Welcome to the California Barbecue Association
Visitors are most welcome to browse the website of the California
Barbecue Association to learn about America's only authentic
In the photo above, one of our members, Haywood Harris,
barbecue on his smoker.
The California Barbecue Association is a non-profit, California corporation. Its mission is to help needy
children by promoting an understanding and appreciation of authentic
The word and method
Barbecue -- both the word itself and the cooking method -- were
used by Native Americans before the Spanish explorers arrived in
1492. The Native Americans in the Caribbean gave the word
"barbecue" and taught the cooking method to the early
explorers, who returned and popularized it in Europe. Sixty
years later, English colonists brought the word and cooking method
back to North America, where it has been enjoyed ever
Unfortunately, few Americans today have ever seen or tasted real,
authentic barbecue. Authentic barbecue means meat or other
food (like fish and vegetables) which is cooked in the heat and
smoke of wood coals.
Barbecue is not boiled or steamed or painted with sweet ketchup.
Some barbecue is cooked at about the temperature of boiling water
(212°F): a low temperature and slow
cooking method. This is the cooking style favored in the
Southern United States -- from eastern North Carolina over to Texas
and up into the Midwest and Kansas City.
There, a whole hog or beef brisket barbecue may take longer than
12 hours to cook, and even pork rib barbecue may take 4 or 5 hours.
These low temperatures and slow cooking -- low 'n slow
-- create the unique, smoky meat appearance, taste and texture that
is authentic barbecue.
There are several different low 'n slow traditions in
barbecue. For example, in eastern North Carolina, the
tradition requires whole hogs cooked in brick pits directly over
(about 30" above) wood coals. In contrast, the most common
tradition in Texas requires beef brisket -- an extremely tough cut
of meat -- to be cooked in an offset cooker (a metal device
with two sections: a fire-box on one side and a meat
compartment in the other).
hot 'n fast
The low 'n slow method of barbecue is not the only
barbecue. Authentic barbecue requires the heat and smoke of
wood coals, which impart an appearance, taste and texture different
from any other cooking method. Steaks, hamburgers and other
food becomes authentic barbecue even if cooked quickly (what most
people called "grilled") in the heat and smoke of wood coals.
The hot 'n fast method became the tradition of barbecue in
California, which was brought from the Caribbean by the Franciscan
friars to Mexico in the 17th Century, which then included
California, for the missions and rancheros. Whole loins,
including the top loin and sirloin, were cooked directly over huge
pits filled with the wood coals from oak. In the 1950's, Santa
Maria Tri-Tip was discovered and has became a favorite in
The essence of barbecue, then, is the heat and smoke produced by
wood coals. Ovens, stoves, boiling water, liquid smoke and gas
grills cannot produce the unique appearance, taste and texture which
is imparted by the heat and smoke of wood coals. Food
scientists (at least so far) have not come close to using chemistry
to produce an artificial barbecue that would fool anyone.
No one who knows the appearance, taste and texture of authentic
barbecue can be fooled by ovens, stoves, and the others. In
fact, veterans will often demonstrate the difference in appearance,
taste and texture produced by wood burned down to coals and gas.
Blind taste test: The testers will select two
high-quality steaks, identically aged, prepared and cooked on
exactly the same style grill (except that one grill holds wood coals
and the other has gas jets). One steak is cooked in the heat
and smoke of properly aged wood logs which have been burned down to
coals, while the other steak is cooked with gas. Infrared
thermometers are used to ensure that both steaks are cooked at
exactly the same temperature. Everyone who participates in
this blind taste test has no trouble whatsoever in seeing, tasting
and feeling the difference between the two steaks.
Note about gas grills: Gas grills have their place.
On cold winter evenings or when the cook does not have the time to
prepare a wood coal fire, gas grills can be used with satisfactory
results to cook steaks, hamburgers and other dishes. But like
electric and gas ovens and stoves, and like steam and boiling water,
the gas grills can cook wonderful dishes, but they cannot cook
Barbecue is healthy: you may have noticed that some of the
cbbqa members appear to be overweight in photos. This is
purely an illusion, an artifact of those new-fangled digital cameras.
Barbecue is low
calorie and low fat and will not lead to weight gain, provided you
do not eat it. The wonderful smell of right-off-the-grill
barbecue is completely non-caloric and non-fattening.
The California Barbecue Association merged with the Southern
California Barbecue Association on January 1, 2002. The
Association hosts, sponsors and sanctions picnics, festivals,
contests, and other barbecue events throughout California. The
Association uses these events to promote an understanding and
appreciation of authentic barbecue while helping children. The
Association maintains this website for the benefit of its members
and the public to provide information about barbecue, upcoming and
past events, and ways that needy children can be helped by the
These web pages summarize for visitors what barbecue and the
Association are about. Visitors here are asked to review these pages for an
introduction to America's only authentic cuisine.
At barbecue events, including picnics, contests, demonstrations and
Q-Fests (festivals), the Association staffs a Visitors Information Center to present
for visitors an introduction to authentic barbecue. At the center,
explain a little of the history and art of barbecue, provide tours of
the contest area, and provide other assistance to visitors.
If you are new to barbecue and the California
Barbecue Association, you are invited to learn a little about real
barbecue and us on these pages.
Click any link to the right or
start with the first
After new visitors complete reading the rest of these pages for
visitors, they should then read the
mini-FAQ and then peruse
the full FAQ.
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