The History of Barbecue

Barbecues are one of the favorite cooking activities of Americans. Most of us have a barbecue session at our places regardless of what season it is. While the trend of barbecue continues to increase, the history of barbecue is quite interesting too. Unlike the modern grills and an easy mechanism for cooking, barbecue wasn’t an easy job in the earlier times. 

What is Barbecue?

For those who don’t know, Barbecue is a special way of cooking your food. It requires a grill where you can cook meat items. The barbecue grill can be powered up using different types of fuels such as wood, charcoal, and gas. The reason why barbecues are quite popular is because of charcoal as it gives a unique smoky taste to the food. 

Popular dishes that are prepared through barbecue grills include steaks, kebabs, and chicken chunks. Grilled chicken is also prepared in a similar way which is then used for a variety of burgers and sandwiches. Although barbecuing takes a longer time to prepare the food because there is low heat, the taste is quite delicious which becomes a motivation for many people.

Charcoal is one of the most used fuels for firing up a barbecue grill. 

History of Barbecue

The basic art of barbecue is to grill meat rather than cooking it using specialized pots and pans. Historians believe that the first signs of barbecue were seen in America after Columbus landed there in 1492. The Spaniards were roasting meat over a grill that had a wooden frame while resting on sticks above fire. The unique combination of flames and smoke gave the meat a unique aroma and tasty delicacy. 

According to research by Planet Barbecue, the word first appeared in print in the account of the West Indies by a Spanish explorer in 1526.  However, barbecue was not even a proper word up until 1648. Linguists believe that the word was introduced into English as well as other languages such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese by 1648. However, the first known term for barbecue was barbacado.

During the mid-1600s, barbecue started to be considered a technique for cooking food. However, barbecue got more famous as a technique due to the writings about it rather than due to the technique itself. For example, in 1661, Edmund Hickeringill wrote “Some are slain, And their flesh forthwith Barbacu’d and eat” in his Jamaica Viewed. Further, in 1697, William Dampier wrote “and lay there all night, upon our Borbecu’s, or frames of Sticks raised about 3 feet from the Ground ”. 

The write-ups of these travel stars became quite popular which not only gave the technique its word but started to make barbecuing quite famous all over the US. As the colonial era grew, barbecues started to become more common as they were consumed by the elites as well as the slaves. Furthermore, the first President of the United States, George Washington, wrote that he went to Alexandra for a barbecue and stayed up all night. Even when Abraham Lincoln’s parents got married, the menu consisted of barbecue dishes. 

The LazyMan Model AP, the world's first portable gas grill.

History of Barbecue Grills

The technique of using charcoal and wood to smoke meat was discovered quite long ago but it was during the colonial era where the act of grilling started to become common. The pit-style cooking techniques were used. However, it was not until the 1900s when the first-ever grills were invented. 

The gas grill was invented by Don McGlaughlin in the late 1930s who was the owner of the Chicago Combustion Corporation. McGlaughlin invented the first built-in gas grill from the gas broiler named “Broilburger”. The grill was outstanding for the customers because it was an open-fire charcoal-type gas broiler using permanent coals. The permanent coals were basically lava rocks that could be used for longer times. To ensure that the commercial integrity of the product is regained effectively, the term broiler was used instead of barbecue. 

Barbecue grill. 

The hemisphere grill design was introduced by George Stephen during the late 1940s. Stephen was a welder by profession where his task was to weld the steel spheres to make buoys. With a high speed of wind blowing ash onto his food, Stephen stepped up for a change and took the lower half of the buoy, welded legs on it, and installed a shallower hemisphere that could be used as a lid. The idea seemed simple but solved a major problem which is why he later started his own company by the name of Weber-Stephen Products Company which sold various barbecue grills in 1952. 

By 1954, the gas open-broiler design was also introduced and was considered the first-ever portable gas grill. Chicago Combustion Corporation used a 20-lb propane cylinder to make it more easily transportable. As a result, not only did this result in an increased demand for propane cylinders but also, people were more eager to buy a barbecue grill as it provided them with ease of cooking. 

A hemispherical barbecue grill. 

Suggested Reading – Chicken in White Gravy Easy Homemade Recipe

Promotion of Barbecue

Historically, barbecue was not promoted as much but post-1950s, we have seen a dramatic change in the commercial value of barbecue grills as well as the art of barbecuing meat. Many cooking shows were started on television which taught the viewers regarding barbecue and how to minimize input and get maximum output. In addition to that, the demand for meat increased over time. Different grill manufacturers also started publishing their cookbooks which consisted of specific recipes with regards to the meat that had to be barbecued.

The promotion of barbecue grills was also done at various business events. Multinational corporations and investors funded many of the firms which were then able to scale the business and grow it. The promotion of barbecue was done all over the world but the businesses mainly saw growth potential in the North American market which is now one of the biggest sale points of barbecue grills.  

More companies started to manufacture barbecue grills while there was an extensive level of research and development as well. This was essentially needed to improve the overall design of the grills, as well as make the fuel consumption more efficient. This is one reason why many modern grills consume less fuel and are able to burn more. As a result, the barbecue grills are becoming more affordable as well as easy to maintain.

Barbecue grills are used at various restaurants.   

Barbecue Today

Modern-day barbecue has evolved and is considered one of the most popular dishes in many parts of the world. With the arrival of propane grills, the traditional touch of charcoal is no longer there yet many people still prefer charcoal. In addition to that, there are dual burner grills as well nowadays which can be used for barbecuing multiple items. The things which require a fire-fuel like propane or any other gas would be cooked on the propane burner while items such as steak could be cooked on the charcoal-burner. The diversity in design has surely improved the barbecuing experience for many people. 

In addition to that, there is now a special industry dedicated to providing a range of assorted sauces and items specific to barbecue. The barbecue masala is quite popular in Indian culture and even some Americans seem to love it. Moreover, there are a range of sauces which can be used along with your cooked meat. This adds more to the flavor and gives your taste buds a real twist. We expect that there is going to be further development and advancement in grill design and manufacturing which will allow you to have an even better barbecue experience. 

Lamb grilling. 

You can learn more about the Chocolate Cabernet Barbecue Sauce here – Chocolate Cabernet Barbecue Sauce


Barbecuing is one great activity especially during the winters when we crave food. The Winter season is considered best for barbecuing because the heat from the grill is bearable while in summers, it may be sometimes a bit too much. Make sure that you are barbecuing marinated meat because instant marination does not provide the right results. Also, buy a grill that is known to work. Don’t just settle for any other grill you see in the market.