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In Praise of the Cookout

May 7, 2010

Last year around this time, I wrote a short post about the difference between grilling and barbecue.  And we are getting into the season where people are breaking out their grills and their smokers, so I want to make sure everyone gets this right.

Cooking on a grill over direct high heat is grilling.
Cooking with smoke using indirect low heat is barbecue.

The biggest problem is that barbecue has become a catchall word.  So instead of telling you what not to do, allow me to suggest some helpful alternatives.

The intention here is to maintain the sanctity of barbecue.  Words have meanings.  They symbolize things.  And words are important, despite what my twelfth grade English teacher Mr. Warren used to say.  I’ll remember his refrain until the day I die, “The word is not the thing.”

Well in the case of barbecue his words couldn’t be more true.

Suggestion One
Problem: People host barbecues.  That’s just what these events are traditionally called, regardless of how you intend to cook for your guests.

Solution: If you are breaking out the grill to make burgers, dogs, chicken breasts and some freshly picked corn, you are having a cookout.

Suggestion Two
Problem: There is a dish commonly known as barbecued chicken that 99.9% of the time isn’t barbecued at all.

Solution: Should you slather chicken in a homemade sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce and cook it, you are making chicken with barbeque sauce.

Suggestion Three
Problem: Pulled pork is a thing, and that thing comes from the Carolinas, and it is a holy form of barbeque whose name should not be sullied by lesser dishes.

Solution: A preparation of pork shoulder that has been cooked slowly in a crockpot or oven and then torn into smaller pieces is shredded braised pork.

I’m probably leaving something out.  But you’re smart, and you can pick up what I’m putting down.

If you are planning a cookout this summer, drop me a line, and I’ll do my best to come.
If you are planning a barbecue, drop me a line, and I’ll drop everything I can to make it.

In all seriousness, I’d love to get out and meet some more readers in person.  It helps that I am unafraid of potentially strange and awkward social situations, and that I’m a moderately adept conversationalist.  Although I do have a bad habit of hijacking conversations and talking about food for hours.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 9:49 am

    I know you are baiting me, profussor, so I will rise to the surface and gobble your chum.

    Cooking with smoke using indirect heat is known as… smoking. Duh.

    As for the meaningless word “barbecue”, I dealt with it in this very old post “No ‘Que for You”: http://www.otismaxwell.com/blog/2004/11/no-que-for-you/ Everything still applies except that, sadly, I no longer live around the corner from Memphis Minnie’s and Rudy’s in the Baview has closed its doors.

  2. May 7, 2010 1:53 pm

    Well, there’s your definition, and there are lots of other people’s definitions.

    But I like the use of “cookout” for general cooking-food-outside uses. Really, as long as people BYOB they can call it whatever they want.

  3. Kerosena permalink
    May 7, 2010 3:18 pm

    “Although I do have a bad habit of hijacking conversations and talking about food for hours.”

    My favorite sort of guest! I emailed an invitation to you for our cookout. It’s an open house style event, so drop in or spend the day. We’re starting at 1:00pm on Sunday, May 30. Would any other FUSSYlittleREADERS care to attend? (Hellooo Albany Jane). If so, let me know so I can get the details to you!

    Also Daniel, if you are able to attend, you may enjoy having a conversation with my mother about ham.

  4. May 8, 2010 6:43 am

    Suggestion Two is terrible. I think if I told you that I was making chicken in barbeque sauce, you would imagine that I am somehow sauteing chicken or something. It doesn’t sound like it is being grilled. Grilled chicken is a better suggestion than that.

    Cooking out today! You and The Fussy Family (TM) need to make another trip down to DC so you can hang with my brood one day.

    • Kerosena permalink
      May 9, 2010 9:55 am

      I agree. There’s gotta be a better way to say it than Chicken with Barbeque Sauce. Grilled Chicken BBQ?

  5. May 9, 2010 12:02 pm

    Fussy, isn’t he?

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