The World of Barbecue

Whether by a fire pit dug into the ground or a flashy grill top, there are dozens of ways that people get their cookout on!

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One of the best things about barbecue is that it is accessible to almost everyone in the world and everyone does it a bit differently. Let's take a look at five different styles around the world. 

TEXAS

Many Texas barbecue restaurants still use 100 percent wood-burning pits. Texas has four main styles of barbecue: East Texas, West Texas, South Texas/Rio Grande Valley, and Central Texas. 

West Texas barbecue, often referred to as “cowboy-style,” is cooked directly over mesquite fire, while East Texas traditionally emphasizes pork options, as well as hot links, chopped brisket sandwiches, and a Cajun style sausage called boudin. In Central Texas, the main focus is heavily smoked brisket, thickly sliced and often without sauce. Finally, in South Texas/Rio Grande Valley, barbecue is traditionally associated with barbacoa — meat from a cow’s head that is cooked in underground coal pits. Often the cheeks of the cattle head are the most prized. 

Despite the regional differences, almost every barbecue stand in Texas serves what is known as the “Texas Trinity,” – brisket, pork ribs, and smoked sausage. The sausage is particularly noteworthy, because it is not seen much in other barbecue traditions.  

Many Texas barbecue restaurants still use 100 percent wood-burning pits.

KANSAS

Kansas City, in the state of Missouri, is known for its eclectic approach to barbecue and has hundreds of barbecue restaurants. The rich tradition of BBQ there borrows from many different regions and techniques but, overall, Kansas City BBQ can be characterized by a wide assortment of slowly cooked meats, a sauce-heavy approach, and very little focus on side dishes, apart from bread and pickles. The sauce, often labeled ‘KC’ is what one might call ‘middle of the road’ – a sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce. As for the type of meat that is barbecued, there’s no limit, but pulled pork, lamb, and mutton are high on the list, and the meats are commonly smoked with hickory and oak but wood type varies.

Barbie is Australian slang for barbecue, which typically refers to grilling in Australia.

Kansa City’s open-minded approach to BBQ has even led to a prized delicacy: burnt ends. When a brisket is smoked, the fatty ends of the cut take the brunt of the heat flow and become crispy and charred. Once considered inedible, pitmasters began covering them in barbecue sauce and selling them as a sandwich. Turns out that crispy fat, combined with a vinegary barbecue sauce tastes pretty good.

It should be mentioned that stainless steel ovens are being used more and more in Kansas City, for the sake of convenience, so purists might find themselves longing for Texas-style barbecue. 

AUSTRALIA

You’ve likely heard the phrase “put another shrimp on the barbie.” Barbie is Australian slang for barbecue, which typically refers to grilling in Australia. The barbecue ritual Down Under thrives on beaches and ranges from small, portable grills to luxurious ‘al fresco’ (outdoor) kitchens.  

In the Southern Hemisphere, summer arrives just in time for Christmas, and Australians commonly grill prawns in honor of the holiday. Beyond prawns, you’ll find lamb, beef, kangaroo and even emu on an Aussie grill but chicken and pork are less common. One common offering is simply a sausage on white bread with mustard. As for sides, baked potatoes, corn cobs, and onions cooked in beer are commonly enjoyed. It’s fair to say that Aussies don’t overcomplicate their BBQ fare. Quality meat, a hot grill and a cold beer is their magic combination. 

In its purest form, barbacoa is a whole animal slow-cooked over an open fire pit.

MEXICO

Did you know that the word barbecue comes from the Spanish word “barbacoa?” It was the name given to the cooking style of a people indigenous to the Caribbean called the Taíno, before migrating to Mexico. 

In its purest form, barbacoa is a whole animal (i.e. sheep, goat) slow-cooked over an open fire pit. Traditional barbacoa involves digging a hole in the ground and placing meat above a pot so that the juices can be used to make a broth but, today,  the term may refer to meat steamed until tender. 

Traditionally, the animal, which varies based on the region of Mexico, and pit are covered with agave leaves (maguey),  and set alight, releasing steam as they cook and imparting the meat with a flavor reminiscent of tequila. In central Mexico, lamb is most common, while in Yucatan,  pork is the meat of choice. Barbacoa is a rich, fatty dish known for its strong flavor and is commonly served on warm corn tortillas with salsa, diced onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

ARGENTINA

This country is known for its rich and passionate barbecue culture. Argentinian barbecue equals huge slabs of meat smoked over an open fire pit or cooked on a grill known as a parrilla. Sides include salads, grilled vegetables and chimichurri sauce,  a marinade of parsley, garlic, oregano, and vinegar, for dipping. 

It’s quite common for people of Argentina to attend a belly stretching, asado (barbecue) almost weekly! During these hourlong affairs, many meats are charred, including pork and beef sausage, sweetbreads, wild boar and blood sausages. At the very top of the list though, is beef short ribs. Unlike other cultures, the meat for an asado is not marinated, but is heavily salted before cooking.