Many people use the terms barbecue and grilling interchangeably, but the truth is they are two very different things. That drives some barbecue aficionados crazy and you’d better not send them an invitation to a BBQ Party when what you’re really doing is grilling.
Strictly speaking, barbecue is a low-heat, indirect cooking method that uses wood generated smoke to flavor the meat. The Barbecue is particularly popular in the South and in Texas where they smoke pulled pork and brisket. The meat cooks slowly at a low heat (about 250 degrees) for a long time (up to 12 or 18 hours) in a smoker until it practically falls apart in your fingers. If you don’t have a smoker, you can also use a charcoal or gas grill to smoke your meat.
On the other hand, grilling is done hot and fast directly over fire or hot coals. Grilling is typically done at temperatures around 450 to 650 degrees and the meat cooks much more quickly. Grilling is great for smaller cuts of meat like steak, burgers, hot dogs, chicken breast, or shrimp. Of course, you can cook larger pieces like a brisket, a whole chicken, or a ham by using the indirect grilling method.
Indirect grilling is when you set up your grill so the coals or fire are on one side of the grill while the meat cooks on the unlit portion. Or, if you use a gas grill with three burners, you can light the left and right burner and leave the center one off (that’s where you put your meat).
Indirect grilling turns your grill into a kind of outdoor oven and let’s you cook your meat slowly without burning. You can also add some wood chips to smoke the meat and add some extra flavor. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat, but keep the grill covered as much as possible. Every time you open the cover you let heat escape and it will take longer for your meat to cook.
What’s in a Name?
In the South, you might lose your neighbor’s respect if you referred to grilling as barbecue. But here in New Jersey most people use the terms interchangeably. To “barbecue” here simply means any kind of outdoor cooking over fire or coals.
The word barbecue may also be used to refer to a piece of cooking equipment (I’m shopping for a new barbecue grill!), or a party or meal where grilled meat will be served (You’re all invited to my barbecue party this weekend!).
One time I received an invitation to a “BBQ Party” at a friend’s house only to find out there was no barbecue or grilling going on at all. Instead they served sub sandwiches they had ordered from a local deli. Let’s just say there were a lot of disappointed faces that day.
Barbecue or Barbeque?
The correct way to spell barbecue is the way I just did…with a C. That’s the way you’ll see it spelled on this site, though I’ll sometimes abbreviate it as BBQ.
What about barbeque? Sorry, but that’s just a misspelling. Don’t believe me? Just try Googling it and you’ll see this:
That’s Google recognizing what you were really searching for even though you misspelled it. This mispelled version of barbeque is often used due to the pronunciation. Since you’re making the Q sound at the end people naturally assume there is a Q near the end of the word. You might even see websites and restaurants using the Q spelling, not realizing they’ve spelled their own business name wrong.
That said, I’m not a stickler for grammar or spelling. If you want to use barbeque instead of barbecue, go for it. I won’t be offended. 🙂