Barbecue, or “BBQ” for short, is a method of cooking that has been enjoyed for centuries in various forms across different cultures. In the United States, BBQ has become a cultural phenomenon, with regional variations and a passionate following among enthusiasts. It involves cooking meat, typically beef, pork, or chicken, over low heat and smoke for an extended period, resulting in tender, flavorful, and often fall-off-the-bone meat.
Along with the cooking techniques and tools used in BBQ, there is also a rich lexicon of BBQ slang terms that are used by enthusiasts and professionals alike. Some of these terms are specific to certain regions or styles of BBQ, while others are used more broadly. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or just starting to explore the world of BBQ, understanding these terms can help you appreciate the craft and culture of this beloved culinary tradition.
This glossary includes a selection of BBQ slang terms that are commonly used by BBQ enthusiasts and professionals. The terms are listed in alphabetical order and include a brief explanation of their meaning. Some of the terms relate to specific cooking techniques, while others refer to ingredients, tools, or equipment used in BBQ. Whether you’re looking to perfect your brisket or just curious about the world of BBQ, this glossary is a great resource for anyone interested in this flavorful and dynamic cuisine.
2-Zone Cooking – a technique where one side of the grill is heated to a high temperature for searing, while the other side is kept at a lower temperature for slower cooking.
3-2-1 Ribs – a technique for cooking pork ribs that involves 3 hours of smoking, 2 hours of wrapping in foil with liquid, and 1 hour of finishing on high heat. More on 3-2-1 ribs.
Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABT) – a BBQ appetizer consisting of jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.
Armadillo Eggs – a BBQ appetizer consisting of sausage wrapped around jalapeño peppers and cheese, resembling the shape of an armadillo egg.
Asado – a South American BBQ tradition where meats are cooked over an open flame on a grill called a parrilla.
Baby Back Ribs – a type of pork rib that is smaller and more tender than spare ribs, taken from the upper part of the ribcage.
Banking the Coals – a technique where charcoal is arranged in a pile on one side of the grill, creating a hotter and cooler zone for indirect cooking.
Bark – the flavorful crust that forms on the outside of smoked meat.
Bear Claws – a tool used for shredding meat, resembling the claws of a bear.
Beer Can Chicken – a technique where a chicken is propped up on a can of beer and cooked on the grill, infusing it with moisture and flavor.
Black and Blue – a term used to describe meat that is seared on the outside and rare on the inside.
Blue Smoke – the thin, blue-colored smoke that is ideal for smoking meat, indicating that the wood is burning cleanly and producing a flavorful smoke.
Boating – a slang term for the practice of grilling or smoking using a foil “boat”.
Boogers – the crispy, caramelized bits of meat that are left on a smoker’s grates after smoking meat.
Boston Butt – a cut of pork shoulder that is often used for pulled pork.
Braai – a South African term for a BBQ or grill, typically used for cooking meat over an open flame.
Brine – a mixture of water, salt, and other seasonings used to soak meat before cooking to improve its flavor and tenderness.
Brisket – a cut of beef from the chest of the cow, often used for slow-smoking and BBQ.
Brisket Stall – the point in the smoking process where the internal temperature of a brisket plateaus, causing a delay in the cooking process and increasing the cook time. More on brisket stall.
Briquettes – small, compressed blocks of charcoal that are used for fuel in charcoal grills and smokers. More on briquettes.
Broiling – a cooking technique where food is cooked under a direct heat source, such as a broiler in an oven.
Bullet BBQ – a type of smoker that is shaped like a bullet or cylinder, often used for smoking smaller cuts of meat.
Burgoo – a traditional Kentucky stew made with a variety of meats and vegetables, often served at BBQ gatherings.
Burnt Ends – the crispy, caramelized tips of brisket or pork shoulder that are considered a delicacy in BBQ culture.
Burping – a technique used to release built-up smoke and heat from a smoker by briefly opening the lid.
CAB – Certified Angus Beef, a premium brand of beef that meets specific quality standards.
Cadillac Cut – a term used to describe a high-end cut of meat, often a ribeye or filet mignon.
Carryover Cooking – the process where the internal temperature of meat continues to rise after it has been removed from the heat source, typically resulting in a slight increase in doneness.
Cascade – a slang term for a waterfall-like effect of the juices that come out of meat when it’s cut, indicating that the meat is juicy and flavorful.
Charcoal – a fuel made from charred wood that is commonly used in BBQ and grilling.
Charcoal-tarian – a slang term for someone who exclusively uses charcoal to cook their BBQ.
Chef’s Bonus – a term used to describe a piece of meat that a chef or pitmaster keeps for themselves as a reward for a job well done.
Cold smoking – a smoking technique where the meat is exposed to smoke without heat, often used for smoking cheese or fish.
Connective Tissue – the tough, fibrous tissue found in meat that breaks down during the cooking process, adding flavor and tenderness.
Cowboy Barbecue – a style of BBQ that originated in the American West, often featuring large cuts of meat cooked over an open flame.
Cowboy Candy – a sweet and spicy snack made from jalapeño peppers that have been coated in sugar and smoked.
Crackling – a crispy layer of skin on pork that has been cooked at high heat.
Creosote – a thick, black substance that can build up on the inside of a smoker or grill and impart a bitter, acrid flavor to food.
Crust – a crispy and flavorful outer layer on meat that has been smoked or grilled.
Curing – the process of preserving meat by adding salt, sugar, and other seasonings before smoking.
Dalmatian Rub – a simple rub consisting of equal parts salt and black pepper, often used on beef or pork.
Danger Zone – the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria can grow and multiply rapidly, posing a risk of foodborne illness.
Deckle – a layer of fat and meat on the surface of a brisket, often prized for its flavor and tenderness.
Direct cooking – a grilling technique where the food is cooked directly over the heat source.
Dutch Oven – a heavy cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid, often used for slow-cooking stews, roasts, and other dishes.
Dry-Aged – a process where meat is aged in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment to enhance its flavor and tenderness.
Dry Rub – a mixture of herbs and spices that is rubbed onto meat before cooking to add flavor and create a crust.
Dual Probe Thermometer – a thermometer with two probes, used for measuring the temperature of both the meat and the smoker or grill. More on dual probe thermometers.
Egghead – a nickname for fans of the Big Green Egg, a popular brand of ceramic charcoal grill.
Fat Cap – the layer of fat that covers one side of a cut of meat, often left on during the smoking process to keep the meat moist.
Fatty – a cut of meat that has a high-fat content, often used for making sausage or as a flavorful addition to BBQ dishes.
Firebox – the chamber of a smoker or grill where the fire is built and the wood or charcoal is burned.
Firebricks – heat-resistant bricks that can be used to line the firebox or cooking chamber of a smoker or grill, helping to regulate temperature and maintain heat.
Glaze – a sweet or savory sauce that is brushed onto meat during the cooking process to add flavor and a glossy finish.
Holy Trinity – a combination of onions, celery, and bell peppers used in many Cajun and Creole dishes.
Hot n’ Fast – a technique for cooking meat at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, often used for thinner cuts of meat like steaks.
Hot Smoking – a smoking technique where the meat is exposed to both smoke and heat, resulting in a fully cooked product.
Indirect Cooking – a grilling technique where the food is cooked next to, rather than directly over, the heat source.
Injection – a liquid mixture of seasonings, marinades, and other flavorings that is injected into meat before cooking.
Instant Read Thermometer – a thermometer used for quickly and accurately measuring the internal temperature of meat. More on instant-read thermometers.
Kamado – a type of ceramic charcoal grill or smoker that originated in Japan. More on kamado grills.
Kettle Fried Chicken (KFC) – a technique where chicken is cooked on a Weber kettle grill, resulting in crispy, flavorful skin. Normally a vortex is used to get higher than normal heat.
Lid – the top part of a smoker or grill that is used to cover the cooking chamber and regulate the temperature.
Looftlighter – a device used for lighting charcoal or wood in a smoker or grill without the need for lighter fluid.
Low ‘n’ slow – a cooking method where the meat is cooked slowly over low heat, resulting in a tender and flavorful product.
Lump Charcoal – irregularly shaped pieces of charcoal that are made from natural wood, often preferred by BBQ enthusiasts for their flavor.
Maillard reaction – a chemical reaction that occurs when heat is applied to meat, resulting in a browned and flavorful crust. More on the Maillard reaction.
Marbling – the small streaks of fat that are dispersed throughout a cut of meat, contributing to flavor and tenderness.
Marinade – a mixture of liquid and seasonings used to flavor and tenderize meat before cooking.
Meat Candy – a term used to describe meat that has been cooked low and slow until it is caramelized and tender, often with a sweet glaze.
Membrane – a thin, translucent layer of tissue found on the underside of pork ribs, often removed for better flavor and texture.
Minion Method – a technique for using unlit charcoal to slowly ignite lit charcoal, providing a consistent, steady heat source for extended cooking.
Money Muscle – a term used to describe a specific muscle in a pork shoulder that is highly valued for its tenderness and flavor.
Mop – a thin sauce that is brushed onto meat during the smoking process to add flavor and moisture.
Offset Smoker – a type of smoker where the firebox is located to the side of the cooking chamber, allowing for indirect heat and smoke to be directed towards the meat.
Pit – a term used to describe a BBQ restaurant or a large outdoor BBQ cooking area.
Pitmaster – an expert in the art of BBQ who is skilled at smoking and grilling meat to perfection.
Planking – a technique where food is cooked on a wooden plank, often cedar or hickory, to add flavor and moisture.
Pull – to shred meat using a fork or other utensil, often used with pulled pork.
Resting – a technique where meat is allowed to rest for a few minutes after cooking, allowing the juices to redistribute for better flavor and tenderness.
Reverse Sear – a grilling technique where the meat is seared at the end of the cooking process, resulting in a crispy crust and a juicy interior.
Rotisserie – a device used for cooking meat on a rotating spit, often used for larger cuts of meat like whole chickens or roasts.
Rub – a mixture of spices and herbs used to coat meat before cooking to enhance its flavor.
Santa Maria Barbecue – a style of BBQ that originated in California, featuring tri-tip beef that is seasoned with a simple rub and cooked over oak wood.
Searing – a technique where meat is cooked over high heat for a short period of time to create a flavorful crust.
Seasoning – the process of adding salt, pepper, and other spices to meat before cooking to enhance its flavor.
Seasoning a Smoker – the process of adding wood chips, charcoal, or other materials to a smoker to create smoke and flavor.
Smoke Ring – the pinkish-red layer of meat just below the surface that forms as a result of smoke and curing.
Snake Method – a technique for arranging charcoal in a snake-like pattern around the edge of a smoker or grill for long, slow cooking. More on the snake method.
Spare Ribs – the meatier and larger ribs cut from the lower part of the rib cage, often used for smoking or BBQ.
Stick Burner – a type of smoker that uses wood logs as the primary fuel source.
Texas Crutch – a technique where meat is wrapped tightly in foil during the cooking process to speed up the cooking time and keep the meat moist.
Texas Trinity – a combination of beef brisket, pork spare ribs, and beef sausage that is a popular BBQ order in Texas.
The Stall – a period during the smoking process where the internal temperature of the meat plateaus, causing a delay in the cooking process.
The Tug – a term used to describe the resistance or pull that meat gives when it is cooked to the perfect tenderness.
Thin Blue Smoke – another term for Blue Smoke, used to describe the ideal smoke for smoking meat.
Water Pan – a pan filled with water placed in a smoker or grill to help regulate the temperature and keep the meat moist.
Wet Rub – a mixture of wet ingredients (such as mustard, vinegar, or honey) and spices that is rubbed onto meat before smoking.
White Sauce – a mayonnaise-based sauce that is popular in some BBQ regions, particularly in Alabama.
Wood Chips – small pieces of wood that are used in smokers or grills to add smoke flavor to food.
Vortex – a method of arranging charcoal in a grill to create a vortex of heat, allowing for high-heat cooking and searing.
Zonal Grilling – a technique where different sections of the grill are used to cook different types of food, such as searing steak over high heat and slow-roasting vegetables over lower heat.
I hope this glossary has helped you to better understand the rich and colorful language of BBQ. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or just getting started, these terms are an important part of the culture and tradition of BBQ. From the perfect bark and smoke ring to the ideal temperature for low and slow cooking, each term in this glossary represents a crucial aspect of the art and science of BBQ.
As with any cultural tradition, the language of BBQ continues to evolve and grow. New techniques, ingredients, and tools are constantly being developed and perfected, and new slang terms are sure to emerge. I encourage you to continue exploring the world of BBQ and to share your own knowledge and experiences with others. And most of all, I hope you continue to enjoy the delicious, tender, and flavorful meat that is the hallmark of great BBQ.
Let me know in the comments section if you know of a term (and its definition) that should be on this list.