Grilling and barbecue is one of the purest and authentic ways to cook and bring people together in the process. There is something about fire meeting food that unites us all, no matter our origins. Whether a slow burn in an underground pit or the char of a flaming grill, there are many approaches to grilling and cultures have had hundreds, if not thousands, of years to perfect their methods.
Join us as we take a trip through some of the oldest and most distinguished grilling traditions around the world. We hope it inspires you to try something new at your next cookout.
Barbacoa (Puerto Rico, Mexico)
Although barbacoa is a long-standing tradition in Mexico, its oldest roots belong to the Taíno, the native people of Puerto Rico and the West Indies. In Puerto Rico, barbacoa is roasted above ground using a grill made from heat-resistant tree branches. Traditionally, wild game and fish were used, but today domestically raised meats like pork and beef are the protein of choice.
In Mexico barbacoa looks a little bit different. Goat, sheep, and beef are cooked in an underground pit. Depending on the region, agave leaves or banana leaves may cover the meat to infuse flavor and to temper the heat to keep the meat from burning.
Asado (South America)
The South American countries Paraguay, Uruguay, and especially Argentina are renowned for their asado, which translates to "grilled" or "roasted" in Spanish. Typically, an asado will include an assortment of meats like beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, and morcilla, to be grilled over an open fire. An asado is almost always a large social event, complete with plenty of red wine, salads, and classic sauces like chimichurri.
Dibi Hausa (West Africa)
The Hausa people of West Africa, have a long, rich cultural history. Of their many popular street foods, the Hausa approach to grilling is best summed up with dibi, a grilled meat kabob. Pieces of meat, typically lamb, are marinated in a peanut and aromatics spice blend, skewered, and cooked on a grill.
Braai (South Africa)
A braai is the South African version of a cookout, which is taken very seriously. In fact, South Africans have a national Braai Day and an accompanying anthem. A braai uses local wood to grill an array of meats and fish, and South African sausage called boerewors. In addition, there is typically plenty of other distinctly South African dishes like pap, a cornmeal porridge, and chakalaka, baked beans.
Traditional Korean barbecue is cooked by diners at a gas grilled in the center of their table. Diners can order from a menu of marinated meat and seafood plus. Bulgogi, or marinated beef, is one popular choice for Korean barbecue, but galbi, or short ribs, is also often seen. Chapchae, a glass noodle dish, and bibimbap add to the meal. Before the meal and to accompany the barbecue, comes banchan, side dishes, that include rice and kimchi, pickled cucumbers, and more. Add some soju, or Korean rice wine, for a fully authentic experience.
Chuanr & Char Siu (China)
China's approach to grilling varies amongst its provinces. In the Northwestern province of Xinjiang, chuanr is a style of barbecue that typically uses skewers of lamb, covered in a cumin spice mixture. Char siu its rooted in Cantonese cuisine and is made with marinated pork butt or another fatty cut of pork. The characteristically red exterior of char siu is from red bean paste or red yeast rice powder.
Satay (Southeast Asia)
Today, satay is seen all over Southeast Asia but originally it was an Indonesian invention. Made by skewering and grilling tender cuts of meat, satay is then typically served with a peanut-based spiced sauce. The skewers used to grill satay are made from either the rib of a coconut frond or sticks of bamboo. While satay is a common street food, it is often found in many types of restaurants.
Mangal (Middle East)
In the Middle East, the word “mangal” refers to both hosting a barbecue, as well as the grill used to cook. Traditionally, a mangal is fired-up using charcoal, where just about any kind of kebab, from beef shish kebab to adana kebab, can be thrown on top and grilled. Additional dishes you may see at a mangal include sides like tabouleh, assorted olives, and dipping sauces like khyar bi laban.
There are several styles of American barbecue, though the strongest traditions are concentrated in Texas, the Southeast, and the Midwest of the country. The preferred cooking technique involves a wood or charcoal packed smoker, though when it comes time to season and serve the barbecue, this will vary greatly depending on the region. In Alabama, there is barbecue chicken dressed in white sauce, while in Tennessee, it's sweet and
sour Memphis barbecue sauce.