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Nov 22, 2012 06:09 AM

Your definition of "barbecue"

I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were discussing where the term "barbecue" came from, but they then also when on to talk about the different definitions of what a bbq really is, usually regional. For example, bbq is ONLY consider bbq if: it's pork only, or has to be slathered in is sauce, has NO sauce, or is cooked slow on in-direct heat, hot and fast, burgers and dogs only, or any umpteen possibilities. This isn't meant to become a debate as to what is the "correct" way to bbq.

Not to mention the definition of "grilling" which would be the topic for another thread. :) (In England, grilling is broiling in the oven.)

For me, I'm easy. BBQ is any form of cooking over and open flame, in-direct or direct. If it's an open flame, it's bbq to me.

How about for you?

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  1. Not just in England but throughout our country, grilling is what Americans call broiling. The word "barbecue" has a number of meanings. Depending on context, it can be an event, a method of cooking or the equipment used to cook food.

    As in "Hi Midknight. I'm having a barbecue on Sunday, would you like to come? I'm going to barbecue some lamb chops on the barbecue."

    1. My definition of BBQ depends on context.

      Loosely, I'm with you on your interpretation - cooking, direct or in-direct, with open flame - with one modification: I'd change "open flame" to "either charcoal or fire".

      However, I consider "true" BBQ to be low and slow cooking with indirect heat from a charcoal or fired source and including smoke.

      In my neck of the woods, however:
      1. most people think BBQ means grilling.
      2. "a BBQ" is a social event centered around outdoor cooking, usually grilling.
      3. any food will suffice at "a BBQ" from hot dogs & hamburgers to steaks to ribs to corn (pork/poultry/beef/game/fish/vegetables - doesn't matter).
      4. people in the know will differentiate grilling from BBQ. They usually refer to BBQ "real BBQ" meaning "low and slow cooking with indirect heat from a charcoal or fired source and including smoke"

      4 Replies
      1. re: porker

        If you ask any of the competitors at the numerous barbecue competitions nationwide (I have mostly attended the one back home in Reno NV) they will adamantly agree with #4. Anything else is grilling.

        1. re: PotatoHouse

          Thats kinda what I mean by "in context". It'll depend on person to person and place to place and situation to situation.

          Not too many people in my neck of the woods know the difference between grilling and BBQ anyway.

          I was in Australia and their "BBQ" was cooking on a sheet of metal heated by a gas flame. I asked "why are you cooking on the hood of a chevy? Thats not BBQ". It was more of an outdoor griddle....
          Had I more resources and time, I would have done a true BBQ for them. Who knows, maybe they wouldn't have liked it anyway...

        2. re: porker

          I'm with # 4. Low and slow, with smoke. Meat type may vary, but of course some lend themselves better to barbecue than others. Grilling is higher heat, shorter time, and food that lends itself to such treatment. Tomorrow I will be grilling, not barbecuing, a turkey, sweet potatoes, even rolls and pies. My grills are grills, not barbecues. But I can produce barbecue on my grill. Clear as mud yet?
          Oh... if it's cooked in the oven or a crockpot and loaded with sauce, PLEASE do not call it barbecue! That's just wrong...

          1. re: porker

            As you point out, in many areas, and in several contexts, BBQ = grilling, but not to everyone. I interchange the terms, but only among close friends, who will not call me on it. Others are as lenient, as I am. Others, however, would jump from their chairs, and issue a challenge. I am not of that ilk.


          2. On tv seconds ago. Ward Cleaver, "We're barbecueing tonight, how do like your steak?" Miss Landers over for dinner at the Cleaver house, "Medium is fine." In 1959 USA, bbq was the open flame. Here in Texas, it's low and slow, sauce not needed, but not against the law.

            3 Replies
            1. re: James Cristinian

              There are a few places around here that'll give you "the look" for saucing up your meat though. In Texas, it seems beef is more the thing. Pork sausage is pretty big as well, but it seems like brisket is king everywhere I go.

              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                Yes brisket is king, and all places are judged by theirs. The sausage is usually a mixture of pork and beef. Pork ribs are the rib of choice at most places, spare ribs specifically, and surprisingly, beef ribs are relatively rare.

                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                  There are areas of North Carolina, where you WILL get "the look," should you ask for sauce for the pork. One is best served by asking politely for it to be "on the side."

                  However, in many areas of the US, you just cannot get their BBQ, without sauce.

                  As I mentioned elsewhere, the sauce can differ wildly, depending on where you stopped your car.


              2. For me, BBQ is first and foremost a noun, not a verb. And it is only pork, cooked slowly over wood or charcoal, served with a vinegar based sauce.

                7 Replies
                  1. re: MGZ

                    Sorry? I don't understand your comment.

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      Simply a lighthearted reference to the notion that placing meat "over" the fuel is grilling. Barbecue is the result of the meat being "near" the fire.

                    2. re: MGZ

                      Do you mean, only over charcoal, or something else?


                    3. re: carolinadawg

                      Sounds like you might be from NORTH Carolina, Carolinadawg. Also, IIRC, the vinegar-based sauce is more of a Western NC thing, and more tomato-based sauces are used to the East, in the same state. Did I get that differentiation correct, or reversed?

                      Now, SC has some other ideas about BBQ, but then do regions in North Carolina.

                      So long as it is good, I have zero complaints.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Somewhat reversed. Both eastern and western NC sauces are primarily composed of vinegar and spices. Western style adds a small amount of ketchup or tomato sauce and sometimes a little sugar or brown sugar. It is still a thin, primarily vinegar sauce. To me, it's really not that much of a difference, although many vehemently disagree.

                    4. "Real" BBQ to me is low and slow over a real wood fire. It can be direct or indirect, but it can't be gas. It may or may not include sauce, and does not necessarily have to be pork, although that is always my first choice.