Saturday, May 25, 2013

About Barbecuing: Origins of the Word Barbecue


Barbecue Definition and Origin

In 1492 when Columbus discovered the New World he found the Arawak Indians cooking meat over pits of fire – they called this process barbacoa which is, presumably, the origin of what is today known as barbecue.

Barbecue (also barbeque, BBQ and barbie) is a method and apparatus for char grilling food in the hot smoke of a wood fire, usually charcoal fueled. In the United States, to grill is to cook in this manner quickly, while barbecue is typically a much slower method utilizing less heat than grilling, attended to over an extended period of several hours.

The term as a noun can refer to the meat or to the cooking apparatus itself (the "barbecue grill" or simply "barbecue"). The term as an adjective can refer to foods cooked by this method. The term is also used as a verb for the act of cooking food in this manner.

Barbecue is usually done in an outdoor environment by cooking and smoking the meat over wood or charcoal. Restaurant barbecue may be cooked in large brick or metal ovens specially designed for that purpose.

Barbecue has numerous regional variations in many parts of the world.

Welcome to the new world of barbecuing. Sure, this is still the perfect way to entertain a group of friends on a hot, sunny day. But today’s barbecue is also an integral part of our kitchen equipment which can be used for everything from family meals to that special dinner party. And you know what? There is something about the smoky aromas of food being cooked over glowing coals that still, to this day, excites my palate and invariably starts my mouth watering.

Barbecue Etymology

Most etymologists believe that barbecue derives from the word barabicu found in the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean and the Timucua of Florida, and entered European languages in the form barbacoa. The word translates as "sacred fire pit." The word describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks.

Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing some meat (usually a whole goat) with a pot underneath it, so that the juices can make a hearty broth. It is then covered with maguey leaves and coal and set alight. The cooking process takes a few hours.

It has been suggested that both the word and cooking technique migrated out of the Caribbean and into other languages and cultures, with the word (barbacoa) moving from Caribbean dialects into Spanish, then Portuguese, French, and English. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first recorded use of the word in the English language as a verb in 1661, in Edmund Hickeringill's Jamaca Viewed: "Some are slain, and their flesh forthwith Barbacu'd and eat." It also appears as a verb in the published writings of John Lederer, following his travels in the American southeast in 1672. The first known use of the word as a noun was in 1697 by the British buccaneer William Dampier. In his New Voyage Round the World, Dampier writes: And lay there all night, upon our Borbecu's, or frames of Sticks, raised about 3-foot (0.91 m) from the Ground.

Samuel Johnson's 1756 dictionary gave the following definitions:

"To Barbecue – a term for dressing a whole hog" (attestation to Pope) "Barbecue – a hog dressed whole"

While the standard modern English spelling of the word is barbecue, local variations like barbeque and truncations such as bar-b-q or bbq may also be found. The spelling barbeque is given in Merriam-Webster OnLine as a variant spelling, while the Oxford English Dictionary states that barbecue is "often misspelled as barbeque".

In the southeastern United States, the word barbecue is used predominantly as a noun referring to roast pork, while in the southwestern states cuts of beef are often cooked.

Barbecuing Techniques

Barbecuing encompasses four or five distinct types of cooking techniques. The original technique is cooking using smoke at lower temperatures (usually around 240–270 °F or 115–125 °C) and significantly longer cooking times (several hours), known as smoking.

Another technique is baking, utilizing a masonry oven or any other type of baking oven, which uses convection to cook meats and starches with moderate temperatures for an average cooking time (about an hour plus a few extra minutes).

Yet another technique is braising, which combines direct dry heat charbroiling on a ribbed surface with a broth-filled pot for moist heat, cooking at various speeds throughout the duration (starting fast, slowing down, then speeding up again, lasting for a few hours).

Finally, grilling is done over direct dry heat, usually over a hot fire (i.e., over500 °F (260 °C)) for a short time (minutes). Grilling may be done over wood, charcoal, gas (natural gas or propane), or electricity.

1) Smoking

Smoke roasting or smoke baking refers to any process that has the attributes of smoking combined with either roasting or baking. This smoking method is sometimes referred to as "barbecuing", "pit baking", or "pit roasting". It may be done in a smoke roaster, closed wood-fired masonry oven or barbecue pit, any smoker that can reach above 250 °F (121 °C), or in a conventional oven by placing a pan filled with hardwood chips on the floor of the oven so the chips smolder and produce a smoke bath. However, this should only be done in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Evidence suggests that smoked foods may contain carcinogens. The smoking process contaminates food with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens, so, in theory, consuming smoked food increases the risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Some studies have found a positive statistical correlation between intestinal tract cancer and the frequent intake of smoked foods. In one Hungarian longitudinal study, a district in which home-smoked meat was the predominant protein source consumed showed that the incidence of stomach cancer, relative to all other cancers, was nearly twice as high (47%–50%) as that of the general Hungarian population (29.9%).

Other sources, however, while agreeing that PAHs help cause cancer, note the dearth of research studies proving a strong correlation between the intake of smoked foods and increased cancer risk. The National Cancer Institute emphasizes that "population studies have not established a definitive link between ... cooked meats and cancer in humans," but suggests individuals reduce their exposure to PAHs.

2) Baking

The masonry oven is similar to a smoke pit in that it allows for an open flame, but cooks much faster, and uses convection to cook. Barbecue-baking can also be done in traditional stove-ovens. It can be used to cook not only meats, but breads and other starches, and even various casseroles and desserts. It uses both direct and indirect heat to surround the food with hot air to cook, and can be basted much the same as grilled foods.

3) Braising 

It is possible to braise meats and vegetables in a pot on top of a grill. A gas or electric charbroil grill would be the best choices for what is known as barbecue-braising, or combining dry heat charbroil-grilling directly on a ribbed surface and braising in a broth-filled pot for moist heat. To braise, put a pot on top of the grill, cover it, and let it simmer for a few hours. There are two advantages to barbecue-braising: the first is that this method now allows for browning the meat directly on the grill before the braising, and the second is that it also allows for glazing the meat with sauce and finishing it directly over the fire after the braising, effectively cooking the meat three times, which results in a soft textured product that falls right off the bone. This method of barbecue has a varying duration (depending on whether a slow cooker or pressure cooker is used), and is generally slower than regular grilling or baking, but faster than pit-smoking.

4) Grilling

Grilling usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat, and tends to be used for cooking meat quickly. Food to be grilled is cooked on a grill (an open wire grid such as a gridiron with a heat source above or below), a grill pan (similar to a frying pan, but with raised ridges to mimic the wires of an open grill), or griddle (a flat plate heated from below). Heat transfer to the food when using a grill is primarily via thermal radiation. Heat transfer when using a grill pan or griddle is by direct conduction. In the United States and Canada, when the heat source for grilling comes from above, grilling is termed broiling. In this case, the pan that holds the food is called a broiler pan, and heat transfer is by thermal radiation.
Direct heat grilling can expose food to temperatures often in excess of 260 °C (500 °F). Grilled meat acquires a distinctive roast aroma from a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction only occurs when foods reach temperatures in excess of 155 °C (310 °F).

Risks of grilling. As is true of any high-temperature frying or baking, when meat is grilled at high temperatures, the cooking process can generate carcinogenic chemicals. Two processes are thought to be responsible. Heterocyclic amines - "HCAs are formed when amino acids, sugars, and creatine react at high temperatures." Additionally, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - "PAHs are formed when fat and juices from meat grilled directly over an open fire drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat. PAHs can also be formed during other food preparation processes, such as smoking of meats."

However it is possible to significantly reduce carcinogens when grilling meat, or mitigate their effect. Garlic, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, olive oil, cherries, and vitamin E have been shown to reduce formation of both HCAs and PCAs. Another method is pre-cooking the meat in the microwave, then draining meat juices so they do not fall onto flames, preventing release of PCAs. Side dishes and drinks rich in antioxidants, such as tea, have also been shown to neutralize the toxins by mixing in one's stomach.

Benefits of grilling. Grilled foods can be lower in saturated fat, if fat is allowed to drip out after it liquefies.

How Long Does It Take to Cook?

There are so many variables in barbecuing – the BBQ itself, which part of the grill you are cooking on, the thickness of the meat, poultry or seafood, even the weather. Remember you can cheat a little by making a very small cut in anything with the point of a very small sharp knife and taking a peek. And, at the risk of repeating myself, for larger joints, whole chickens and the like, an instant-read thermometer is invaluable. I also have, on the side of my gas-fired BBQ, a burner which certainly makes cooking sauces, blanching veggies and so on a lot easier. But if this is not the case with your barbie, it’s worth considering buying one of those small individual units complete with gas bottle which are available in most Asian groceries, camping shops and hardware stores.

The Barbecue Itself

I have both a kettle and a gas-fired BBQ. Although they are pretty much interchangeable, I tend to use them for particular jobs. For example, I always use the kettle for large pieces of meat, whole chickens and the like, while I prefer to cook steaks, cutlets, fish fillets and all those small numbers on the gas-fired version where the direct heat tends to be fiercer. And if you don't happen to have a kettle barbecue but instead have a covered oven type gas-fired number, just think of indirect heat as the equivalent of moderate heat, and direct heat as fairly high.

When is it Hot Enough?

To tell how hot your barbie is, hold your hand about 10 cm above the grill, then start counting until you have to remove your hand – one potato, two potatoes and so on until four, is a hot fire. Five to six potatoes is medium high, seven to nine is medium, ten to twelve is medium low and thirteen to fifteen is very low and the coals most probably need replenishing.

Barbecuing Styles

In British usage, barbecuing refers to a fast cooking process directly over high heat, while grilling refers to cooking under a source of direct, high heat—known in the United States and Canada as broiling. In American English usage, however, grilling refers to a fast process over high heat, while barbecuing refers to a slow process using indirect heat and/or hot smoke (very similar to some forms of roasting). For example, in a typical U.S. home grill, food is cooked on a grate directly over hot charcoal, while in a U.S. barbecue, the coals are dispersed to the sides or at significant distance from the grate. Its South American versions are the southern Brazilian churrasco and the Argentine asado.

Alternatively, an apparatus called a smoker with a separate fire box may be used. Hot smoke is drawn past the meat by convection for very slow cooking. This is essentially how barbecue is cooked in most U.S. "barbecue" restaurants, but nevertheless, many consider this to be a distinct cooking process called hot smoking.

American South and Midwest 

In the southern United States, barbecue initially revolved around the cooking of pork. During the 19th century, pigs were a low-maintenance food source that could be released to forage for themselves in forests and woodlands. When food or meat supplies were low, these semi-wild pigs could then be caught and eaten.

It was the Spanish who first introduced the pig into the Americas and to the American Indians. The Indians, in turn, introduced the Spanish to the concept of true slow cooking with smoke. The Spanish colonists came to South Carolina in the early 16th century and settled at Santa Elena. It was in that early American colony that Europeans first learned to prepare and to eat "real" barbecue.

According to estimates, prior to the American Civil War, Southerners ate around five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef they consumed. Because of the poverty of the southern United States at this time, every part of the pig was eaten immediately or saved for later (including the ears, feet, and other organs). Because of the effort to capture and cook these wild hogs, pig slaughtering became a time for celebration, and the neighborhood would be invited to share in the largesse. In Cajun culture, these are called boucheries. These feasts are sometimes called 'pig pickin's.' The traditional Southern barbecue grew out of these gatherings.

Each Southern locale has its own particular variety of barbecue, particularly concerning the sauce. North Carolina sauces vary by region; eastern North Carolina uses a vinegar-based sauce, the center of the state enjoys Lexington-style barbecue, which uses a combination of ketchup and vinegar as their base, and western North Carolina uses a heavier ketchup base. Lexington boasts of being "The Barbecue Capital of the World" and it has more than one BBQ restaurant per 1,000 residents. South

Carolina is the only state that includes all four recognized barbecue sauces, including mustard-based, vinegar-based, and light and heavy tomato-based. Memphis barbecue is best known for tomato- and vinegar-based sauces. In some Memphis establishments and in Kentucky, meat is rubbed with dry seasoning (dry rubs) and smoked over hickory wood without sauce; the finished barbecue is then served with barbecue sauce on the side.

The barbecue of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee is almost always pork served with a sweet tomato-based sauce. However, several regional variations exist as well. Alabama is particularly known for its distinctive white sauce, a mayonnaise- and vinegar-based sauce, originating in northern Alabama, used predominantly on chicken and pork. A popular item in North Carolina and Memphis is the pulled pork sandwich served on a bun and often topped with coleslaw. Pulled pork is prepared by shredding the pork after it has been barbecued.

Kansas City-style barbecue is characterized by its use of different types of meat (including pulled pork, pork ribs, burnt ends, smoked sausage, beef brisket, beef ribs, smoked/grilled chicken, smoked turkey, and sometimes fish), a variety attributable to Kansas City's history as a center for meat packing in the U.S. Hickory is the primary wood used for smoking in KC, while the sauces are typically tomato based with sweet, spicy and tangy flavor profiles. Burnt ends, the flavorful pieces of meat cut from the ends of a smoked beef or pork brisket, are popular in many Kansas City-area barbecue restaurants.

Pit-beef prevails in Maryland and is often enjoyed at large outdoor "bull roasts", which are common for club or association fundraising events. Maryland-style pit-beef is not the product of barbecue cookery in the strictest sense, as there is no smoking of the meat involved; rather, it involves grilling the meat over a high heat. The meat is typically served rare, with a strong horseradish sauce as the preferred condiment.

The state of Kentucky, particularly Western Kentucky, is unusual in its barbecue cooking, in that the preferred meat is mutton. This kind of mutton barbecue is often used in communal events in Kentucky, such as political rallies, county fairs and church fund-raising events.

In much of the world outside of the American South, barbecue has a close association with Texas. Many barbecue restaurants outside the United States claim to serve "Texas barbecue", regardless of the style they actually serve. Texas barbecue is often assumed to be primarily beef. This assumption, along with the inclusive term "Texas barbecue", is an oversimplification. Texas has four main styles, all with different flavors, different cooking methods, different ingredients, and different cultural origins.

In the Midwest, Chicago-style is popular and involves seasoning the meat with a dry rub, searing over a hot grill and a long slow cook in an oven. The meat, typically ribs, is then finished with a sweet-tangy sauce.

Starting the Feast

Let’s be fair, for an everyday meal nothing much apart from good bread is really needed to start proceedings (plus, of course, the best butter or olive oil). But a quick flash over the coals for that bread plus a vigorous rubbing of a cut garlic clove will make bread even better (as will, in the Spanish style, a similar vigorous rubbing with the fleshy side of a cut tomato). And let us not forget bruschetta, which can be as simple as charred bread topped with diced tomato, onion and basil with a splash of good oil, or as complicated as a ragout of exotic mushrooms or braised artichokes on top.

There will be occasions when you need to pull out all the stops and wow the mob. In this instance I often just buy a selection of fresh seafood – prawns in the shell, freshly shucked oysters, crabs, yabbies, bugs etc – and serve the lot on ice with plenty of napkins, finger bowls and a selection of sauces. An antipasto platter is always a hit too. I have to admit I cheat a little, dash into my favorite deli and pile my platter with goodies such as pâtés, terrines, sliced prosciutto and salami, Persian feta, various dips, marinated olives and whatever else takes my fancy. I then add some homemade stuff such as asparagus wrapped in prosciutto (or smoked salmon) with horseradish sour cream, barbecued veggies in the Spanish style, roasted capsicums  or, in fact, almost any of the vegetable dishes. I even, when I’m feeling generous, throw on some of the aforementioned fresh seafood, once again breaking out the napkins, fingerbowls and sauces. And may I suggest, after all this amazing effort, if the guests aren’t suitably impressed I recommend that you:

(a) Never invite them again.
(b) Eat the lot yourself.

Barbecuing Events and Gatherings 

The word barbecue is also used to refer to a social gathering where food is served, usually outdoors in the late afternoon or evening. In the southern United States, outdoor gatherings are not typically called "barbecues" unless barbecue itself will actually be on the menu, instead generally favoring the word "cookouts". The device used for cooking at a barbecue is commonly referred to as a "barbecue", "barbecue grill", or "grill". In North Carolina, however, "barbecue" is a noun primarily referring to the food and never used by native North Carolinians to describe the act of cooking or the device on which the meat is cooked.

Often referred to as "The World Series of Barbecue", The American Royal Barbecue Contest is held each October in Kansas City, Missouri. This event comprises two distinct competitions held over the course of four days. The first contest is the Invitational Contest, with competing teams being required to obtain an invitation by winning other qualifying contests throughout the year. The second competition is an open contest that any team can compete in. This open contest is the largest championship barbecue competition in the world, with the 2007 event attracting 496 teams.

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is held annually in Memphis, Tennessee, during the Memphis in May festival. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the world's largest pork barbecue contest.

Other barbecue competitions are held in virtually every state in the United States during the warmer months, usually beginning in April and going through September. These events feature keen competitions between teams of cooks and are divided into separate competitions for the best pork, beef and poultry barbecue and for the best barbecue sauces.

Other Uses

The term barbecue is also used to designate a flavor added to foodstuffs, the most prominent of which are potato chips. This term usually implies a strong smoky flavor and often denotes a flavor reminiscent of barbecue sauce.

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