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Barbecue or barbeque with abbreviations BBQ, Bar-B-Q and Bar-B-Que is a method and apparatus for cooking food, with the heat and hot smoke of a fire, wood, hot coals of charcoal, gas or even electricity and may include application of a marinade, spice rub or basting sauce to the meat.
The term as a noun can refer to the meat, the cooking apparatus itself or to a party that includes such food. The term as an adjective can refer to foods cooked by this method. The term is also used as a verb for the act of cooking food in this manner. Barbecue is usually cooked in an outdoor environment heated by the smoke of wood or charcoal. Restaurant barbecue may be cooked in large brick or metal ovens specially designed for that purpose.
Barbecue has numerous regional variations in many parts of the world. Notably, in the Southern United States, practitioners consider barbecue to include only indirect methods of cooking over hardwood smoke, with the more direct methods called grilling.
In British usage, barbecuing and grilling refer to a fast cooking process directly over high heat, while grilling also refers to cooking under a source of direct, high heat. Known in the U.S. and Canada as broiling. In US English usage, however, grilling refers to a fast process over high heat, while barbecuing refers to a slow process using indirect heat and/or hot smoke (very similar to some forms of roasting). For example, in a typical U.S. home grill, food is cooked on a grate directly over hot charcoal, while in a U.S. barbecue the coals are dispersed to the sides or at significant distance from the grate. Its South American versions are the southern Brazilian churrasco and the Argentine asado.
Alternatively, an apparatus called a smoker with a separate fire box may be used. Hot smoke is drawn past the meat by convection for very slow cooking. This is essentially how barbecue is cooked in most U.S. "barbecue" restaurants, but nevertheless, many consider this to be a distinct cooking process called hot smoking. The slower methods of cooking break down the collagen in meat and tenderizes the tougher cuts for easier eating.
Barbecuing encompasses four or five distinct types of cooking techniques. The original technique is 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. Another technique, known as baking, used a masonry oven or baking oven that uses convection to cook meats and starches 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. Using this technique, cooking occurs at various speeds, starting fast, slowing down, then speeding up again, lasting for a few hours.
Grilling is done over direct, dry heat, usually over a hot fire over 500 °F / 260 °C for a few minutes. Grilling may be done over wood, charcoal, gas or electricity. The time difference between barbecuing and grilling is because of the temperature difference; at low temperatures used for barbecuing, meat takes several hours to reach the desired internal temperature.
Smoking is the process of flavouring, cooking, and/or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood. Meat and fish are the most common smoked foods, though cheeses, vegetables, nuts, and ingredients used to make beverages such as beer or smoked beer are also smoked.
The masonry oven is similar to a smoke pit; it allows for an open flame but cooks more quickly and uses convection to cook. Barbecue-baking can also be done in traditional stove-ovens. It can be used to cook meats, breads and other starches, casseroles, and desserts. It uses direct and indirect heat to surround the food with hot air to cook, and can be basted in much the same manner as grilled foods.
It is possible to braise meats and vegetables in a pot on top of a grill. A gas or electric charbroil grill are the best choices for barbecue-braising, combining dry heat charbroil-grilling directly on a ribbed surface and braising in a broth-filled pot for moist heat. The pot is placed on top of the grill, covered, and allowed to simmer for a few hours. There are two advantages to barbecue-braising; it allows browning of the meat directly on the grill before the braising. It also allows for glazing of meat with sauce and finishing it directly over the fire after the braising. This effectively cooks the meat three times, which results in a soft, textured product that falls off the bone. The time needed for braising varies depending on whether a slow cooker or pressure cooker is used; it is generally slower than regular grilling or baking, but quicker than pit-smoking.
The term barbecue is also used to designate a flavour added to foodstuffs, the most prominent of which are potato chips.