With the scent of summer and warm weather, there’s nothing more fun than having an outdoor cooking session. Open space, vegetables and meat or fish with lots of sauces, condiments, rice as well as firewood or outdoor grills and everyone is getting set for the weekend family cookout. Interestingly one may be naturally guess that the concept of outdoor cooking has been there since the time of the prehistoric man. While in the early years, it was more of a necessity than leisure; over time it became an occasion for gatherings, mass cooking as well as festive or season celebrations.
“If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbecue.” Katie Lee
Contrary to popular notion, grilling and barbecue aren’t the same. The initial years had seen majority of outdoor or open fire cooking where in the art of getting vegetables and meat well done were perfected. Slowly there were distinct methods and styles as well as flavours of getting food well done over fire were learnt and modified, like smoking, roasting or baking, braising and grilling. While these may be largely encompassed under the banner of barbecue, there subtle distinctions by the manner each is done. Each technique by which it is named so involves cooking using smoke at low temperatures and the duration of cooking hours from few to several. While baking uses an oven to convection cook with moderate temperatures for an average cooking time of about an hour; braising combines direct, dry heat charbroiling on a ribbed surface with a broth-filled pot for moist heat. Grilling is done over direct, dry heat, usually over a hot fire for a few minutes. Technically barbecue is a method as well as an apparatus for cooking meat, poultry and occasionally fish with the heat and hot smoke of fire, smoking wood or hot coals of charcoal.
“There are two different things: there’s grilling, and there’s barbecue. Grilling is when people say, ‘We’re going to turn up the heat, make it really hot and sear a steak, sear a burger, cook a chicken.’ Barbecue is going low and slow.” Guy Fieri
Since the pre-colonization era, grilling had existed in the Americas. However, the origin of the term “barbecue” can’t be exactly determined. The earliest records were that when the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, had seen the natives like the Arawak people of South America or the Caribbean Taino Indians (accounts vary) who had a method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden (or green sticks) structure known as “barbacoa” in Spanish. For centuries, the term barbacoa referred to the wooden structure and not the act of grilling, but it was eventually modified to “barbecue”.
As per the records of the earliest English tales of barbecue as written by Edward Ward ( 18th century) in his travel accounts, “The Barbacue Feast: or, the three pigs of Peckham, broil’d under an apple-tree.” As per his story, the social aspects of “cooking food over fire” for several hours while enjoying the evening was a new and noteworthy experience. Later on this techniques had caught on and with the spread of colonies, civil wars and later, as festive or celebratory occasions, the technique, art, style and precision of cooking by “barbecue” were perfect and made into an enjoyable social as well as family occasion.
“Cooking and eating food outdoors makes it taste infinitely better than the same meal prepared and consumed indoors.” Fennel Hudson
Across the globe, similar techniques were being practiced like the Korean barbecue features thin slices of beef or pork cooked and served with rice, Argentinian “asado” or marinade-free meat cooked in a smokeless pit and the Indian “tandoor” cooking. The “tandoor” is a large pot, typically buried in the ground up to its neck with hot coals added to the bottom. Made of ceramic, the Tandoor holds in the heat and focuses it on the food cooked inside. With the “true barbecue” has evolved into its’ distinct style over the years; summer evenings and holidays turned into occasions of fun, beating the heat and humid season. With a range of styles from open pit or fire cooking to grills or barbecue, outdoor cooking of summer is indeed an experience to try as well as appreciate.