Barbecuing encompasses four or five
distinct types of cooking techniques. The original technique
is cooking using smoke at lower temperatures (usually around
240-270 °F or 115-125 °C) and significantly longer cooking
times (several hours), known as smoking.
technique is baking, utilizing a masonry oven or any other
type of baking oven, which uses convection to cook meats and
starches with moderate temperatures for an average cooking
time (about an hour plus a few extra minutes).
Yet another technique is braising, which combines direct
dry heat charbroiling on a ribbed surface with a broth-filled
pot for moist heat, cooking at various speeds throughout the
duration (starting fast, slowing down, then speeding up again,
lasting for a few hours).
Finally, grilling is done over direct dry heat, usually
over a hot fire (i.e., over 500 °F or 260 °C) for a short time
(minutes). Grilling may be done over wood, charcoal, gas
(natural gas or propane), or electricity.
A fifth and emerging type of barbecue technique involves
the use of the slow cooker. Slow cooking is
untraditional in that it involves no smoking, however, since
the flavor of the meat is remarkably similar to that of the
other four styles, slow cooking is considered a legitimate
Smoking can be done with wood or charcoal, although many
common commercial smokers use a gas, such as propane, to heat
up a box of wet wood chips enough to cause smoke. The heat
from the propane fire helps cook the meat while the smoke adds
its unique flavor. The distinction between smoking and
grilling is the heat level and the intensity of the radiant
heat; indeed, smoking is often referred to as "low and slow".
Additionally, during grilling, the meat is exposed to the open
air for the majority of the time. During smoking, the BBQ lid
or smoker door is closed, causing a thick, dense cloud of
smoke to envelop the meat. The smoke must be able to move
freely around the meat and out of the top of the apparatus
quickly; otherwise, foul-tasting creosote will build up on the
meat, giving it a bitter flavor. Smoked meats such as pork
exhibit what is known as a smoke ring: a thin pink layer just
under the surface which is the result of the smoke interacting
with the water in the meat.
masonry oven is similar to a smoke pit in that it allows for
an open flame, but cooks much faster, and uses convection to
cook. Barbecue-baking can also be done in traditional
stove-ovens. It can be used to cook not only meats, but breads
and other starches, and even various casseroles and desserts.
It uses both direct and indirect heat to surround the food
with hot air to cook, and can be basted much the same as
grilled foods. In some cases, the grill can also function like
a bakery oven by putting a drip pan below the cooking surface
rack of a barbecue grill, as well as a baking sheet pan on
top, combining two techniques simultaneously, or one right
after the other, cooking twice, with a duration slightly
longer than grilling.
Meat can also be baked in a pit in the ground, with hot
coals and stones surrounding meat wrapped in wet burlap, wet
leaves or aluminum foil.
It is possible to braise meats
and vegetables in a pot on top of a grill. A gas or electric
charbroil grill would be the best choices for what is known as
barbecue-braising, or combining dry heat charbroil-grilling
directly on a ribbed surface and braising in a broth-filled
pot for moist heat. To braise, put a pot on top of the grill,
cover it, and let it simmer for a few hours. There are two
advantages to barbecue-braising: the first is that this method
now allows for browning the meat directly on the grill before
the braising, and the second is that it also allows for
glazing the meat with sauce and finishing it directly over the
fire after the braising, effectively cooking the meat three
times, which results in a soft textured product that falls
right off the bone. This method of barbecue has a varying
duration (depending on whether a slow cooker or pressure
cooker is used), and is generally slower than regular grilling
or baking, but faster than pit-smoking.
barbecue is also used to designate a flavor added to
foodstuffs, the most prominent of which are potato chips. This
term usually implies a strong smoky flavor and often denotes a
flavor reminiscent of barbecue sauce.