The word is derived from barbacoa, an Arawak Indian name that Spaniards applied to a sturdy wooden or cane framework on which meat was grilled or dried. On their expeditions across the South, Hernando de Soto and his men discovered Native Americans roasting game on barbacoas.
Cooking methods include pit cooking, grilling, and smoking. Each of these methods imparts a different flavor to the final product.
Many types of meat are barbecued, ranging from beef and whole hogs to chicken and, along the coast, fish and shellfish. Pork—primarily ribs, shoulders, and hams—is the meat of choice for Georgia barbecues. In other southern states, chicken, mutton, goat, or beef is the preferred meat.
Whether homemade or commercial, the barbecue sauce is an integral part of the dish. Each area of the South has its own characteristic sauce. Vinegar-based in eastern North Carolina, it becomes thicker and more tomato-based farther west. South Carolina barbecue sauce traditionally is mustard-based, while north and middle Georgia boasts a spicy and sweet thin, red sauce made with tomatoes, vinegar, and mustard.
Barbecue has far-reaching cultural significance for Georgians. It is usually the food of choice at tailgate parties, regardless of outdoor temperatures.
Barbecue restaurants (also known as huts, joints, shacks, and kitchens) have proliferated throughout Georgia and the southern states. Not all establishments serve an authentic barbecue, however; some use a mass-produced product instead of cooking it on the premises, which is labor intensive. Local residents are usually willing to tell a traveler where the best barbecue can be found.
James Auchmutey and Susan Puckett, The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Cookbook (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1995).
John T. Edge, Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover's Companion to the South (Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press, 2000).
Steven Raichlen, The Barbecue! Bible (New York: Workman, 1998).
Andrew Warnes, Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
Timothy W. Patridge, Morris Brown College
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