THE ORIGIN OF BARBECUE
The word barbecue, or barbeque or BBQ, can refer either to the cooking method, using a barbecue grill machine, or the style of food, where you have a social event with food is cooked this way. Barbecuing is done outdoors by smoking the meat over wood or charcoal. Barbecuing today is found all over the world. It is often associated with festive occasions and holidays. Barbecues tend to bring people together and present an opportunity to enjoy life. They provide an experience that is often an escape from civilisation and a chance to come closer to nature. Recently, barbecues have taken on a new meaning with the emergence of competitive barbecue competitions held in big open areas where spectators are admitted. When the judging is finished the meat is served to everyone.
It is believed that the derivation of the word barbecue comes from the Carribean where the word barabicu was used, meaning digging a hole in the ground and placing meat, sometimes a whole animal, above a pot so that its juices can be used to make a broth. It was covered with leaves and then set alight. The word barabicu was later found in Spanish as barbacoa. After Colombus came to the Americas, the Spaniards noted Taino Indians roasting meat on a wooden grill word, over an open fire. A great number of American Indian and Caribbean tribes used the barbacoa not only to cook meat but also to dry and smoke fish, snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, dogs, birds, frogs, rats as well as other small animals for dinner. Frequently, turkey and deer were also cooked. The salted, dried and smoked meats were cooked weeks later and eaten. Because the word barbecue came from native groups, Europeans gave it “savage connotations”, associating it with descriptions of cannibalism. Of course there was nothing remotely true about these descriptions.
These days there are generally four recognised techniques involved in barbecuing. The original technique is smoking, using smoke to cook the meat at low temperatures for a long time. In this way the meat is flavoured by the burning or smouldering wood. Then there is baking, or roasting in an oven using convection heat. Braising combines direct, dry heat and moist heat. The meat is charbroiled on a ribbed surface on top of a pot filled with broth. Cooking is done at various speeds, fast at first then slowing down. Grilling is done over direct dry heat, usually over wood, gas or electricity. Grilling cooking times are relatively short. These barbecuing techniques are found with different names and variations all over the world.
Southern Barbecue or Low and slow some Roasting
In the USA barbecue is just about one of the most traditional foods you can find. Barbecues held in different parts of the USA vary greatly, with the Southern states leading the rest. A Southern Barbecue involves roasting food in an open-air or closed convection oven, indoor or outdoor with the aid of smoke. The smoke is usually created by burning wood. Meat, seafood, poultry as well as vegetables are cooked. The temperature of the oven is usually set between 90-150 degrees Celcius. Special sauces, like hot cajun, another sweet spicy tomato based one, horseradish and of course the well known barbecue sauce are a must. Each place has its own variety of sauce. Lexington in fact calls itself “The barbecue capital of the world”. It has more than one BBQ restaurant per 1000 people
Spit Barbecue or Spit Roasting or Rotisserie.
Historically, this is an ancient method of preparing a barbecue. Whole animals are roasted, fixed on a sharp stake and rotated near smoke or a heat source. This method of cooking goes way back to the times when men were cage dwellers. Every Easter in Greece you can still see this since every family cooks their own whole lamb on a spit. Each person takes turns at cooking by turning the spit by hand. In recent times vertical rotisseries are used. The meat is rotated with a mechanical device next to the heat source. Everyone is familiar with the Turkish donner kebab, Greek gyros and Middle eastern scwharma.
This method of cooking involves suspending the meat around or above burning coals or wood on an open-air rack in order to expose the meat to smoke and cook slowly.
Open Pit Barbecue.
This concept was invented by slaves in the southern part of the United States. The slaves simply dug long pits in the dirt, then burned hardwood in the pits till they turned to coals. Green saplings were placed across the top of the pit and meat was laid across the embers. They basted the meat with spices, vinegar and water to prevent the meat from burning. The saplings were later on replaced with metal gridirons and stones or bricks were cast into the pits above the ground.
Closed Pit Barbecue.
This involves roasting meat in an enclosed oven and this concept takes different forms around the world:
The word barbacoa, as mentioned earlier, is used by the Spanish to describe outdoor cooking. However, in Texas and Mexico, to make a classic barbacoa, the head of a steer is enclosed in agave leaves, placed in a pit with hot coals and hidden with dirt. They use beef, pork, goat or lamb enclosed in aluminum foil and cooked or buried in an oven. The Mexican barbacoa is an ancient method of cooking, though it bears little similarity to modern barbecue except that it is done outdoors.
Originally, tandoors in India were clay ovens heated with coals with the meat inserted and the ovens sealed. The present-day tandoors are similar to the American Big Green Egg and the Japanese Kamado.
Meat, usually lamb or goat, is wrapped in foil, seasoned with bay leaves and oregano and cooked for a long time till tender in a sealed traditional clay oven. It is avery popular traditional dish in Cyprus. The name, meaning “stolen”, dates back to the 1800s, in the Greek revolution. As the story goes, the revolutionaries “kleftes” in the mountains would steal a sheep or goat from the flock, place it in a hole in the ground and leave it to cook slowly. The pit was sealed with mud so that no tell tale smoke would give the thieves away.
The Hawaiian Imu is an underground pit with hot rocks. A whole hog or kalau pig is often prepared in an Imu. The meat is enclosed in wet cloth or leaves and laid on the rocks with the pit covered with sand or dirt.
The traditional method of grilling popular in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and other Latin American countries. An asado usually consists of beef or sausages which are cooked on a grill called parilla or an open fire.
The word Churrasco is Portuguese, meaning grilled meat. Churrasco is very popular in Brazil and it involves barbecuing over embers or coals. Churrasco was originally done outdoors, but today, many restaurants in the United States and Brazil now offer Churrasco barbecue.
Yakiniku is grilled meat in Japanese. Yakiniku is the traditional method of grilling small pieces of meat in Japan. The meat is usually grilled on a wooden skewer placed over a long trough filled with charcoal. The grill is referred to as konro while the fuel is a distinct hardwood charcoal referred to as binchotan charcoal. Yakitori is a popular dish, that has spread around the world . The meat, either beef or chicken, is served with a sweet barbecue sauce.
Modern Restaurant Barbecue
No trip around the world would be complete without mentioning how modern day restaurants barbecue. Restaurant Barbecues are generally custom made big stainless steel boxes, with rotisseries arranged like a Ferris wheel. The meat is set on long wire shelves that rotate around a central pivot to allow the juices and fat to drip on the shelves placed below. The heat comes from gas burners placed in a chamber in the back and the logs are placed in the burn box to produce heat and smoke. The whole cooking process is controlled by a timer and thermostat.