As someone who has spent their entire life in the Midwest, the definition of a barbecue was simple. It was when family and friends came together on a warm summer evening to grill hot dogs, hamburger, corn on the cob, and maybe some chicken or veggies. Barbecue was a noun, verb, adjective and most importantly, a sauce (like this sweet and spicy bbq sauce). 

In most parts of the world, barbecue is the term used for outdoor cooking and grilling; the word cookout is hardly used. In places known for their amazing barbecue, like the Southern states, there is a huge difference between a barbecue and a basic cookout. beef, pork, meat, barbecue, sauce, pepper
Photo by Rich Renomeron

For Southerners, a cookout means grilling food outside. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and other easy foods make up a cookout. A barbecue, however, is a whole other animal. Barbecues are whole day affairs, where attendees get the pleasure of sitting out in lawn chairs and smelling meat slow cooking over the fire. Barbecued foods include North Carolina pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, Memphis ribs, and many more depending on where you are. 

Are you drooling yet? In some places, they might even cook a whole hog. Make your own pulled pork with this recipe.

Are you drooling yet? In some places, they might even cook a whole hogchicken, pork, sauce
Karolina Zaborowska

Barbecues take careful preparation like getting the meats ready the night before and smoking them for many hours on indirect heat. Obviously, much more complex than just tossing some frozen patties or packaged hot dogs on a grill. That is why barbecued food deserves its own word. When the food is ready, it’s more than worth it. Hot, saucy meats that can’t be eaten fast enough. 

barbecue, meat, sausage, pork, beef, chicken, bratwurst
Photo by Michael Karshis

If you ever get the opportunity to go to a real Southern barbecue, make sure you don't wear your nicest clothes because when you leave, they will not be very nice anymore. And never make the mistake of inviting a Southerner to a BBQ and only serving hot dogs and hamburgers or you’ll have to deal with one very disappointed person.