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History of the Barbecue: A delicious journey

The art of throwing meat on to a burning pit has arguably been around for as long as the human race. As civilization advanced, so have its cooking techniques. From this advancement came the barbecue. The word barbeque actually stands for slow-cooking meat over a flame, at a low temperature, for a long period of time (sometimes for 12 hours).  The result is a combination of smoked meat juices and any spices or rub added that make you wonder why you even eat vegetables.

No T-rex steaks

The first proof of barbecuing was discovered around Mount Carmel in Israel from 200,000 years ago. Practice makes perfect it seems. Scientists uncovered tools and bones from these early hunters that showed they preferred large cuts of meat, such as deer, cattle and boars. Due to the burn marks on the bones and the size of the animals, academics have concluded that these early humans initiated what would become known as the first barbecue.

Mmmm, barbacoa

The origin of the word barbeque has been somewhat lost to history. Many stories of how the word came to be exist, but few seem to have basis in fact. The most accepted origin story comes from when the Spanish first landed in the Caribbean in 1526. Barbacoa is believed to be the Spanish interpretation of the Taino’s word for their method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. As the Spanish influence expanded into South America and Florida, so did the technique and use of the word barbacoa.

Spreading good cooking to all of North America

Flordia was the Spanish name for all the lands they had claimed in the Americas, which included what is now Virginia, New York, Louisiana and present day Florida. Many different tribes in this area, Apalachee, Mayaca, Hororo and the Timucua, all used the barbacoa technique. Explorers documented many accounts of food being prepared in this manner further north and west of the Florida region.

By the 19th century, barbecuing had become a very common technique of cooking in the American south, particularly Memphis, North Carolina and Texas. It was also a great way to tenderize less expensive cuts of meat with its slow cooking method, which was frequently necessary for impoverished African Americans. In the early 20th century many African Americans moved from the south to northern cities, taking their barbecue recipes with them. By the 1950s many barbecue restaurants started to appear in every North American city.

That’s the pits

The first barbecue restaurants cooked in dirt pits, but as health laws developed so did the necessity of commercial indoor fire pits. This evolved into brick stoves, then metal stoves with cooking grates and even a rotating axle to evenly cook the meat.

For homes, brick fire pits were expensive and definitely not portable. In 1957, Popular Mechanics issued plans for making a barbecue from an oil barrel. Four years later, a George Stephen Sr. added a tight fitting lid and adjustable air vents to control the heat in his backyard grill. So began covered barbecuing.

In 1960, the first consumer gas grill was offered using natural gas from the homeowner’s house. By the 1970s the liquid propane tank was added, and the mobile fire pit was soon a fixture in every home.

And so the legacy of the barbeque has evolved throughout history, but no matter how you spell it, the BBQ has endured as the favourite pastime of happy and satisfied carnivores.


Amazing - The Science of BBQ & Grilling (2/5/2012)

Wikipedia - Barbecue (3/13/2014)

Time U.S - A Brief History of Barbecue (7/3/2009),8599,1908513,00.html