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  • Real Pork Trust Consortium

How Barbecue Became Cool Across Cultures

Pulled pork and a pork shoulder exhibit the culture surrounding barbecue and how BBQ became cool
Photo: National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa

Dr. Derrick J. Coble, Swine Specialist at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, summarized this peer-reviewed journal article authored by Adrian Miller that explores how the craft of barbecue became cool and the culture surrounding the worldwide barbecue phenomenon.

Major Finding

This article details the evolution of the barbecue culture from its practice by African Americans on the plantations of the American South to its emergence in mainstream culture through features in popular media like television and magazines. There have been distinct shifts in perception associated with the popularization of barbecue both nationally and globally.

The authors explain the "seeds” for the explosion in the popularity of barbecue were planted in the 1990s when the language surrounding barbecue preparation and those who prepare it changed. Prior to the '90s, barbecue was seen as a folk art practiced by "to-go" cooks. In the ‘90s and beyond, barbecue became viewed as a craft practiced by pitmasters.


Why It Matters

The article provides context for understanding the twists and turns in the origins of barbecue culture. Preserving the original methods of cooking the whole hog, while embracing new culinary techniques such as barbecuing specific cuts allowed for variety, especially in a colonial state like North Carolina. The settlement of North Carolina in stages created a dichotomy of barbecuing entire hogs in the eastern portion of the state, while barbecuing the shoulder was common in the western portion of the state, creating unique geographic barbecue cultures.

The article also mentions the fading and re-emergence of African Americans in the culture throughout the '90s into the 21st Century, and how the culture is strong enough for the "to-go" cooks, barbecue pitmasters, and chefs.


How the Research Was Conducted

In writing this review, the author compiled articles from food writers such as R.L. Reeves, the writings of food scholars such as Richard E. Ocejo, John Shelton, and Dale Volberg. He also used interviews with legendary North Carolina pitmasters such as Ed Mitchell and Sam Jones.


Learn More

To learn more about barbecue and culture, read the full peer-reviewed article.

How BBQ Became Cool Across Cultures
Download PDF • 229KB


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