So, how do you level up your BBQ? A fun way to get inspiration is by looking at what pitmasters in other countries do when it comes to BBQ.
While the United States has its well-known BBQ traditions, the rest of the world is a treasure trove of diverse international BBQ styles and techniques.
Here, we’ll share different styles from BBQ around the world and ways to bring those styles into your home.
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South Africa – The Braai
In South Africa, barbecue is more than a tradition; it’s a cultural institution known as the “braai.” This Afrikaans word refers to a social gathering centered around grilling meat over an open flame. The braai brings people together, celebrating the art of outdoor cooking. Braais are often held over the weekend, especially if a rugby, cricket, or soccer game is going on!
South Africans love to use open flames and wood (like hardwood ) or charcoal for their braais. One unique aspect is using “boerewors,” a flavorful sausage coiled into a spiral shape and cooked over the fire. The coals are positioned at varying heights, allowing for different cooking temperatures and a variety of meats and flavors.
How to bring the braai into your home
Marinate chicken, lamb chops, or sausages in a flavorful mix of spices, herbs, and citrus. Grill them over hot coals, adjusting the height as needed, and serve with sides like coleslaw, potato salad, chutney, beetroot salad, garlic bread, and grilled corn (called mielies) for a South African-inspired braai experience.
Fun fact: National Braai Day, celebrated on September 24th, is all about unity and diversity through the love of barbecue. It’s a day for South Africans of all backgrounds to come together around the fire. September 24th is the perfect day to put together your first authentic braai experience. Beyond South Africa’s borders, Namibia and Botswana enjoy the braai just as much as!
Jamaica – The Fiery Jerk
Jamaican Jerk is an explosion of flavors. The term “jerk” refers not only to the cooking style but also to the flavorful marinade used, usually made with Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, and other delicious ingredients.
Jerk chicken, pork, or fish is marinated for hours in the fiery jerk sauce, then slow-cooked over a smoky wood fire in a covered pit. The resulting dish is both spicy and smoky.
How to create the Jamaican Jerk at home
The key to Jamaican Jerk is the marinade. Create your own by blending Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, garlic, and other spices. Let your meat marinate for several hours or overnight.
Try making jerk chicken by marinating chicken pieces in the jerk sauce, then grill them over medium-high heat. Serve with rice and peas and a side of tangy coleslaw. So good!
Fun fact: The word “jerk” may have originated from the Spanish word “charqui,” meaning dried meat, or from the Arawakan word “ajerk,” meaning to poke holes in meat to marinate it.
Mexico – Barbacoa
Barbacoa is Mexico’s gift to the world of BBQ. Its roots trace back to the indigenous peoples of Mexico, who cooked meat in underground pits.
Traditional Barbacoa involves slow-cooking meat, often whole lamb or goat, in an underground pit lined with maguey or banana leaves. The meat cooks for hours, becoming tender and infused with smoky, earthy flavors.
How to create Barbacoa at home
While traditional Barbacoa involves cooking meat in an underground pit, you can replicate the flavors by slow-cooking meats like lamb or beef in a slow cooker with spices like cumin, garlic, and dried chilies.
Make barbacoa tacos by slow-cooking beef or lamb until tender, then shredding the meat. Serve it in warm tortillas with diced onions, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and some salsa for a taste of Mexico in your kitchen.
Fun fact: The word “barbecue” is believed to have originated from the Taíno word “barbacoa,” which the Spanish adopted during their conquest of the Caribbean.
South Korea – The Sizzle of Korean BBQ
Korean barbecue, often called “gogi-gui,” is a communal dining experience. It’s a fusion of grilling and tabletop cooking.
Thinly sliced marinated beef (bulgogi) or unseasoned cuts of meat are grilled at the table, usually on a dining table with a built in charcoal grill. Sometimes the grill is gas.
The grilled meat is often wrapped in lettuce leaves with various condiments like kimchi, garlic, and spicy sauces.
How to do Korean BBQ at home
Korean BBQ is all about grilling thin slices of meat at the table. Use a tabletop grill or a Korean BBQ pan on your stovetop.
Prepare bulgogi, a marinated beef dish. Thinly slice beef and marinate it in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil. Grill the marinated beef at the table and wrap it in lettuce leaves with various condiments like kimchi, ssamjang (spicy dipping sauce), and garlic cloves.
Fun fact: Korean BBQ is not just about the meat; it’s a social event where friends and family gather to cook and enjoy a meal together, reinforcing the importance of communal dining in Korean culture.
Australia – The Great Aussie BBQ
Australians bond over barbecues, and they have a solid connection to their outdoor grilling culture, often featuring in their everyday life and celebrations.
Australian BBQ is characterized by various meats, including beef, lamb, sausages, and seafood. The cooking method varies from grilling over open flames to using specialized barbecue equipment.
They love to use “outback ovens” for slow-cooking roasts and other meats. In Australia, the term “outback oven” typically refers to a portable, campfire cooking device designed for outdoor cooking, especially in remote and rugged environments like the Australian outback.
These ovens are specifically designed to allow people to bake or roast food while camping or traveling in areas where traditional kitchen facilities are unavailable.
How to create a barbie at home
Australian BBQ is all about experimenting with various meats and seafood, and consider slow cooking with an outback oven or smoker.
Enjoy smoking a rack of ribs with a mix of aromatic wood chips. Slow-cook them to tender perfection and serve them with homemade barbecue sauce, baked potatoes, and a fresh salad.
Fun fact: In Australia, BBQs are more than just a meal; they are a way of life. Public barbecues, known as “barbies,” can be found in parks and recreational areas across the country, free for anyone.
Thailand – Southeast Asian Flare
Thailand is famous for its street food culture, and barbecue is no exception. Thai-style BBQ is all about big and bold flavors.
You’ll find skewers of marinated meat, seafood, and vegetables grilled over charcoal or open flames in Thailand. The magic happens in the marinades, with ingredients like lemongrass, coconut milk, and chili.
How to create a Thai BBQ at home
- Choose your protein: Chicken, pork, shrimp, or even tofu for a vegetarian option. Cut the chosen protein into bite-sized pieces.
- Marinate: Create an authentic Thai marinade by combining ingredients like coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and some brown sugar. Marinate your protein for at least 30 minutes or longer.
- Thread onto skewers: Thread the marinated protein pieces onto skewers, alternating with slices of bell peppers, onions, or other vegetables.
- Grill over hot coals: Fire up your grill, ideally using hot coals for that authentic BBQ flavor. If using a gas grill, preheat it to medium-high heat. Grill the skewers, turning occasionally, until the protein is cooked through and has a delicious charred exterior.
- Prepare peanut sauce: Wash up a homemade peanut sauce while the skewers are grilling. Combine peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and a dash of red pepper flakes in a saucepan.
- Serve with Jasmine rice: To complete your Thai BBQ feast, serve the satay skewers with fragrant jasmine rice.
- Garnish and Enjoy: Garnish your Thai BBQ with fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts, and lime wedges.
Fun fact: One iconic Thai BBQ dish is “moo ping,” marinated pork skewers, a beloved street food snack enjoyed throughout the country.
Spain – The Art of Asado
In Spain, especially in regions like Catalonia and the Basque Country, asado is a cherished BBQ tradition. Spanish barbecue places emphasis on simplicity and high-quality ingredients.
Spanish asado typically features meats like lamb, beef, and sausages cooked over a wood or charcoal fire. The secret is in the seasoning, often just a touch of salt, allowing the meat’s natural flavors to shine.
How to throw your own Spanish Asado
Spanish asado emphasizes simplicity. Use quality meats and let their natural flavors shine with minimal seasoning.
Grill a whole fish, like sea bass or snapper, over a wood or charcoal fire. Season it with olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs. Serve with grilled veggies and some fresh lemon juice.
Fun fact: In Catalonia, the “calcots” festival celebrates a special type of green onion grilled over open flames and served with a delicious romesco sauce, highlighting the regional BBQ culture.
Wrapping It Up
These ideas bring international BBQ techniques and flavors to your backyard or kitchen.
Have fun drawing inspiration from them.