Barbecue terminology for Beginners

Trying to understand basic barbecue terminology when you first get into outdoor cooking can be a bit of a nightmare in fact pretty much the same as when you make the decision to switch to a plant based diet.

 This is our alphabetic guide to basic barbecue so that whether it be from our site or another barbecue themed website you can quickly get to grips with what's being said.

Note that in the interests of completeness there are some terms that appear suited exclusively to cooking meat. Whilst none of the recipes on this site use any animal based product as an ingredient I've concluded that in the interests of being able to "talk" and understand all barbecue conversations then it's important that these terms form part of your barbecue vocabulary. As we go we may even invent a few of our own especially dedicated to vegan barbecue.

The list is in alphabetical order...

A

Afterheat - The distribution of heat through a piece of meat when it is being rested (after it has been removed from the heat). The afterheat can increase core temperature by as much as 5°C or 9°F. Also known as carryover heat.

Al dente - from the Italian meaning "to the tooth" this describes the texture of veggies when cooked. They are not soft but tender with a snap to the texture. Applied to asparagus, broccoli etc.

Asado - Spanish for "roast". A traditional method of grilling meat in Latin America

B

Barbecoa - Central American, thought to be the word from which the French derived the word "barbecue"

Barbecue - how North Americans describe low and slow cooking over smoke. Typically Europeans would use this word to describe the piece of equipment that they are cooking on ie. what an American would describe as a "grill".

Bark - The dark crust that forms on meat when cooked low and slow usually as a combination of the meat drying out and the chemical reaction that takes place on the outer surface of meat at temperatures over 150°C (300°F) called the Maillard reaction.

Baste - The process by which juice or a flavoured liquid is spooned over the food as it is cooked. See also mop.

BBQ Guru - Brand name for a neat piece of kit that monitors oven temperature and then adjusts airflow (by use of a fan) to maintain cooking temperature within set parameters.

Bear Paws - Brand name for hand tools designed to shred meat. The can be used on veggies too and two forks work just as well.

BGE - Abbreviation for Big Green Egg, the original kamado brought to the mass market.

Braai - The South African word for barbecue. Typically a social occasion where wood is first burned to create the charcoal and then the cooking takes place. In the UK a Braai now refers to the piece of equipment similar to a parilla used rather than the event.

Brine - A salt based solution that (dependent on concentration) can be used either to moisturise meat and aid water retention during cooking or to dry meat for preservation as part of a curing process.

Briquette - A spherical block of compressed charcoal and cellulose. Briquettes burn at a high temperature for a constant period of time but deposit significant dust residue.

BTU - British Thermal Units, 1 BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water 1°F. Metric equivalent is a Joule which is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water through 1°C. US manufacturers use BTU to describe the power of a burner however it must be noted that BTU is a measure of power consumption and not output.

Bullet Smoker - A smoker usually made out of thin pressed aluminium. The most recognised (and respected) brand of bullet smoker is the Weber Smoky Mountain.

C

Carryover - The distribution of heat through a piece of meat when it is being rested (after it has been removed from the heat). The carryover can increase core temperature by as much as 5°C or 9°F. Also known as after heat.

Casing - The sheath into which ingredients are stuffed to make a sausage. Casings can be made from a number of materials, some edible, some not.

Ceramic - Common description for a kamado ceramic BBQ grill

Charcoal - The fuel for many barbecue grills made from the combustion of wood in a low oxygen environment. Charcoal is usually sold as lumpwood or briquettes.

Churrasco - Brazilian rotisserie cooking on an almighty large skewer fashionably served vertically and suspended so you can slice off the skewer as you dine.

Cilantro - A green herb used in Indian cookery. UK English is coriander

Cold smoking - A process of using smoke for flavour and preservation but not for cooking. The process takes place at temperatures lower than 29°C or 85°C. Examples of cold smoked product include smoked salmon and cured smoked sausage.

Conduction - The process of cooking by direct heat transfer such as hot-plate or plancha cooking.

Confit - The process by which meat and vegetables are slow cooked in fat or oil.

Convection - The process of cooking where heat is conveyed by airflow.

Coriander - A green herb used in Indian cookery. American English is "cilantro"

Cup - A volumetric measure used in North America. Different ingredients have different densities so to relate the cup uniformly to a weight is not a good calculation. To be exact I always use this website for conversion.

D

Dirty cooking - Cooking directly on the charcoal or wood embers. Dust off any embers that stick to the food and enjoy.

Dutch oven - An earthenware or cast iron pot used for cooking casseroles.

E

Emulsion - A blend of two liquids that won't dissolve. A good example is when making homemade mayonnaise.

Emulsifier - A substance that aids emulsification

F

Fat cap - Referred to as "cover" by UK butchers. It's the hard fat that doesn't render significantly when cooked (and doesn't allow the penetration of smoke). For bacon curing you want the fat cap on but on a pork butt you need to remove the cap if smoking.

Firebox - The chamber in a smoker where the fire is sited. In an offset smoker the firebox is set to the side whereas in a ceramic kamado it is integral to the shell.

G

Grate - The rack where the food is positioned to be cooked. UK equivalent is the grill.

Griddle - A cast iron hotplate or pan that uses conduction heat to cook. Also referred to as a plancha or chapa.

Grill - The UK equivalent of a cooking grate. The US term for a barbecue and the verb to apply direct radiant heat. In short this word means different things to different people dependent on where in the world you come from.

H

Heat Beads - Brand name for a type of charcoal briquette designed to burn hotter and longer than standard briquettes. Marketed toward use with kettle barbecues.

Hibachi - A lined heat proof box that holds charcoal. Of Japanese origin primarily designed to heat the house they can also be used to cook on. Similar to Yakitori.

Hot links - Spiced pork sausages found on barbecue menus in the Southern states of America.

Hot plate - Usually made of cast iron and sited over a heat source for direct conduction cooking and searing. Also Spanish plancha, chapa and a griddle.

Hot smoking - Indirect cooking at 110°C or 225°F whilst passing smoke food. Commonly referred to in North America as barbecue.

I

Indirect cooking - Outdoor cooking using heat transfer by convection.

J

Jalapeno - A type of chilli which when smoked and dried is called a chipotle 

K

Kabob - Cubes of meat and/or veggies cooked on a skewer. American spelling of kebab.

Kamado - Ceramic barbecue grill like the Monolith that I cook on.

KCBS - Kansas City Barbeque Society. The largest BBQ club in the world and benchmark rule setter BBQ meat competitions world-wide.

Kebab - Cubes of meat and veggies cooked on a skewer. UK English spelling of kabob.

KJ - Abbreviation for Kamado Joe, a brand of kamado.

KW - Kilo Watt. Unit of measure for power output. Used in Europe to quantify the power of gas burners.

L

Links - Individual sausages. Technically the link is the twist in the casing that separates the lengths of sausage meat but people tend to refer to the sausage as the link. 

Liquid smoke - The condensed product of the destructive distillation of wood used extensively in mass produced barbecue sauces to give them a smoky flavour. Used in ancient times as embalming fluid!...Hmm.

Low & Slow - The process of cooking at "low" temperature (110°C or 225°F) for a long period of time.

LPG  - Abbreviation for liquid petroleum gas. It can be either propane or butane but for the purposes of barbecue it's tank gas or bottled gas.

Lumpwood - Pure unprocessed charcoal derived from the burning of wood in a low oxygen environment. Charcoal in this state looks like burnt tree branches.

M

Maillard Reaction - a chemical reaction that takes place in meat at or above 150°C or 300°F.

Marinade - A liquid used to flavour veggies.

Mop - Flavoured liquid that is brushed over food as it cooks. See also baste.

N

Natural Gas - Piped gas that comes into the home as opposed to tank gas or bottled gas.

O

Offset smoker - A design of smoker that is very popular in America consisting of a large (usually cylindrical) food chamber the a firebox heat source set to the side.

P

Parilla - An Argentinian style of grill. A wood fire is built to the side of the cooking grate, the embers drop down and are then scattered under the cooking grate.

Pellet grill - Electric powered grill / smoker that used sawdust bound pellets for fuel. Worshiped for their "set and forget" capabilities. Well known examples include Grillson, Green Mountain and Traeger.

Pimenton - Smoked paprika. A wonderful ingredient that adds a natural smoky flavour to rubs and sauces.

Pit - American term for any device that hot smokes / cooks barbecue. Originally it was a hole in the ground lined with wood hence the derivation of the word.

Pizza oven - Wood fired outdoor oven designed to cook at high temperature.

Plate setter - The Big Green Egg branded name for the heat deflector stone in a kamado.

Plank - A piece of wood designed for cooking on indirectly. Usually made of cedar and often used for cooking fish although we have other ideas.

Poaching - Method of cooking in hot (but not boiling water). Popular method of warming hot dogs. Also means the illegal hunting of game without the permission of the landowner.

ProQ - Brand of smoker

Q

Que - Abbreviation for the word barbecue.

R

Rack - Term used to describe a raised grill grate for keeping food warm. The term is also used to describe meat and bones of multiple ribs

Radiation - A method of heat transfer used in cooking.

Render - The process of melting fat

Reverse flow smoker - A design derivation of the offset smoker that helps deliver an even temperature across the cooking chamber. The design adds expense to an offset smoker but is well worth it.

Reverse sear - A technique for cooking steak where the core temperature is slowly increased using indirect heat and then to finish off the steak is slapped over intense direct heat to brown, crisp and caramelize. Some chefs use sous vide techniques instead of the indirect stage.

Rotisserie - Or spit roast. A method of cooking food on a large rotating  metal rod. The heat source can be either direct or indirect. Domestically most rods rotate around a horizontal axis above the heat source however is Southern Europe a vertical axis rotation around a side heat source is common. In Greece referred to as gyros.

S

Seasoning - Seasoning a smoker refers to the preparation process of firing a new smoker to burn off any oil or debris deposited during manufacturing that might taint the flavour of the first cookout. Also herbs and spices added to flavour meat.

Skewers - A length of metal or wood onto which meat and veggies may be threaded prior to create a kebab (kabob). Skewers come in all shapes and sizes.

Smoke Ring - The pink outer ring that's visible on a sliced piece of hot smoked meat. The visibility and depth of the ring are considered a sign of good barbecue but it doesn't form when smoking veggies.

Smoking - The process of passing smoke over food to add flavour and (in the case of meat or fish) to aid preservation.

Sous vide - French meaning "under vacuum". A fashionable way to cook by placing your food in a plastic bag, vacuum sealing it and cooking in a water bath at a controlled temperature. All the moisture and flavour is kept in the bag but there will be no Maillard reaction because water bath cooking is always at temperatures lower that 100°C or 212°F. Searing on a charcoal grill is a great way to finish of any sous vide cookery.

Spit Roast - Or rotisserie. A method of cooking food on a large rotating  metal rod. The heat source can be either direct or indirect. Domestically most rods rotate around a horizontal axis above the heat source however is Southern Europe a vertical axis rotation around a side heat source is common. In Greece referred to as gyros.

Steaming - Method of cooking. 

T

Tandoor - Clay oven used in Indian cooking similar in design to a kamado.

Thermapen - Brand name for a temperature probe. There are cheap imitation but I swear by these.

Two Zone Cooking - The set up in your barbecue where you have both direct and indirect heat simultaneously available.

U

UDS - Abbreviation for a brand of smoker - Ugly Drum Smoker.

V

Vegan - Someone who prefers a diet exclusive of all animal products. 

Vegetarian - Someone who prefers not to eat meat but will eat the products of animals eg. eggs, butter, milk, cheese.

W

Warm smoking - Smoking conducted at temperatures of 90°C or 200°F, generally used for smoking and cooking fish. 

Water smoker - A smoker that has a water bath between the heat source and the food. This water acts as a thermal store helping stabilise temperature and also provides humidity. Most bullet smokers are water smokers.

WSM - Abbreviation for the Weber Smoky Mountain brand. A popular water smoker.

X

Xanthan gum - a natural product used as a thickener and binder, especially prevalent in gluten free products.

Y

Yakitori - A Japanese barbecue grill like an open shoe box. Coals are placed in the bottom and skewers are rolled across the length of the box as they cook.

Z

Zest - The thin outer peel of a citrus fruit. Slightly bitter in flavour it's full of flavour and colour which I like to use in salads and marinades.


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