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BBQ Terms: A complete A-to-Z Guide


Whether you are new to grilling, or you are a seasoned pitmaster, there will come times when you will think “What the hell does that mean??”. Well, it’s for that very reason that we have put together this complete glossary of BBQ Terms.

We will keep it updated regularly, and if you think we should add anything to the list, please leave a comment below.

Barbacoa

Barbacoa is a dish that originates in central Mexico. In the US it is most commonly made with beef, but in Mexico, it is also commonly made with goat. Traditionally it is mead from a cows head, and the word Barbeque actually comes from the word Barbacoa, although they have different meanings.

Traditional barbacoa is slow-steamed, in an oven that is constructed in a hole in the ground. The steaming renders the meat really tender and delicious.

Barbecue Sauce

Southern Soul Barbeque BBQ Sauce - Award Winning BBQ Sauce, Hot Sauce, and Dry Rub Seasoning Mix Bundle

Barbeque sauce is typically a tomato-based sauce, flavored with herbs and spices. There are an absolute ton of BBQ sauces available on the market, but most serious pitmasters will have created their own special blend, to personalize their cook that little bit more. Barbeque can range from sweet, salty, smokey, spicy and just about everywhere in between!

BBQ sauce can also vary from region to region. For example, Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce is thick, spicy and also sweet through the addition of sugar and molasses. Texas sauce tends to be thinner consistency than Kansas City Style.

If you don’t want to make your own, there are loads available to buy online.

Bark

Bark is the crunchy coat that is left on your meat after a smoke. It is a combination of your rub, the flavor from the smoke, the juices from the meat, and any spritz you might have used. For most pitmasters, getting a nice dark and crispy bark is the holy grail of BBQ, especially when it comes to brisket.

Depending on whether or not you wrap your meat, it can affect the consistency of the bark. If you wrap your meat, the steam and moisture that is inside the wrap softens the bark and can take away that crunch, but it adds other benefits like keeping your meat moist.

Bear Claws

These are called many things: bear claws, bear paws, wolf claws, etc. But we stick to bear claws! They are a really handy tool to help you shred up your meat to make pulled pork, shredded beef or shredded chicken.

They are also really great if you ever get in an argument over who is the best pitmaster! Just kidding.

These are the ones that we use, you can check them out here. They are great because they are almost like knives instead of claws, so they slice through the meat with ease!

Beer

Whether you are a greenhorn BBQer, or a seasoned veteran, all pitmasters will know that beer is one of the most vital ingredients in any cook!

We all know the satisfaction of sitting back on a sunny Sunday afternoon, cracking open a beer, watching some football and waiting for your delicious meat to be ready.

It is usually good to add at least 6 beers to your shopping list for a cookout!

Beer Can Chicken

As well as being a delicious, thirst-quenching beverage, beer can actually be used during a cook!

Beer can chicken is where you insert an open can of beer into the cavity of a chicken, and stand the chicken upright on the grill so the beer doesn’t spill out. As the chicken cooks, the beer evaporates keeping the bird moist, and almost basting it in beer from the inside.

We actually got one of these devices by Steven Raichlen that allows you to add any type of liquid you like to your bird and also keeps the chicken a bit sturdier when standing up. So far we have tried orange juice and white wine in this contraption.

Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg is a really popular type of smoker grill. It is a kamado type grill, which means that it is made from ceramic, and has an egg-like shape.

These types of grills are charcoal-fired and are really great for slow cooking and smoking. The ceramic body makes it really easy to control the temperate by just using the vents. These grills are also fairly fuel economical.

For slow cooking, you will use a deflector plate, which disperses the heat from rising up directly and hitting your meat. Instead, it disperses the heat around the grill.

Black & Blue

Balck and Blue style refers to a style of cooking beef, where the outside is well done and has a crunchy char, but the inside is very rare.

Brine

Many of the top pitmasters will brine their meat before they cook. It helps to keep the meat moist, and also adds more flavor.

What is Brining?

Brining is the process of marinating your meat in a saltwater solution, usually overnight before a cook, but even 20 minutes can make a difference. Some pitmasters brine for days beforehand. Brining is most suitable for chicken and especially pork.

Generally, you add one tablespoon of salt per cup of water. Fill up a basin or Tupperware with enough liquid to completely submerge the meat, and leave to brine for your desired time. After brining, you should pat your meat dry before applying your rub.

Brisket

Brisket is a piece of meat that comes from the chest of a cow. The Brisket is a tough cut of meat, which makes it ideal for cooking low and slow, to get it as tender as possible. A full brisket is called a Packer Cut, and consists of two parts: the point and the flat.

The point is the thicker end and also the fattier part. I will have more of a fat cap, and also has a layer of at running through it (which helps keep the meat really juicy in the center).

The flat is the thinner and leaner end of the brisket.

Burnt ends

Burnt Ends, also known as Meat Candy, are generally made from brisket or pork belly.

Despite the name, Burnt Ends are not bits of meat that have been charred to oblivion! They are cubed pieces of smoked brisket or pork belly, that are layered in sweet and sticky BBQ sauce, and put back on the smoker until the sauce carmelizes.

Cast Iron Cookware

cast iron skillet steak

We love cast iron cookware. It has a weight that just oozes quality, and they are almost indestructible once you look after them right.

They are also amazing at getting a perfect sear on your meat. Just heat up the pan to screamingly hot temperatures, and flash sear your meats on each side.

This Lodge Cast Iron Skillet 3-Pack is one of the best investments we have ever made. Great value too.

Collagen

Collagen is a protein found in meat, that converts to gelatin when added to water and at a temperature of 160. Many pitmasters attribute ‘the stall’ to the collagen conversion process, as it breaks down and converts to gelatin.

Cowboy Barbecue

Cowboy BBQ, or Cowboy Style, is a more primitive style of cooking. Generally, it refers to cooking directly over an open flame or directly on top of the coals, and tends to favor mesquite as a smoking wood of choice.

Dry Brining

Dry brining is the process of covering your meat with salt a few hours before cooking. Where regular bringing is where you submerge your meat in salty water for longer periods before cooking, some argue dry brining gets similar results, but acts faster and uses less salt.

Dry-aged Beef

beef

Dry Aging is when beef is stored and hung in a cool dry environment for a number of weeks. This process increases the tenderness and flavor of the beef. Generally, only good quality cuts of meat are dry-aged, as they need an even distribution of fat. Ideal steaks for dry aging include fillet, porterhouse, and ribeye.

Pat LaFreidia is one of America’s most famous butchers. Based in New York, they have an amazing array of dry-aged beef that can be ordered online straight to your door.

Fat Cap

The fat cap is the thick layer of fat the covers the length of certain cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder or beef brisket. There is much debate on whether the fat cat should be removed or not before smoking or BBQing. Most people at least trim it back a little, with others removing it completely.

The fat cap can protect the meat from the heat of the grill, and when it melts it can additional moistness to the meat, but the outer layer of the cap is too hard to melt.

Grate

Your grate is simply where you put your meat on top of your grill. It should be cleaned thoroughly after each cook to prevent a buildup of bacteria.

Grates are generally made from stainless steel or cast iron. Depending on how much you BBQ, you may have to replace your grill after a few years of regular use. There are tons of replacement grate options available.

Grilling

Grilling is simply defined as the method of cooking where the food is cooked by applying direct heat to the surface of the food. You can grill all manner of food (but you already knew that, didn’t you!). meat, seafood, and vegetables all make great grilling foods.

Indirect Heat Cooking

Indirect heat cooking is where your food is placed away from the heat source. When your food is not directly above the heat source, it allows your food to cook slower, and allows the fats in meats more time to break down.

Smoking is one type of INdirect Heat Cooking, but you don’t absolutely have to use smoke. If you have a kettle grill or a kamado-style grill, you can get a plate setter to block the direct heat from hitting your food. This creates an oven effect in your grill, that you can control the temperature of, and add wood chips to if you like.

Kamado

A Kamado is a style of grill, that is egg-shaped and made of ceramic. These grills offer excellent heat retention, so are great for getting a really even cook.

There are tons of different Kamado grills on the market, with two major players being Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe.

Low ‘n’ Slow

Low ‘n’ Slow is a popular method of cooking, that involves cooking a piece of meat at a lower temperature, for a longer length of time. The Low ‘n’ slow method of cooking is particularly popular with the cheaper and fattier cuts of meat, as the process gives the fibers and fats more time to break down. The end result is a juicier and more tender piece of meat.

Popular cuts of meat for low ‘n’ slow cooking include beef brisket, short ribs, and tri-tip, and pork shoulder, belly and ribs.

Maillard Reaction

Although BBQ has the impression of being a primal way of cooking (indeed I know a lot of pitmasters that look like cavemen), there is in fact a lot of science involved in the way the fibers of the meat break down.

When the heat hits your meat on the grill, it breaks down the food’s proteins into amino acids. These amino acids themselves create reactions with the sugars in the food to produce the flavor.

Marinade

A marinade is a liquid substance that is applied to meat prior to cooking, with the goal of tenderizing and adding flavor to the meat. Marinades are generally a combination of oils, acids, herbs, spices, and sugars. It is usually applied to the meat for any duration from 1 hour to 24 hours before a cook. Depending on how acidic your marinade is will determine how much your meat breaks down. Some common ingredients in marinates are:

  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime Juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Chilli Powder
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Brown Sugar
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro

Membrane

The membrane is the white layer on the underside of a rack of pork ribs. It is like a tough, stretchy piece of skin. The membrane should always be removed before cooking, as leaving it in place will result in a tougher piece of meat.

If you leave your membrane on your ribs, your rub/marinade and sauce will only be able to penetrate one side of the meat.

Pellet Grill

Pellet grills are a type of grill/smoker that combines the best elements of traditional smokers, bbq grills, and conventional ovens., with Traeger being the pioneers in this area.

First off, pellet grills run on electricity, so you will need to be near a power outlet. The electricity is used to power the ‘hopper’. The hopper is where you fuel chamber would sit on a traditional offset smoker, on the side of the main chamber. The electric hopper is filled with wood pellets, that are slowly released into the burner to create smoke.

This is really convenient for long smokes, as you don’t keep having to add fule manually and regulate the temperature. It is also known as a ‘set-and-forget’ system.

Of course, some BBQ purists will say that the grill is doing the work for you and that a true pitmaster will use charcoal (and they are right), but this is a convenient option for those who don’t have the time to monitor an 8-12 hour cook.

Pitmaster

This one is hard to define. Some pitmasters view themselves as God’s gift to mortal cooking, master of fire and smoke. Some pitmasters wives might define them as guys who drink to much beer and spend too much time with the BBQ.

Either way, one thing all pitmasters have in common is the virtue of patience, in pursuit of deliciously cooked food.

Whether you cook on a $25 grill or a $5,000 custom rig, being a pitmaster is all about your attitude and commitment to your draft.

Arguing with other pitmasters about techniques is a necessity!

Planking

Planking is a BBQ technique where a plank of wood is placed over the heat source, and you cook your meat or fish on top of the plank. As the food cooks, it picks up some of the flavors from the wood and from the smoke that the plank creates.

To plank cook, you should first soak the wood in water for at least 30 minutes. You are then ready to cook. You can place your plank either directly over your heat source, or indirectly. If you go direct, be warned that the heat might burn right through your plank, so take care!

Serious Eats has a great Guide to Planking if you would like to find out more.

Pork Butt

Pork Butt (also called Boston Butt) is a cut of meat that comes from just above the shoulder of a hog. While a Pork Shoulder and a Pork Butt are often used interchangeably, the butt is slightly higher on the hog leg.

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a when you cook a cut of pork (usually a fatty cut such as pork shoulder) low and slow until it is falling off the bone. The pork is then shredded (or pulled) using a fork, or Bear Claws. You can then add some of your juice from the cook, or BBQ sauce to add even more flavor.

Reverse Sear

Reverse Sear is a cooking technique that sees you slow cooking a piece of meat, and then searing the outside at a really high temperature at the end of the cook.

Traditionally, chefs would sear a piece of meat first, and then slow cook it. The issue with this is that it tightens up the exterior of the meat, so not as much smoke and flavor can actually penetrate the meat during the slow cook.

With the reverse sear, you slow cook a piece of meat in your grill or smoker. When it reaches your desired internal temperature (or just below it) you slam it onto a searing hot cast iron pan or grill and cook for about 30-60 seconds on each side to create a beautifully seared crust on the meat.

This technique is primarily used for thick cuts of steak.

Rub

Rub (or Dry Rub) is a mix of herbs and spices that is applied to the exterior of a piece of meat before a cook. While there are tonnes of rubs available on the market, a lot of pitmasters like to develop their own secret recipe.

A rub adds a lot of flavor to the meat during the cook and also contributes to your meat getting a nice bark coating during a smoke.

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