The word barbecue and the open-fire cooking technique came from the Caribbean amongst the Taino people around the late 17th century. The word barbecue itself means “sacred fire pit.” The unique way to cook meat spread into Spanish, French and American cultures when slaves were brought from the Caribbean.
In the southern United States, barbecue initially revolved around the cooking of pork. Prior to the American Civil War, Southerners consumed five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef they consumed. Plantation owners regularly held large and festive barbecues, including “pig pickins” for slaves. Because of the poverty level in the South during that time, every part of the pig was eaten immediately or saved for later. During the Great Migration, many of the southern slaves moved to northern cities, taking their cooking techniques like barbecue along, which quickly spread across the country.