It's BBQ month, which seems to spark a national conversation every year. Enthusiasts debate the origin and history of barbecuing meats. They argue over the difference between a grill and a barbecue. They wrestle with the truly hard questions about sauce and seasoning. Since you're likely to hear one or more of these heated exchanges, I thought I'd dig up some answers.
First, where did BBQ come from? Most Americans tend to think the origin has its roots in cowboy lore. It's true that the cattle bosses didn't want to feed their workers prime meats, giving them instead the tough and stringy cuts like brisket. However, the art and science of barbecue has been around for a long time. People were barbecuing in Brazil, Dominica and the Yucatan long before the cowboy came along. Second, is grilling the same as barbecuing? No. And that's the final answer. Barbecue means, literally, slow cooking meats over an open hearth -- on a wood or charcoal fire. A grill doesn't qualify as a hearth and cooking time is generally much quicker than roasting over an open fire.
Finally, if you cook without sauce, is it really BBQ? Yes and no. Early BBQ masters used savory dry-rubs made of grains and whatever spices were available. Texas and Tennessee still BBQ with dry-rubs as well as the more modern liquid sauces. BBQ sauce tends to be sweet and thick, unlike the rubs. Modern sauces are made with corn syrup and/or sugar, which assists in glazing if the sauce is added before cooking. And there's yet another debate: some say you should never add the sauce until the meat is almost done or until it's served. As far as I can tell, this is purely a matter of preference.
So put away your grill, stoke up the fire pit, choose your seasoning -- wet or dry -- and weigh in on the national debate. And most of all, enjoy all the good eating that comes with National Barbecue Month.
Your "Toss It On The Barbie" Gift Guru