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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 cuisine, barbecue.

In the photo above, one of our members, Haywood Harris, attends the
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 barbecue.

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 since.

Authentic barbecue

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.

low 'n slow

Some barbecue is cooked at about the temperature of boiling water (212F):  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 California.

Wood coals

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.

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 barbecue "Q'munity".

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, Association members greet visitors, 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 page here.

What next?

After new visitors complete reading the rest of these pages for visitors, they should then read the Barbecue mini-FAQ and then peruse the full FAQ.


Barbecue 101 

Backyard Grilling

Not only grilling

Styles of Barbecue

Low 'n Slow Cooking

Barbecue Smokers

Visitors at Cook-offs

Who We Are

What We Do

A Special Invitation to join us

Meet the CBBQA Board


Contact US

President's message

We suggest you look at:

Barbecue mini-FAQ




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