The Story of BBQ
This article is excerpted with permission from a more detailed and thorough history of barbecue by NBBQA member Meathead on his website AmazingRibs.com.
Barbecue Made Human Civilization Possible
Homo erectus probably first tasted cooked meat after a forest fire burned animals, and it was good.
Once early cooks learned that cooked meats tasted better than raw, they eventually figured out that smoked foods not only tasted swell, they kept longer. We now know this is because there are antimicrobial compounds in smoke and because slow smoking dries foods out, depriving bacteria of moisture to grow. In the days before refrigeration, smoking, drying, and salting meat were clever strategies for preserving perishable foods. This allowed hunting tribes to make a kill and, unlike other animals, they did not have to gorge themselves before the prey spoiled. If they were migratory, they could smoke, dry, and
According to barbecue historian Dr. Howard L. Taylor, the first cooking implements were almost certainly a wooden fork or spit to hold the meat over the fire. Spit roasting is common around the world and for many years was the major barbecue cooking method. Baking an animal, vegetables, or bread in a hot pit in the ground was also an early development. Wooden frames were later used to hold meat over the fire, but they often held the meat well above the fire to keep the wood from burning, which resulted in the meat cooking slowly and absorbing more smoke. The gridiron, similar to a grate on a modern grill, was developed soon after the Iron Age started, which led to grilling and barbecue as we know it.
The Hebrew Old Testament contains what may be the first detailed plans for the design of a barbecue. In Exodus, chapter 27, Moses brings down the 10 Commandments and tells his flock that God wants them to construct a tabernacle for the Ark for the Covenant, including an altar for burnt offerings. It stood about 4 1/2 feet high about 7 1/2 feet long, contained
Many scholars think techniques for low and slow smoke roasting began in China where some early kitchens had special devices for smoking meats. In Europe, cooking in open fireplaces over wood and with plenty of smoke was commonplace, and all manner of clever iron grids, reflectors, and rotating devices were developed. Somewhere along the
New World barbacoa and the etymology of the word barbecue
In 1492 Christopher Columbus made the first of his four voyages from Spain to the New World landing in what he called
The Spanish explorer Gonzalo Fernández De Oviedo y Valdés was the first to use the word in print in 1526. Other European explorers reported that natives in northern South America may have called their version of the barbacoa a
In 1540, near what is now Tupelo, Mississippi, Hernando de Soto collaborated with the Chickasaw tribe on a feast featuring pork brought from Spain and prepared on a barbacoa. The Spanish adopted the cooking style and refined it.
Other settlers brought their own culinary traditions with them and the sauces that they applied to the grilled and smoked barbecue meats of the New World reflected their preferences. Today, the most popular ingredient in barbecue sauce is ketchup and one can make the argument that most of these sauces are just a type of ketchup. Ketchup is tomato paste, vinegar, sugar
The evolution of
The taste of slowly smoke roasted meat with flavorful sauce grew in popularity, especially in the southern United States. Slaves did most of the cooking, maintained the smokehouses, and were given responsibility for preparing
In the pre-Civil War South, the plantation master got to eat the best cuts of meat. They ate the tenderloin from along the pig's back, "high on the hog" (yes, that's where the expression came from), while the slaves got the tougher, more gristle-riddled cuts. Raw pork was often pickled by storing in a barrel of brine. It didn't take them long to learn the concepts of low and slow cooking with smoke to make tender, juicy meats from these less desirable cuts.
Modern barbecue becomes portable
Brick and fieldstone barbecues were common in parks and backyards, but they were a pain to build. Somewhere along the way somebody cut a steel drum in half lengthwise, hinged the two parts together like a clamshell, and attached four legs. Next thing you know, Popular Mechanics is running plans for making a barbecue from an oil barrel.
In 1948, H.J. Heinz introduced the first nationally distributed barbecue sauce, but long before then many cooks bottled and sold their sauces locally. Click here to see a history of barbecue sauce. Also in 1948 Grant "Hasty" Hastings introduced the Hasty-Bake oven with a
In the 1960 Walter Koziol's Modern Home Products produced the first consumer gas grill in Antioch, IL, the Charmglow Perfect Host. During the 1970s, Char-Broil became the first brand to put a liquid propane tank and a grill in one box. Gas grills soon became more popular than charcoal because they are easier to start and require less cleanup. Meanwhile, hungry Texas oil rig welders began building heavy duty steel cookers from oil barrels, huge pipes, and large propane tanks creating tubular "pits" that could be mounted on boat trailers and towed from
In the 1980s high tech motorized temperature and smoke controlled devices evolved for use in restaurants and by caterers, and today they can be controlled by
Who knows what's next?