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Barbecue Basics: 10 Top Terms to Know

Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 4:35PM

Barbecue Basics: 10 Top Terms to Know

Local weather may still be chilly, but barbecue season will be here before you know it! Now is the perfect time to brush up on your grilling know-how in preparation for the cookouts and cook-offs ahead—and for that, Colt’s has you covered. Read on as we share top ten barbecue terms you should know.


We all know what barbecue is—right?

Well, barbecue actually warrants a spot on our list of need-to-know terms because it has a few interesting meanings. It can refer to the style of cuisine, the cooking tool itself, or the kind of get-together where friends and family dig into burgers, hot dogs, steaks and other grilled staples. Florida foodies will be interested to know that the word stems from the word barabicu, from Florida’s native Timucuan language, and was also used among the Caribbean’s Arawak population. Who knew that our sunny slice of the globe was so essential to barbecue history?


For many foodies, the best part of any barbecue dish is bark—a.k.a., the dark, crunchy, subtly sweet exterior of a pork butt or brisket.

Burnt ends

One of the best ways to enjoy some quality, chewy bark is via burnt ends—the sliced-off odds and ends of brisket that used to be seen as scrap meat. Today’s barbecue fanatics, though, know better, and covet the crunchy exterior and juicy, flavorful interior of this beloved beef. (Colt’s tip: Try our aptly named Burnt End Sandwich for a medley of mouthwatering chopped brisket and smooth, tender pulled pork!)

Baby back

Baby back ribs are a beloved barbecue staple, including here at Colt’s! Even casual foodies know them when they see them—subtly curved and super tender, they’re a mainstay of barbecue cuisine. If you’ve ever wondered about the name, the answer is simple—baby back ribs are smaller than spareribs (a.k.a. St. Louis-style),  hence the “baby” part of their name.

St. Louis-style

St. Louis-style ribs are straighter in shape, as they are cut without rib tips, and are known for their exquisite marbling which leads to a fantastic, tender flavor. These ribs are served saucy, typically grilled first as opposed to other types of ribs, before being coated in the sweet-yet-tangy tomato-based St. Louis sauce (there’s a delicious reason why St. Louis eats more barbecue sauce per capita than any other city in America!). Try Colt’s St. Louis Ribs, Baby Backs or both on the same platter.

Direct heat

You probably use direct heat often without even realizing what it is! This barbecue method refers to applying food directly to a heat source—think, searing steak on an open flame, or roasting marshmallows or hot dogs around a campfire.

Indirect heat

Indirect heat, on the other hand, is perfect for the “low and slow” method of preparing a delicious brisket, whole chicken and other barbecue favorites. Smoking your meat is a type of indirect heat method. Often, you will use a combination of both direct and indirect heat to achieve the perfectly cooked meat with an outer texture that’s deliciously brown and crisp.

Maillard reaction

Speaking of brown and crisp…

There’s a name for the kind of magic that happens when a steak is seared, chicken grilled, or French fries, well, fried. It’s called the Maillard reaction, and it describes the process in which amino acids and sugars in your food chemically react under heat and create a dark, delicious color and even better flavor.


Remember the bark we mentioned earlier? One of the secrets to a successfully crispy, sweet exterior is the rub: a blend of spices and seasonings applied to meat before being cooked to create a delicious crust. Every chef has a rub he or she swears by for the ultimate flavor and texture—and as you get into the swing of grilling, you will, too!

Secret Sauce

Not so fast! We here at Colt’s can’t reveal our secret sauce, but we believe every chef ought to have one. Experiment with different sauce options to arrive at the perfect complement to a rack of ribs or delicious sandwich, like our chopped brisket Fat Boy. (This barbecue term is so influential, that it has even taken on a metaphorical meaning! Someone who has the “secret sauce” in a professional environment, for example, has a skill or way of doing things that helps set them apart from the rest.

We hope that today’s guide helps enhance your grillin’ vocabulary! Of course, for those days when you crave classic barbecue flavor without having to slip on your chef’s hat, Colt’s is here to help. Swing by your nearest Colt’s—you can find us in Ormond Beach, Orange City and, soon, New Smyrna Beach—to enjoy delicious barbecue and fall-off-the-bone flavor that will inspire your own culinary adventures.  

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