What’s for lunch?
Shall we have some barbecue, or barbeque, or perhaps BBQ?
Well, no matter how you spell it, if it’s a summer gathering, chances are that grilled or barbecued foods are on the menu.
People often use the words grilling and barbecuing interchangeably, but the cooking methods differ.
Technically, when barbecuing:
- Food is cooked at about 225 degrees F
- Food is cooked slowly, from 4 hours to 24 hours
- The lid is closed to create an encircled unit of heat for flavor
This method works best for larger, tougher and fattier cuts of meat, such as ribs, shoulder and brisket.
- Food is cooked at 500 degrees F, or higher
- Food is cooked quickly, from 5 minutes to 15 minutes
- The lid is removed and the heat source is directly beneath the food
This method works best for thin or ground meats, such as burgers, chicken breast, or steak.
Whether you prefer to grill or barbecue, chances are you’ll have plenty of opportunities to show off skills.
Some of the most popular occasions for grilling have already gone by this year.
The Fourth of July is the most popular day in America to have a barbecue. An estimated 73% of the country consumes barbecue on Independence Day.
Memorial Day ranks second, at 60%; and, Father’s Day, places third, at 45%.
But there’s plenty of summer left — which means opportunities for family picnics, birthday parties, reunions and other gatherings.
Here are a few fun facts about barbecue.
First off, it didn’t originate in the United States.
Spanish explorers encountered barbecue on the Caribbean islands in the 1500s, where the Native Americans were cooking meat and fish on a wooden frame made out of green wood – freshly chopped wood with a high moisture content – over fire. The explorers noticed how the wooden platform didn’t burn.
The natives called this cooking method barbacoa, and as the Spanish continued their journey north, they brought this “new” cooking method with them, where it eventually spread throughout the colonies, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Pork became the predominant cooked meat, as pigs thrived well, once brought to America. The pigs needed minimal care, reproduced quickly, and lived easily on tobacco farms.
Hogs also could be cooked whole and could feed a big crowd, and because of that barbecued pork became the go-to meal for large social events or feasts.
As time went on, regions of the U.S. developed their own styles of barbecue.
Four regions with a distinct approach are the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City.
- The Carolinas: Pork is the traditional meat of choice. The sauce is typically vinegar-based, thanks to British influence, but also mustard-based, as many French and German immigrants settled in South Carolina, and mustard was common in their cuisine.
- Texas: The Texas style has similar sauces to the Carolinas, but thanks to cattle farming, it expanded to more than just pork.
Of course, even within Texas, there’s a split between Eastern and Central with the different variations.
- Memphis: Memphis cooks its barbecue with a sweeter sauce, typically tomato-based with molasses. Because the city was located along the Mississippi River, it had easy access to molasses. Like the Carolinas, pork is the main meat.
- Kansas City: In the early 1900s, a Memphis-born African American man named Henry Perry opened up the first barbecue restaurant in Kansas City, and while he kept the sweet sauce tradition of Memphis, he mixed in beef in addition to pork, combining Texas and Memphis style.
He was known as the barbecue king.
Of course, there are as many variations as there are cooks who like to experiment.
Alabama has a white sauce, which is a combination of a mayonnaise and vinegar-based sauce.
If you’re not a meat-eater, there are vegetarian options, too, including veggie burgers, bean burgers, and meat alternative burgers that have similar taste and texture as meat.
Herbed Turkey Burger (Six servings) – Courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension:
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
½ cup minced parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and form six patties.
Refrigerate burgers until ready for cooking.
Grill patties on medium heat for 7 minutes each side, or until burger reaches internal temperature of 165°F.
Add any toppings of tomato, leaf lettuce, cheese or sliced avocado to your liking, as well as your choice of bun.
By Shari Bresin
Published July 13, 2022