Written by Danial Williams
Have you ever sat with a pitmaster or a long time BBQ enthusiast that has used terms or said something you didn’t quite understand? Well, we put together a list of common BBQ terminology to get you on the same page as them. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is pretty hefty. Let us know if we should add any more terms.
Ash Tool – A barbecue grilling accessory used to scrape ashes on a charcoal grill.
Bark – The dark outer layer of crust created by spice rub on meat that is cooked over low and slow heat. The more sugar you have in the rub, the darker the color of the bark will be. The type of wood you smoke with can also affect the color. Also commonly referred to as “the Crust.”
Barrel – A vertical smoker made from a barrel.
Basting Brush – A barbecue grilling accessory used to apply sauces, marinades, or oil over food that is being prepared or cooked on the barbecue grill.
Beer Can Chicken – A method of roasting a chicken where a beer or soda can is inserted into the whole chicken and roasted upright on the grill. The beer or soda can is filled with liquid such as beer or soda, as well as herbs and spices. The flavors of the liquid and the spices will infuse the chicken as it cooks.
Bend – When you pick up a cooked rack of ribs you want it to have a natural bend. If the rack doesn’t easily bend it is undercooked and if if bends so much that it breaks it is over cooked.
Blue Smoke – When the wood or charcoal is burning clean the smoke will have a slight blue hue to it.
Brisket Point – A full packer brisket includes two muscles. The point and the flat. The point is the fattier, thicker cut used to make burnt ends.
Brisket Flat – The flat is the thinner, leaner cut used to make brisket slices.
Briquette – A type of charcoal created by compacting combustibles into a block. They burn slow and steady and provide great flavoring.
BTU (British Thermal Units) – A measurement of the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. On a grill, it is the measurement of the total heat output from all the grill’s burners within one hour.
Heavily charred, bite-size brisket pieces typically taken from the fattier point end. These flavor-packed morsels were made famous by writer Calvin Trillin, a Kansas City native, in the 1970s.
Chimney Starter – A metal cylinder device used to light charcoal quickly by using newspaper or other fuel sources. It is also commonly referred to as just “Chimney.”
Direct Heat Grilling – A cooking method where there is nothing between the food and the heat source.
Drip Pan – A foil or metal pan that is used to catch juices from food cooking on the cooking grate. The drip pan prevents these food juices from dripping onto the burners or charcoal fire and helps prevent flare-ups. It is also used when grilling indirectly.
A fanatic of the Big Green Egg, an oval-shaped ceramic grill and smoker.
Fat Cap – The layer of fat between the skin and flesh of the meat you’re grilling.
Finishing Dust – A rub or seasoning that is added to the meat after cooking to give a delicate pop.
Flare-Ups – Large flames caused by fat and juices from the food dripping onto the grill’s hot charcoal or burners.
Grill Topper – A pan with holes or slots in it that is used to grill small or thin items such as cherry tomatoes, shrimp, or asparagus, that might otherwise fall through the cooking grates. It can also be referred to as “Grid Topper.”
Hang – Some pitmasters will hang ribs from a rib hook in the smoker instead of laying them flat.
Hot and Fast – Cooking bbq at a temp higher than 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Using higher temps will cause meat to cook much faster.
Indirect Heat Grilling – A cooking method where the food is not placed directly over the heat source so that it roasts with the convection flow of the hot air.
Injection – The use of a syringe to inject a brine into meat before smoking it. Most brines are made with a combination of water or juice and vinegar.
Lid Prop – A tool that allows you to hold the lid of your grill slightly open at various heights, allowing for finer temperature control, particularly during a long cook.
Lump Charcoal – Carbonized wood that is used to fuel and heat charcoal barbecue grills. Lump charcoal contains no added fillers like clay or other additives and binders. It burns hotter, is cleaner, and has fewer ash briquettes. Also commonly referred to as just “Lump.”
Marinade – A flavored liquid that is infused into the meat over a period of time before it is grilled. Marinades are typically made using an acidic liquid such as wine or vinegar, as well as oil, herbs, and spices. They add flavor and also tenderize the meat.
Meat Claws – A barbecue grilling accessory used to shred large cuts of meat after it is grilled. They are usually used to shred pork shoulder to make pulled pork. Can also be referred to as “Bear Paws” or “Wolf Claws.”
Membrane – A layer of silverskin found on the back of ribs. It will not render when cooked and becomes a very tough bite. You should always remove it before cooking your ribs.
A tender, well-marbled section of the pork butt that’s located high on the shoulder. It typically pulls in the most money and trophies on the competitive circuit.
Mop Sauce – A thin vinegar-based sauce that is brushed over the meat while it is being grilled to add moisture and prevent meat from drying out.
The light, moist interior of whole-hog barbecue.
Pitmaster – An experienced barbecue cook who is skilled at barbecue grilling. You can also call them “Pit Boss.”
Plank – A piece of hardwood that is used to hold food while it is being grilled over a direct heat source. It is usually made from untreated cedar wood and is often used to cook salmon or other types of fish. When the food is grilled over the wood, it infuses with some of the plank’s natural flavors.
Rest – A period of time in which grilled meat is set aside for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into it. Resting allows the juices to be absorbed back into the meat and prevents the meat’s juices from running out when cut, resulting in an unappetizing, dry piece of meat. Rotisserie – An electric motor-driven spit that allows you to slowly roast large cuts of meat, whole chickens, or whole fish over a gas or charcoal grill.
Rub – A combination of herbs, spices, salt, and sugar that is applied to the meat before it is smoked, roasted, or grilled.
Sea Salt – Salt produced from evaporated seawater.
Sear – Creating a flavorful crust (caramelized crust) on meat by quickly grilling it over high heat.
Shiggin’: Engaging with a fellow pitmaster in order to steal barbecue secrets.
Shiner – A rack of ribs that is trimmed too close so that the bones are exposed. The bones will appear as if it is “shining” through the meat. Avoid buying racks of ribs with a “shiner” since the bones might fall apart when grilled.
Slider – A small hamburger.
Skewer – A thin piece of wood or metal used to hold pieces of meat and/or vegetables together while they are grilling. Alternatively, you can use rosemary sprigs to make rosemary sprig skewers to infuse your kebabs with a rosemary flavor.
Shish Kebab – Pieces of meat and/or vegetables held together on a skewer. It is also commonly referred to as just “kebab.”
Spritz – To keep meat moist during the cooking process, cooks and pitmasters will squirt or spritz the meat with a liquid of water, beer, juice or vinegar or a mixture of the three.
Smoker – A cooker that uses indirect heat and wood smoke to slow cook meat.
Smoking – A method of cooking food by using smoke from burning wood.
Smoker Box – A perforated metal box or built-in tray used to hold wood chips to create smoke on a gas barbecue grill.
A ribbon of pink meat found beneath the bark, caused by the interaction of nitric oxide and myoglobin, the protein that gives flesh its red color.
Specific to larger cuts of meat, when the internal temperature reaches between 150 and 165 degrees and doesn’t budge for hours. A common problem for rookie pitmasters.
Wrapping cooked brisket in aluminum foil to slow evaporation and preserve moisture.
Tongs – An accessory used to pick up and move food.
A specialty of northern Alabama, this all-purpose mayo- and vinegar-based sauce is traditionally used to dress chicken and pulled pork.
Wood Chips and Chunks – Pieces of wood that are cut or chipped from larger pieces of wood to add a smoky flavor to the meat.
Wrap – After the meat has formed a good bark and hits a temp that the pitmaster prefers, the pitmaster will wrap the meat in butcher paper, foil or peach paper to finish off the cooking process.