Is the low/slow indirect smoking style BBQ truly unique to the American South?

Joined May 6, 2011
Hello Professor Raichlen!

I'm in Austin, TX and I'm a lifelong lover of Southern BBQ, be it Texas or KC beef brisket, Memphis ribs, or NC pulled pork. It's all good to me!

In fact, what I really love most about cooking with wood, fire and smoke is how no matter what part of the world you go to, some form of grilling or smoking is going to be there. It's one of those things we all have in common.

Which leads me to my question. As proud as I am of the age-old notion that the technique of low&slow, indirect heat, followed by immediate consumption (i.e. not smoking strictly for preservation) was invented in the American South, is it really true that it originated here and is still mostly unique to our part of the world?

If it is, then what I'm truly proud of is that it (and other Southern/Southwestern cuisines) is an example of something magical coming out of the mixing of cultures. That's what I've always stressed to my European and Asian friends when introducing them to Southern & Southwestern cuisines: while there were many, many sad things that happened along the way, there are also many things worth celebrating about the combining of so many cultures, including African, European, Hispanic and Native American. I think it stands as a testament to the good that happen if you keep yourself open to other ways of living.

I'll stop now before I break into song. :D

Thanks for your time!
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Joined May 5, 2011
I couldn't agree with you more--food in general, and grilled and barbecued food in particular--underscores our similarities. I have certainly learned that in my travels around Planet Barbecue. But Southern-style barbecue is unique in the world, a fortuitous intersection of resourceful cooks (American slaves, primarily), pigs, and plentiful fuel (hardwoods). There are other examples of low and slow cooking in the world--Hawaii has its kahlua pig and the Yucatan has its cochinita pibil--but they involve earthen pits, hot rocks, and banana leaves. They have more in common with the clambakes of the Northeastern seaboard than with Southern pit-style barbecue.
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