Barbecue is a method of cooking meat, or the end-result of cooking by this method. The term has a lot of regional variations, based on several factors:
the type of meat used
the sauce or other flavoring added to the meat
when the flavoring is added during preparation
the role that smoke plays in preparation
the equipment and fuel used to cook the meat
how much time is spent cooking the meat
At its most generic, any source of protein may be used, including beef, pork, poultry, and fish. The meat could be ground, as with hamburger, processed into sausage or kabobs, and/or accompanied by vegetables. Sometimes the cut of meat (e.g. brisket or ribs) matters; sometimes the cut is irrelevant. Even vegetarian alternatives to meat, such as soyburgers can be barbecued. The meat may be marinaded or rubbed with spices before cooking, basted with a sauce or oil before and/or during cooking, and/or flavored in numerous ways after removed from the heat. Some forms of barbecue are barely distinguishable from grilled meats; most involve tougher cuts of meat, requiring hours of cooking over low heat that barely exceeds the boiling point of water. Sometimes an open flame is required, with the fuel source irrelevant. In other cases, the fuel source is critical to the end result, as when wood chips from particular kinds of trees are used as fuel.
Although distinctions in barbecue are blurring as are most aspects of regional culture, there are still dominant styles, particularly in the South, Midwest and Texas.
Within North Carolina, there are multiple regional traditions, all based on the slow-cooking of pulled pork. On the east coast, the dominant ingredients to the sauce are vinegar and hot peppers. Proceeding west, the sauce becomes more tomato-based.
Slow-cooked pulled pork also dominates barbecue in South Carolina, with a the sauce is mustard-based.
Georgia barbecue is based on slow-cooked pork, with a sauce based on ketchup.
Both pork and seafood are barbecued in Florida, with butter and lemon or lime juice as the base for the sauce.
Pork is prepared with a dry rub of spices.
Beef is the dominant meat for barbcue. Often the beef is sliced and a tomato-based sauce is added after cooking.
Barbecue in Texas is beef, with tomatoes and peppers in the sauce.
Jamaican jerk chicken is an example of barbecue.
In Australia, barbecues are a popular summer pastime. Australian BBQs do not involve the smoking or sugary sauces of an American BBQ. Instead plain or marinaded meat is grilled over the open fire.
The braai (abbreviation of braaivleis, Afrikaans "meat grill") is a major social tradition amongst the Afrikaner people of Southern Africa.
The word varies in spelling; variations include barbeque, BBQ, and Bar-B-Q. Smoky Hale, author of The Great American Barbecue and Grilling Manual (ISBN 0936171030) traces the word back to its Caribbean roots in Taino (one of the Arawak family of languages). In one form, barabicoa, it indicates a wooden grill, a mesh of sticks; in another, barabicu, it's a sacred fire pit.