and broiling as heat from above.

 

Most American cooks do.

 

Try a search for  "under the grill" recipe and count the 100s of 1000s of examples where grilling is from above. As I said before, there are different varieties of English.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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  • 7 years later...

Host's note: this extended discussion began in the Dinner 2022 topic.

 

23 hours ago, heidih said:

With the fish direct on oven grills? Pain to clean or am I not seeing it properly. 

 

23 hours ago, mgaretz said:


BBQ grill

Yes, it's on a barbecue. Do Americans call it that, or is it strictly a grill? In the UK, the grill is the hot element in the top oven- do Americans call that the broiler?

I bought the fish at Morrison's, as usual lovely and fresh. The fish counter at Morrison's is fabulous in terms of freshness and variety.

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6 hours ago, Kerala said:

Do Americans call it that, or is it strictly a grill? In the UK, the grill is the hot element in the top oven- do Americans call that the broiler?

 

Yes. What we call a barbecue in the UK is generally referred to as a grill in American English (AmE) and what we call a grill is generally a broiler in AmE.


That said, the etymologies of both words is more confusing. Broil is ancient and was used in Middle English by, among others, Chaucer in his Canturbury Tales

"He cowde roste, sethe, broille, and frie‥and wel bake a pye."

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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24 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Yes. What we call a barbecue in the uk is generally referred to as a grill in American English (AmE) and what we call a grill is generally a broiler in AmE.


That said, the etymologies of both words is more confusing. Broil is ancient and was used in Middle English by, among others, Chaucer in his Canturbury Tales

"He cowde roste, sethe, broille, and frie‥and wel bake a pye."

 

 

 

I would say grill denotes radiant heat from below, while broil denotes radiant heat from above.  Isn't language wonderful?

 

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5 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

I would say grill denotes radiant heat from below, while broil denotes radiant heat from above.

 

Not in much of the world. Or in the etymology, but I accept that etymology changes.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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4 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I would say grill denotes radiant heat from below, while broil denotes radiant heat from above.  Isn't language wonderful?

 

 

I would say that barbecue is a process and not an appliance. Lots of BBQ places use rotating racks so that the heat is all around.

 

I agree that broil is heat from above and that grill is from below.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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1 hour ago, gfweb said:

 

I would say that barbecue is a process and not an appliance. Lots of BBQ places use rotating racks so that the heat is all around.

 

I agree that broil is heat from above and that grill is from below.

 

In America. Barbecue originally meant an appliance (actually a bed). In the UK and much of the world it means both the appliance and the process. (And the occasion when we eat it.)

 

Broil  just meant to burn!

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Agreed that barbecue is a process, a method of cooking. From the Central American/Caribbean “Barbacoa,” it denotes cooking a long time at a low temp over indirect heat. It does NOT connote, as many Philistines would have it, “anything cooked on an outdoor grill.”

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2 hours ago, gfweb said:

 

I would say that barbecue is a process and not an appliance. Lots of BBQ places use rotating racks so that the heat is all around.

 

I agree that broil is heat from above and that grill is from below.

 

And let's not forget the SALAMANDER BROILER.

 

Quote

The four-position, adjustable grilling rack delivers perfect results, from “Pittsburgh-rare” steaks, to crispy chicken, to delicately broiled crab cakes, with cooking time virtually cut in half.

 

 

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41 minutes ago, kayb said:

Agreed that barbecue is a process, a method of cooking. From the Central American/Caribbean “Barbacoa,” it denotes cooking a long time at a low temp over indirect heat. It does NOT connote, as many Philistines would have it, “anything cooked on an outdoor grill.”

You used the operative word "outdoor".The BBQ is that ourdoor grill fired generally by charcoal or gas - at least in my California world. Like this Weber kettle BBQ fired up outside and offside for a low & slow

Weber.jpg

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49 minutes ago, kayb said:

Agreed that barbecue is a process, a method of cooking. From the Central American/Caribbean “Barbacoa,” it denotes cooking a long time at a low temp over indirect heat. It does NOT connote, as many Philistines would have it, “anything cooked on an outdoor grill.”

 

 

Actually, it comes from the Haitian barbacòa meaning a rough wooden framework, used in America for sleeping on.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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10 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

 

Actually, it comes from the Haitian barbacòa meaning a rough wooden framework, used in America for sleeping on.

 

But the derivation has little to do with current usage.

 

15 minutes ago, weinoo said:

 

And let's not forget the SALAMANDER BROILER.

The four-position, adjustable grilling rack delivers perfect results, from “Pittsburgh-rare” steaks, to crispy chicken, to delicately broiled crab cakes, with cooking time virtually cut in half.

 

 

I'm not persuaded by the misuse of words by advertising copy writers.

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13 minutes ago, gfweb said:

But the derivation has little to do with current usage.

 

True, but my comment was in reply to someone who gave a slightly inaccurate or incomplete derivation.

And current usage varies among English dialects.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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