In the South, it usually refers to a specific kind of preparation of meat — beef, pork or chicken — that involves a thick sauce. In North and South Carolina, that sauce is typically mustard-based. In parts of North Carolina and other parts of the Deep South, it may be vinegar-based. Out west toward Texas and Oklahoma, you’re probably more likely to find a tomato-based formula for the sauce.
As a rule, I tend to prefer the mustard-based sauce, but I’ve also had barbecued pork and spare ribs with the tomato-based sauce that I enjoyed a great deal.
Outside of the South, the word barbecue refers to the act of using a grill to cook meat and vegetables over a fire. No sauce is required. Even in Australia, food grilled over a fire is said to be “on the barbie” for barbecue.
When I hear one of my friends talking about going to a barbecue with their family, I have to think for a moment where they’re from. If they’re not originally from the South, it seems they’re talking about just grilling (which is what we in the South call that kind of barbecuing.
Often, we have to think about the context of such a word to fully interpret its meaning as it was intended by the writer or speaker. Life shouldn’t be so hard, but sometimes, when it comes to our crazy English language, it can be.
When you use the word ‘barbecue,’ what do you mean: cooking over a fire or cooking in a thick sauce?
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.