What Is BBQ?

If you wanted a snappy answer to the question “What is BBQ?” — it would be easy to just say: Delicious! But here at Grilla Grills, we’re in it for more than a good laugh, and it turns out that it can be surprisingly hard to actually define the term. After all, there are so many different foods that get the “BBQ” label, from ribs to potato chips! So, is it futile to even try to define the term? Not quite — because there are some common elements that can help you understand BBQ better. And the better you understand your BBQ, the more you’ll be able to master what the art is all about: making delicious food!

fresh cut roast from the grill

What Is BBQ?

No matter how many styles exist, everything that can reasonably be called BBQ shares one secret ingredient: wood smoke. Smoke does the hard work of making a tough slab of brisket melt-in-your-mouth tender by breaking down fat and connective tissue inside the meat. It also provides the signature savory flavor that makes BBQ so ridiculously tasty. Right about now, you’re probably thinking of the many different ways you’ve heard the term “BBQ” used, including:

  • Any food cooked outdoors, on any kind of grill or over an open flame
  • An event (spelled as “a barbecue”) where people gather to eat BBQ food
  • A type of sauce and/or flavoring inspired by Southern BBQ sauces

Folks who draw a line between BBQ and grilling usually say that speed and temperature are the difference. Grilling is cooking hot and fast, while BBQ is low and slow, often cooked over a period of many hours. While this can be a useful definition, remember that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. There’s a lot of room in between to experiment! 

It’s a Southern Thing

When we say “BBQ,” however, we’re mostly talking about Southern-style BBQ. This specific version of the cooking style originated (as you might guess) in the American South, but it has spread across the country to be cooked and enjoyed by people everywhere. Southern BBQ is a prime example of the low and slow style, always cooked over wood (typically either wood pellets or lump charcoal). Even within the Southern style, you’ll find tons of geographic variations like Memphis style, Texas style and North Carolina style. Those who practice this noble art are known as pitmasters. Typically, they use a BBQ tool set that includes tools such as a spatula and tongs. Their ultimate weapon, however, has always been the smoke itself!

Find the Perfect Wood Pellets for BBQ Smoking

plate of ribs with kongo kick sauce

A Brief History of BBQ

The word “barbecue” is derived from barbacoa, a word that Spanish colonizers picked up from Taino Native Americans in the West Indies. These tribes slow-cooked their meat on wooden structures over smoky fires. The Spanish, realizing how tasty and versatile this cooking method was, began to use it themselves and spread it around the world.

Smoking meat for preservation was already a well-established tradition, but barbacoa or barbecue gave a name to a whole range of dry-heat cooking styles that evolved in the centuries after. When backyard grills and smokers became popular in the mid-20th century, a new era of BBQ began as the average person suddenly found themselves with the tools to become a pitmaster. Fast forward to today, and a mind-boggling number of grills and smokers are available to modern pitmasters. From the tradition and versatility of kamado ceramic grills to the coolest tech like WiFi pellet grills, the options are just about endless! 

Classic BBQ Recipes

Ultimately, the best way to learn about BBQ is to cook (and eat) a lot of it! With that in mind, here are four go-to selections from our trove of pellet grill recipes that any pitmaster will recognize as staples of the style:

  • Baby Back Ribs: These pork ribs are among the all-time top BBQ dishes because of the bonanza of flavors they bring to the table.
  • Pulled Pork: A pork shoulder, slow-smoked and then shredded, is the basis for this deliciously versatile BBQ dish.
  • Brisket: Brisket is the king of beef BBQ, and the results are worth the patience and steady hand required to bring it home.
  • Whole BBQ Chicken: Tender, tasty and easy to make, BBQ chicken is a crowd-pleasing cookout essential.

Shop Our Full Selection of Grill Accessories

man eating grilled rib

An average BBQ enjoyer.

At the end of the day, whatever you consider “BBQ,” Grilla Grills is here to unite everybody who loves outdoor cooking. That’s why we build grills that allow pitmasters to cook using a huge variety of temperatures and techniques! Models like the Silverbac and the Kong are perfect for cooking low and slow, hot and fast and anywhere in between. 

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