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A Culinary Journey Through Time

Barbecue (BBQ) is more than just a method of cooking — it’s a cultural heritage steeped in history and tradition, beloved across many nations. While modern BBQ enthusiasts relish their slow-cooked ribs and smoky briskets, the origins of barbecue date back thousands of years, connecting us to ancient practices of cooking over an open flame. Let’s delve into the roots of this culinary tradition and explore how it has evolved into the phenomenon it is today.

Ancient Beginnings of Barbecue

The concept of barbecue is ancient, with its origins intertwined with the discovery of fire. Early humans quickly learned that the application of heat could make their food more palatable and easier to digest. However, the term “barbecue” itself is believed to have been adopted much later. It likely stems from the word “barbacoa,” which is from the Taino language of the Arawak people of the Caribbean and the Timucua of Florida. Traditionally, barbacoa referred to a wooden structure used by indigenous peoples to smoke meat over a pit filled with coals.

Global Journey

Over centuries, the technique of cooking meat slowly over indirect heat traveled across the globe, morphing into various forms depending on local cultures and available resources. For instance:

  • In the Pacific, Polynesians roasted whole pigs in pits for communal feasts.
  • In the Americas, indigenous tribes used similar techniques, which were later adapted by European settlers and evolved into what many recognise as Southern BBQ in the United States.
  • In Korea, grilling marinated meats such as bulgogi and galbi has historical roots that go back millennia, showcasing a different but equally revered barbecue tradition.

Evolution in the Americas – Barbacoa

The transformation of BBQ in the Americas is particularly noteworthy. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Caribbean and encountered the Taino method of barbacoa, they adopted and adapted these techniques, spreading them throughout their colonies. In North America, these methods were further tailored by settlers and influenced by the contributions of African slaves, who brought with them unique spices and cooking methods, enriching the flavours and techniques used in early American BBQ.

As European settlers moved westward across the continent, they brought barbecue along, leading to the development of various regional styles in the United States. From the vinegar-based sauces of North Carolina to the dry rubs of Memphis and the tomato-based sauces of Kansas City, each region developed its distinctive style, heavily influenced by local ingredients and cultural preferences.

Cultural Significance

Barbecue is not just about cooking; it’s a social event, a celebration of community and togetherness. This aspect of BBQ has remained constant from its earliest days when large feasts were organised around a central fire. Today, whether it’s a backyard grill in Australia, a summer BBQ in the U.K., or a traditional Southern cookout in the U.S., the essence of barbecue continues to bring people together.

Modern BBQ

Today, barbecue remains a vibrant part of global culinary traditions, continuously evolving with modern twists on techniques and flavours. Chefs and home cooks alike experiment with different types of wood for smoking, innovative sauces, and new cooking methods, like sous-vide before finishing on the grill. Meanwhile, BBQ competitions and festivals celebrate this rich tradition, showcasing the art and science of barbecue to new generations.


From ancient pits to modern smokers, BBQ has journeyed through time and geography to become a beloved culinary tradition around the world. Its ability to evolve while maintaining its roots is a testament to its enduring appeal and cultural significance. As we enjoy our next BBQ meal, let’s appreciate the rich history that adds flavour to every bite. BBQ, Barbecue, barbacoa, it’s all delicious!

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Depiction of our barman down at the BBQ Bar
Good old Mark behind the bar