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History of Barbecue: Barbecue Began about 1.8 Million Yrs Ago, Rather it is Older than Homo Sapiens!

History of Barbecue: Barbecue Began about 1.8 Million Yrs Ago, Rather it is Older than Homo Sapiens!

"The story of barbecue is the story of America. Settlers arrive on a great unspoiled continent. Discover wondrous riches. Set them on fire and eat them.”

-Vince Staten, Real Barbecue


Barbecues are one of the favorite pastime and summer traditions for most Americans with a long and patriotic history. Contrary to mythology, the barbecue was never an American invention. Instead, it is older than Homo sapiens.

Eminent anthropologists think the invention of barbecue as a mastery of fire, which was permanently responsible for altering the path of human evolution. You will be excited to know that this ancient link is responsible for making us fall in love with cooking.

According to Planet Barbecue, the way of cooking meat on the fire, or barbecue began about 1.8 million years ago. This is when a human ancestor, Homo erectus, started cooking meat with fire. However, the modern-day barbecue, meat covered in spices and basting sauce, and then cooked over a pit or grill originated in the Caribbean.

The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barboca.” The barboca was not a way of cooking food. Instead, it was the name of a wooden structure used by the Taino Indians for smoking their food. Due to the diet constraints of the Indians, the barbecue consisted of several varieties of fishes. However, besides being used in cooking, the sticks were also used for sleeping, storage, and sheltering.

However, the word “barbecue” first appeared in printed form in 1526 when the Spanish travelers visited the Caribbean and took the word ‘barboca’ to their homeland. For several years the barboca referred to the structure in which the food was cooked. However, later on, people started mentioning it to the process of cooking food as well as cooked food.

A New Voyage Round the World by William Dampier and published in 1697 first printed the word barbecue in English. However, here it referred to the structure used for sleeping rather than cooking. By 1733, barbecue meant a social gathering where people consumed the grilled meat.

How they Cooked barbecue?

Since then, the popularity of barbecue spread like wildfire. The history of barbecuing in America started with the migration of Africans and Europeans, especially to the Southern United States. The transplantation of pigs and cattle from several European nations to the new world became the primary source of meat for the colonies.

Pork became the first choice in the South due to the high ability of pigs to thrive with little care. The pits and smokehouses soon replaced the racks that served the purpose of drying the meat.

Pit cooking started becoming a common way of preparing meat. It is by no means a new method at this point in history or is particular to any specific region. However, the Polynesians are responsible for the process of slow cooking of meat, especially pork. They have been mastering this technique for thousands of years.

However, during the colonial era, the process of slow cooking of meat remained reserved for poor cuts of meat left for slaves and low-income people. Higher quality of meats was never slow-cooked for making them tender. Throughout the Southern parts of the United States, barbecue became a labor-intensive yet inexpensive source of food.

However, the meat had either to be consumed immediately after slaughtering or preserved with some spices or by smoking due to lack of refrigeration process. Traditionally, spicing of meat required high amounts of salt for drying the meat. This lowered the ability of the contaminants to spoil the meat. Smoking had almost the same effect.

The indigenous practitioners of barbecue used cold-smoked meat. This was a process of preserving the meat by exposing the flesh to the sun. Additional smoke helped in preserving the meat for a long time. In 1921, the first commercial charcoal briquette factory, built by Henry Ford and designed by Thomas Edison, opened up. Again, in 1948, with the introduction of barbecue sauce in the market by H.J. Heinz, barbecue started to become a typical traditional summertime food.


The US Presidents had been a big fan of barbecue. One can find numerous references for barbecue in George Washington’s diaries. It includes even the one that lasted for three days. Even the wedding feast of Abraham Lincoln’s parents was a barbeque. Along the way, several famous inventors left their marks on the modern-day American barbecue.

Presently, barbecue plays a significant role in the cuisines of the Southern U. S., which is rich for its zesty flavors. It has been more than 150 years, and even today, the people of Owensboro barbecue big gamey mutton. The mutton is served with the world’s only black barbecue sauce, which is still their specialty in the town.

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