Barbecue or barbeque or BBQ is a cooking method, a style of food, and a name for a meal or gathering at which this style of food is cooked and served.
Because humankind has no doubt been cooking meat since the discovery of fire, it’s impossible to point to any one person or culture that “invented” the barbecue method of cooking.
Around one million years ago Homo erectus, the homonid just before Neanderthal man, first tasted cooked meat.
In 2007 Israeli scientists at University of Haifa uncovered evidence that early humans living in the area around Carmel, about 200,000 years ago were serious about barbecue. From bone and tool evidence, these early hunters preferred large mature animals and cuts of meat that had plenty of flesh on them. They left heads and hooves in the field. Three of their favorites were an ancestor of cattle, deer, and boars. From burn marks around the joints and scrape marks on the bones, there is evidence that these cave dwellers knew how to cook.
While barbecuing meat is stereotypically portrayed as a “man’s job” these days, the first people tending the barbecue were probably women. The family structure of the tribes using the barbacoa usually meant that the men were the hunters while the women were the cooks.
The word “barbecue” came into English via the Spanish, who adopted the term from the Arawak Indians of the Caribbean, to whom the barbacoa was a grating of green wood upon which strips of meat were placed to cook or to dry over a slow fire.
The word “barbecoa” first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer’s account of the West Indies in 1526, according to Planet Barbecue.
The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first recorded use of the word in the English language in 1697 by the British buccaneer William Dampier.
U.S. presidents were known to be big fans of the laid-back pastime. George Washington‘s diaries abound with references to barbecues, including one that lasted for three days. When Abraham Lincoln‘s parents were married, their wedding feast was a barbecue.
Along the way, famous inventors left their mark on the American barbecue: The first commercial charcoal briquet factory was designed by Thomas Edison and built by Henry Ford in 1921.
Barbecue is usually cooked in an outdoor environment heated by the smoke of wood or charcoal.
Woods commonly selected for their flavor include mesquite, hickory, maple, guava, kiawe, cherry, pecan, apple and oak. Woods to avoid include conifers. These contain resins and tars, which impart undesirable resinous and chemical flavors.
Barbecue is cooked slowly at temperatures ranging from about 80 to 150°C (175 to 300°F) with more smoke than fire.
Barbecuing techniques include smoking, roasting or baking, braising and grilling.
Barbecuing is popular throughout the United States, especially in the South, where pork is the favoured meat, and in the Southwest, where beef predominates. Other foods barbecued are lamb or kid, chicken, sausages, and, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, seafood.
The gathering of people around a barbecue, whether at home or at a larger more public occasion, generally is experienced with pleasure and harmonious companionship and a certain feeling of harmony with other people and nature.
Barbecue competitions have been taking place since at least 1959. The first one seems to have taken place in Hawaii just a few months after it became a state, and was only for men. Twenty-five men entered the cook-off, competing for the grand prize of $10,000 (about $80,000 today). More recently, “Barbecue Pitmasters” aired on TLC, featuring people cooking up their best barbecue recipes to compete for a $100,000 grand prize.
The largest attendance at a barbecue is 45,252 people at an event organised by Estado de Nuevo Leon (Mexico) at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, on 18 August 2013.
The longest barbecue measured 8,000 meters (20,246 feet) and was created by the people of Bayambang, (Philippines), in Bayambang, Pangasinan, Philippines on 4 April 2014. The record attempt took place during the Malangsi Fish-tival in order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city Bayambang. The barbecue was made up of 8,000 grills connected to each other, each measuring 1 m in length, 58 cm in height and 21 cm in width.