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Barbecue, more than just a cooking method.

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Barbecue, as we usually name indistinctively the cooking method, a style of food, and the name for a meal or gathering at which this style of food is cooked and served, is, in fact, a way of life: a tried and true method.

From the careful selection of an ideal cut and type of meats to then spending hours carefully stoking fires and encouraging the meat, where smoke has the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The original technique is the one we honoured at Hotbox: cooking using smoke at low temperatures—usually around 240–280 °F or 115–145 °C—and significantly longer cooking times -several hours-, known as smoking.

Grilling is done over direct, dry heat, usually over a hot fire over 500 °F for a few minutes. May be done over wood, charcoal, gas, or electricity.

The time difference between smoking and grilling is because of the temperature difference; at low temperatures used for smoking, meat takes several hours to reach the desired internal temperature.

Mankind have been cooking meat since the discovery of fire but it’s impossible to point to any one person or culture that “invented” the barbecue method of cooking.

Around one million years ago Homo erectus, the hominid just before Neanderthal man, first tasted cooked meat with fire.

There is evidence that early humans living in the area around Carmel, about 200,000 years ago were serious about barbecue. From bone and tool evidence, these early hunters preferred large mature animals and cuts of meat that had plenty of flesh on them. They left heads and hooves in the field. From burn marks around the joints and scrape marks on the bones, there is evidence that these cave dwellers knew how to cook.

But barbecues the way that we know them now, meat covered in spices and basting sauce cooked over a grill or pit, was, in fact, originated in the Caribbean.

The word “barbecue” came into English via the Spanish, who adopted the term from the Arawak Indians of the Caribbean, to whom the barbecue was a grating of greenwood upon which strips of meat were placed to cook or to dry over a slow fire. Barbecue means, literally, a framework of sticks.

Spanish explorers took the word barbecue back to Spain, where it appeared in print for the first time in 1526. For a while, barbecue still referred to the structure that food was cooked in, but after a while, people started using it to refer to the process of cooking food in a barbecue and the cooked food itself.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first recorded use of the word in the English language in 1697 by the British buccaneer William Dampier.

One fanciful etymology story about the word credit the word barbecue to the French. They believe it’s a combination of “barbe à queue”. Meaning, from beard to tail, and referring to roasting a whole pig.

The largest attendance at a barbecue is 45,252 people at an event organised by Estado de Nuevo Leon (Mexico) at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, on 18 August 2013.

The longest barbecue measured 8,000 meters (20,246 feet) and was created by the people of Bayambang, (Philippines), in Bayambang, Pangasinan, the Philippines on 4 April 2014. It took place during the Malangsi Fish-tival to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city Bayambang. The barbecue was made up of 8,000 grills connected to each other, each measuring 1 m in length, 58 cm in height and 21 cm in width.

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