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The Meaning Behind BBQ: Understanding What BBQ Stands For and Its Origins

Have you ever wondered where the beloved tradition of BBQ began? The savory art of cooking meat, slathered with spices and sauces over an open fire or a grill can be traced to the Caribbean. Interestingly enough, it was derived from the word barbacoa in Taino – a language spoken by local indigenous tribes.

Tracing its lineage back to North and South American indigenous peoples, barbecuing has a long history. The Taínos of Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Cuba referred to the process as “barbacoa,” which described slow-cooking meat over an open fire.

Gonzalo Fernández De Oviedo y Valdés was the first to document the term “barbecoa,” an act of roasting meat with a wooden framework over a fire, in 1526. It is believed that when Christopher Columbus and his crew arrived in America in 1492, they discovered Taino people already utilizing this cooking technique. This led to Spaniards embracing it for themselves and spreading its use across various parts of the Americas as well as other countries around the world!

It is believed that the term ‘barbecado’ was borrowed by Spanish, Portuguese, and French speakers before eventually finding its way into English in 1648. Famed British author Beauchamp Plantagenet used it to describe Native Indian methods of preserving fish through drying and smoking techniques in his piece entitled A description of the province of New Albion – “the Indians instead of salt doe barbecado or dry and Smoak fish”.

As recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘barbecue’ was first used in its modern form by Edmund Hickeringill in 1661 with his work Jamaica Viewed: “Some are slain, And their flesh forthwith Barbacu’d and eat”. It later appeared again sixteen years later when John Lederer published his writings of North American travels between 1669-1670.

William Dampier, famously known as an English buccaneer, first used the word “barbecue” in 1697. In his book New Voyage Round the World, he wrote about people sleeping on their “Borbecu’s,” which were frames of sticks raised three feet from the ground. Throughout history, similar words have been adopted into common use such as ‘barbacado’ & ‘barbaqued’ until we eventually ended up with just ‘BBQ’. From then on it has become a beloved staple at all sorts of gatherings and events – even earning its own acronym!

Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries recognize the spelling barbeque as a variant. Inhabitants in the southeastern United States typically refer to barbecue as roast pork, while those living in southwestern states tend to cook cuts of beef.

Barbecue in the USA and in the UK

Undeniably, the USA is considered an authority on BBQ. So what will they regard British-style BBQ to be? Is it a true barbecue or just simply a grill?

In America, grilling is a method of quickly cooking food over high heat while barbecuing refers to taking longer with indirect or smoky hot heat, much like roasting. In the typical U.S. home grill setup, meals are cooked directly above charcoal coals but in a barbecue situation, those embers will be positioned farther away from the grates located on top.

In Great Britain, barbecuing is a quick cooking method that takes place above extreme heat while grilling involves preparing food under direct high or moderate temperatures which Americans usually refer to as broiling. The South American forms of these practices involve the southern Brazilian tradition – of churrasco – and Argentine-style Asado.

Hmmm, it seems like a cultural conundrum – what we Americans call barbecue is actually quite different from the British definition of grilling or broiling! That said, true American-style barbecuing involves slow roasting in a smoky atmosphere. I don’t know about you but this confusion has led to some perplexing conversations…

In the UK, BBQ is a generic terminology used to describe any method of cooking meat outside over flames. Whereas in America, BBQ implies low and slow indirect heating with either charcoal or wood as fuel – an art form that we must admit!

The invention of the grill

With the advent of grilling, barbecues were revolutionized and forever changed how people cook outdoors! Thanks to its invention, everyone can now enjoy a wide array of flavors as they prepare delicious meals with their friends and family. From hamburgers to steaks – the BBQ grill has made outdoor cooking easier than ever before!

After our discussion on the origins of barbecuing, let’s dive into who invented the most common household grill.

In 1897, Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer officially patented the first charcoal briquette design; although, many attribute its invention to Henry Ford and Kingsford Company when they sought a way to recycle wood scraps and sawdust into something valuable.

In 1952, George Stephen revolutionized barbecuing with the invention of the first modern BBQ grill. Working as a welder at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Illinois, he repurposed metal buoys to create his unique dome-shaped design by welding three steel legs onto its base and using the top half as a lid. This inventive creation changed outdoor cooking forever!

During the 1960s, Melton Lancaster and William G. Wepfer from the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company wanted to encourage people to buy more natural gas so they re-designed a special propane-powered grill that soon became everyone’s favorite outdoor cooking device! This new type of grill was sought after by many because it ran on propane instead of charcoal – making backyard barbecues simpler than ever before.

Throughout the years, the barbecue grill has been updated with improved designs to make barbecuing quicker and more enjoyable.

In the 1980s, Bill Best revolutionized grilling by adding his innovative ceramic burners to BBQs. Propane heated these tiles, emitting infrared radiation and cooking food directly for even heat distribution. This improved grill is sealed in juices for a delicious barbecue experience that would otherwise have been lost!

During the 1990s, people began to invest more in their health and took a keen interest in what they were consuming. It was during this period that George Foreman invented the iconic George Foreman grill which cooked from both top and bottom with fat draining off as it went along – something revolutionary at that time. Even today, these grills remain extremely popular; consequently boosting Mr. Foreman’s net worth to an impressive $300 million!


Today, grills have become even more sophisticated than in the past. Barbecuing has evolved into one of America’s favorite activities–especially during this pandemic when outdoor gatherings are still manageable and socially distant. With all these advancements in the grill department and lockdown restrictions slowly easing up, there is no better time to fire up your barbecue!


Barbecue has been around for centuries, but the invention of the modern barbecue grill transformed outdoor cooking. In 1897, Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer patented the first charcoal briquette design, which was popularized by Henry Ford and Kingsford Company when they sought to recycle wood scraps and sawdust into something valuable. In 1952, George Stephen revolutionized barbecuing with the invention of the first modern BBQ grill, repurposed from metal buoys by welding three steel legs onto its base and using the top half as a lid. This invention changed outdoor cooking forever!

In the 1960s, Melton Lancaster and William G. Wepfer from the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company created a special propane-powered grill that quickly became popular due to its simplicity in comparison to charcoal grills. Bill Best further improved grilling by adding his ceramic burners to BBQs in the 1980s, which sealed in juices for an even better bbq experience than ever before. The George Foreman Grill was also invented in the 1990s with fat-draining capabilities that greatly boosted George Foreman’s net worth to an impressive $300 million!

Today, grills continue to become more sophisticated and BBQing is one of America’s favorite activities – especially during this pandemic where outdoor gatherings are still manageable with social distancing protocols. With all these advancements in bbq technology and lockdown restrictions easing up, now is the perfect time to fire up your bbq!


What does BBQ means?

BBQ is an acronym for the term “barbecue,” which refers to a method of cooking food outdoors over direct heat. This can include grilling, roasting, smoking, or even boiling food on a bbq grill.

Who invented BBQ?

The modern bbq grill was invented in 1952 by George Stephen, a metalworker who repurposed metal buoys into bbq grills by welding three steel legs onto its base as well as using the top half as a lid. This invention revolutionized outdoor cooking forever!

What is the difference between BBQ and grilling?

The terms bbq and grilling are often used interchangeably; however, bbq typically refers to a slower cooking process over lower heat with indirect heat while grilling is usually done at higher temperatures on direct flames. Grilling is also more suited for smaller cuts of meat that cook quickly whereas bbq tends to be best for larger cuts of meat like brisket or ribs that require a longer cooking time.

What is the best type of meat to BBQ?

This depends on personal preference and the method of bbq that is being used. For traditional bbq, meat such as brisket, ribs, or pork shoulder is often recommended. But for grilling, lighter cuts of meat such as chicken breasts or steak work best. Ultimately, it’s important to choose a cut of meat that will suit the bbq method being used. Happy grilling!

What are some of the best BBQ sauce recipes?

Some of the best bbq sauce recipes include Kansas City-style bbq sauce, Tennessee whiskey bbq sauce, Carolina mustard bbq sauce, and Texas-style bbq sauce. Each type has its own distinct flavor profile; for instance, Kansas City-style bbq is known to be sweet with a hint of smokiness, while Texas bbq is known to be bold and spicy. Experimenting with different bbq sauce recipes is a great way to find the perfect bbq sauce for your next bbq! Good luck and happy bbq-ing!

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