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Barbecue around the world

Photo by haglundc

In a worldwide look at BBQ, we found there are as many ways of doing it as there are chefs.

Where I’m from in North Carolina, you haven’t had barbecue until you’ve had our barbecue. It’s a matter of regional pride, just as much a cultural and social phenomenon as a culinary tradition.

People all over the world take the same pride in their barbecue. What is it about cooking over a smoldering pit that brings out the best in people?

Here are 7 places to put on your BBQ map:

1. United States

From Carolina pig-pickin’s to Kentucky mutton, the idea is the same everywhere- an outdoor party with friends, food, and beer.

American barbecue has its origins in the 1800s, when poor farmers would capture semi-feral pigs when food was scarce. Though beef and chicken both hold sway, pork remains the staple of most barbecues.

The meat is not generally marinated before being put on the grill, where it’s brushed with whatever kind of sauce is available or popular. More than anywhere else, American barbecue makes use of specific kinds of wood to impart flavor in the meat: in Texas, mesquite brush is common, but hickory and oak are more readily available elsewhere.

Outside the South, culinary specifics often take a back seat to the social aspect. You’re more likely to find burgers, hot dogs, and vegetable skewers than pulled pork at a BBQ, but the soul of the barbecue is alive and well.

2. Korea

Photo by dane brian

Unlike its American cousin, Korean barbecue usually looks more like a meal at a restaurant than a summer block party. The meat comes raw as patrons sit at a special table, cooking their meal on a charcoal or gas grill in the middle. Cuts of beef, pork, and chicken are the norm, most marinated in a garlic-soy sauce mixture.

Barbecue has become synonymous with Korean cuisine outside its homeland. The unique blend of cooking and dining has made it popular the world over, and Korean food can be found in nearly every major city on Earth.

3. South Africa

South Africans call their barbecue braai, from the Afrikaans word for roasted meat (braaivleis). Developed by Dutch immigrants, the braai has become a pervasive tradition across racial lines in South Africa. Like most barbecues it’s very much a social event, and the role of braaier (head chef) is a coveted position.

The range of meats used shows the braai’s many cultural influences- sausages, kebabs, and steak are all standard fare. A traditional Bantu porridge called pap, similar to grits or polenta, is a popular side dish.

4. Philippines

If you’ve ever been to a Filipino party, you probably remember the enormous roasted hog. Called lechón, no celebration is complete without a whole pig roasted over hot coals. The pig is brushed with its own fat, keeping the meat moist and the skin crunchy. Whole chickens and cattle are occasionally used as well.

Photo by lemuelinchrist

Lechón is so popular in the Philippines that it can usually be found year-round in street stalls and restaurants. Derived from a Spanish tradition, variations on lechón can be found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as well, especially during the week of Christmas.

5. Australia

Much to my dismay, no real Australian has ever said “Put another shrimp on the barbie” seriously. The whole thing came from an American advertising campaign with Paul Hogan (of “Crocodile Dundee” fame) –Australians actually say “prawn” instead of “shrimp.”

Still, Australia is a country that loves its barbecue. It’s so popular that many public spaces actually have coin-operated grills, and with so many great beaches to have cook-outs on it’s no surprise the tradition has taken hold.

Photo by Walmink

Thanks to its huge cattle industry and long coastline, Australians rely mostly on burgers and seafood to satisfy their grilling desires. The “sausage sizzle,” however, is what makes Australian barbecue special. Ubiquitous at fundraisers and school events, sausages are grilled, put on white bread with onions and tomato sauce, and sold for a dollar or two.

6. Mongolia

Mongolians have their own unique ways of cooking meat, but it’s not what you’d find at your local “Mongolian barbecue” restaurant– that’s a Taiwanese version of Japanese teppanyaki. Weirdly, the first American chain to open in Ulan Bator was just such a restaurant.

Meat has historically played a big part in Mongol cuisine, as nomadic lifestyles and poor land lend themselves better to livestock than crops. Khorkhog is the iconic Mongolian dining experience, usually reserved for special occasions or honored guests.

Stones are heated in a fire before being put in a pot with lamb or goat meat. The cooked morsels are eaten with diners’ hands, and it’s said to be good for one’s health to hold the stones used in cooking. Boodog is a more commonplace meal, where marmots are cooked whole over an open fire.

7. Argentina

In 1900, the quality and scale of its beef industry meant Argentines enjoyed a higher standard of living than Americans. Exports declined, but the Argentine love of beef hasn’t diminished.

Photo by Gustavo (lu7frb)

Popular in Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay as well, the asado is Argentina’s answer to barbecue. Meats are usually unmarinated and served like courses. Sausages and organs come first, followed by ribs, steak, and possibly chicken or goat. Salads, bread, or grilled vegetables accompany the meal.


Are you a barbecue fanatic? Check out Matador member Huntington’s blog post, Kansas City – Home of the Best BBQ in the World, and join in the debate: Where have you had your favorite BBQ?

FoodFood + Drink

About The Author

Ross Tabak

Ross Tabak is a freelance writer and photographer based in Southeast Asia. He runs the adventure blog We're Lost and Everything is Dirty.

  • Hal

    I can vouch for the uniqueness of the Mongolian tradition. Picture holding a scalding, greasy rock in one hand while shoveling scalding, greasy meat into your mouth with the other. Delicious but a little frightening.


    Wow reading this just made me so hungry…

  • joshywashington

    I will never, EVER forget the bbq'd catfish on a stick in Southern Thailand! For a Buck! mmmmm….catfish

  • Sarah_Menkedick

    Ohhh, yum! Does Indonesian satay count as barbecue? I still miss those skewers and the peanut sauce…the stuff of dreams…

  • VagabonderZ

    You're making me hungry man!! Great roundup…I can vouch for lechon (being Filipino and all) – not to be overlooked is their sweet pork barbeque too (on a stick). I had Korean bbq in, of all places, Mongolia! It was fab. We had a BBQ on the banks of the Yarra (Melbourne) using the public BBQ, which was actually free. And I've heard stories from friends who just traveled in SA about the beef there…that it's unbeatable. I do love me a good bbq!

  • Uncle B

    As the end of the “Cheap oil Era” approaches we will have to move away from beef on the Barbecue, SEE:
    “Cattle are fed prodigious quantities of corn. At a feedlot of a mere 37,000 cows, 25 tons of corn are dumped every hour. It takes 1.2 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer used for each bushel of that corn. Before a cow is slaughtered, she will eat 25 pounds of corn a day; by the time she is slaughtered she will weigh more than 1,200 pounds. In her lifetime she will have consumed, in effect, 284 gallons of oil. Today’s factory-raised cow is not a solar-powered ruminant but another fossil fuel machine.” SEE:
    and move to pork, chicken, fish and veggies – not so bad, but a bummjer just the same to see cheap steks go that way!

  • Smoking Ribs Mom

    For my money the best barbecue is by far at Arthur Bryants in Kansas City. They pile that smoked rib meat 7″ high on the bread and make a mountain of french fries all around. Fries are all over the floor they give you so many.

  • Tim Patterson

    Great article Ross – the photos made me super hungry and the information seemed solid. And I’m with Josh on the deliciousness of bbq catfish – just ate some in the mountains of Laos. Ask for: pin pa dook.

  • Nemanja

    Serbia. Town Leskovac. Southern Serbia. The best on the world. Pljeskavica and cevapi.

  • mason in mississippi

    yall are on some bullshit if you don’t even mention memphis!

  • Laura

    Awww, where’s the awesome goodness of the huge brazillian skewers of prime beef salted with coarse salt and BBQed over open coal?

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  • Matt

    You’re also missing Poland on this list.

    In the past decade, “grilowanie” (grilling)’s become the national pastime. Anywhere you go, you can find someone grilling some delicious finer cuts of beef or, of course, sausage. Smoked kielbasa and kaszanka (it’s this very tasty black pudding related dish) seem to be the biggest hits, but shish kebabs are huge too.

    And if you ever have a chance to check out the southern mountain towns in that lovely country, especially in the slightly more touristy zones, watch for the giant grills restaurants have set out outdoors. I’ve seen ten foot motorized spits of marinated meat set up by the dozen over giant grilling tables. It’s impossible to resist these things, especially when you walk by them at night. The glow of the charcoal feels so inviting, especially with all the marinating spices hiting your nose.

    The smell of roasting just permeates the atmosphere when you travel through these places, and sticks with you, too. God, I miss waking up in the morning with the scent of bacon in my hair.

  • Jeff Gonzales

    You should try the barbecued rice on a stick they serve in Thailand. It totally rocks.
    They flatten rice and shove a kebab stick through it to look like a Popsicle. After that they grill it with butter and salt. I wish I knew about this years ago.


  • SpergyStear


  • Tim Williamson

    Sounds like you’re going to have to travel to every region of every country in the world. I don’t envy you one bit – well, maybe just a bit.
    The info and the pics are great. I’m from Australia and you’re spot on with your info there. BBQ’s are a great way to bring people together.

    We cook Kangaroo steaks on the BBQ. The meat is so tender, flavoursome and full of iron and nutrients. Also very low in fat.

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  • rennie

    Also this is extremely biased. There are many videos how the animals were treated and slaughtered before you decide to eat their bodies. That baby pig was probablty boiled alive and surrended to horrendous torture.

  • rennie

    And people complain about animals skinned alive for fur and dogs eaten in China. Read the slaughter house links and watch earthlings.

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  • Fei Taulealeausumai Davis

    What is chain on side of BBQ for?

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