Global Grilling Habits

Americans love their grills and summer barbeques. There is some question about whether grilling and barbecuing are the same thing or not, but most people agree that there is a difference between the two. Barbecuing is typically described as being the low and slow version of cooking food where it is left on for a long time at a low heat to encourage tenderness and juiciness. Grilling is more like a quick cook, sometimes with sear marks left behind, and usually less tenderness and juiciness.

Of course, grilling isnt exclusive to the US of A. There are popular grilling traditions all over the world. This list is not all-inclusive, but here we try to highlight some of the more popular and more interesting ways that people grill their food all over the world.

An interesting coincidence in the world of grilling is that the verb often ends up also being a noun. "Grill the steak" means something completely different from "gather around the grill." This is a common occurrence in other languages too, as you may notice in the following paragraphs about grilling across the world.


Asia

  • Japan - Americans may be somewhat familiar with the Japanese grilling practice of hibachi, which translates to "fire bowl." Grilling is an important part of Japanese cuisine, with meat, vegetables, and even noodles being grilled. During the summertime, public places are flooded with hibachis and the sounds of sizzling food. Uchiwas, firm paper fans that are printed with ads and handed out on the streets, are used to fan the coals in the hibachi. In the United States, teppanyaki grills are often incorrectly called hibachi. The Teppanyaki grill is more like a griddle whereas a hibachi grill is more like a charcoal grill.
  • Korea - Korean barbecue, called gogigui in its native tongue, is a popular food category. You will hear mentions of it on the television, on radio, and in restaurants all over the world. This style of grilling is interesting because it is done at the table, where the grill is usually built right in. The grills are small but produce results quickly. Sometimes they are charcoal, but often times they are gas grills. At some Korean barbecue restaurants, the waitress will bring a tiny grill to your table and cook your food for you as you watch. This allows for the photographing of the food as it is being prepared, which is an interesting aspect of Korean food culture. You will see many younger Korean people posting photos of their meals on social media before they even taste the food, so they can inspire food envy and encourage people to try out new restaurants. Some people will even add filters, stickers, and animated glitter to the pictures of their grilled food. Emojis are used often as captions, but sometimes you will see OTL symbolizing a person down on their knees. OTL means that the food was frustrating, whether good or bad depends on the context! Side dishes are served in tiny bowls next to the grilled food, which is usually the main course. Sides are things like kimchi or cold vegetables that act as palette cleansers if you are eating something particularly spicy.
  • China - This country actually has two distinct styles of grilling. These styles focus mostly on the type of food cooked, not necessarily the way they are cooked. Chuanr is the practice of grilling chunks of meat, usually lamb, that have been seasoned with cumin. These chunks are skewered and then cooked. This is popular in the northern parts of China. The second type of grilling done is probably more familiar to Americans. This is the bright red meat on a stick that you probably recognize from Chinese restaurants. It is slow cooked, and usually each person cooks their own meat and then dips it in their preferred sauce. This means that there is no grill mater in this scenario, and your friendly gatherings are about standing around the grill, cooking, chatting, and having some delicious food too. Grilling is much more social in China than in other places, especially in Hong Kong where outdoor charcoal grills are the hangout spot of choice for most young people.

Australia

The grilling habits of Australia very much mirror those of the United States. They use the same kinds of grills that we do, as well as the same types of tools. Australians love to grill meat and seafood, as well as vegetables. Fruits are not uncommon either. There is even a stereotypical phrase "throw the shrimp on the barbie" that generalizes the love that Australians have for grilling. Absolutely anything can be used as an excuse for an Australian to throw a grill party. Voted? Enjoy a democracy sausage on this fine, sunny day. Friends coming from out of town? Pull out the grill. Having a baby? Have a grilled squid!


Africa

  • South Africa - This region of the world is famous for their celebration of braai, their version of barbecueing. This happens over fire exclusively, there is no gas grilling of any kind. Men get a lot of pride from their braai skills, and women are typically not involved in the grilling. Weber grills, pronounced "Veeber" in the Afrikaans language, are so engrained in the braai culture that many South Africans actually think this grill is native to their country. Popular on the grill is a particular type of South African sausage called "boerewors." These sausage are also sometimes called "farmer sausages" because they are frequently homemade by farmers through sausage making techniques passed down over many generations. There is a reality television show in South Africa called "The Ultimate Braai Master" where people compete to be declared the master of braai. The word braai can be used as both a verb or a noun, but the final product of grilled meat is usually called "braaivelis." Braais are usually all day events with copious amount of alcohol, company, and noise involved. Everyone in South Africa loves a good braai.
  • Morocco - People here love to grill food that has been heavily seasoned and that can range from fresh caught fish to vegetables. The northern parts of Africa prefer their grilled food to be full of flavor and seasoning, so salting before and during cooking is also accompanied by a plethora of spice mixes. The idea that a grill has to be a straight up fire pit with metal wiring here is much laxer than in South Africa, but thats still a pretty common method to go about it.

Antarctica

There are very few people in Antarctica, but those that live there still like to grill! Mostly indoors, mostly with griddles and never with charcoal grills. These people live in some of the coldest temperatures on earth, so trying to grill outside would mean frozen flesh and would probably be close to impossible. Your food would freeze the second you get it off the grill! That would make cooking it rather pointless. Since most of the people that live here live on bases in dorms, so they can conduct research of some sort, they eat in cafeteria style dining rooms with cooking done by chefs. There are no grilling parties like in other countries, but grilled food is still enjoyed.


Middle East

  • Israel - Around Israels Independence Day, grilling becomes a popular event. Called "al-haesh" or "mangal," grilling is a huge part of israeli culture. The most popular food to be grilled is the chicken thigh, and it is followed closely behind by a cold beer or soda. Chicken hearts and wings are also popular foods to grill. These grills are more like the American grills, with charcoal and gas both being options.

North America

  • United States - In the United States, we love to grill. The 4th of July is the ultimate grilling holiday, coupled with fireworks and patriotism, there are very few days in the year that are as good as this one. Cooking out is a backyard hobby where people from all walks of life gather around a large grill and throw on the classic American favorites, hamburgers and hot dogs. Summers are studded with clouds of smoke, the hissing sound of a soda opening and lots of loud laughter. Any and every grocery store offers deals on chips, dip, and bulk meat for all your cookout needs. If you talk about a barbecue here, you are probably talking about that low and slow business in the south, which produces some of the most mouthwatering meat and vegetables ever made. Some people even travel in from foreign countries to try a Southern barbecue on for size.
  • Canada - Obsession is an understatement. Canadians love the taste of barbecue year-round, not just in the summer months. Some people are even wild enough to grill during snowstorms, but mostly they will frequent the barbecue restaurants all over the country for that perfect meat craving to be satiated. Canadians barbecue food from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert. You can even find foods that you wouldnt normally eat barbecued, like pigs tails.

New Zealand

Here is the only kind of grilling on our list that you will find that goes underground. In New Zealand, you will find that sometimes grilling means burying food underneath piles of scorching volcanic rock to cook over the course of a few hours. They cook inside of a traditional dish called a hangi, and the food has a unique flavor because it roasts, steams, and pressure cooks.


South America

Like Africa, which has a passionate grilling following across the southern part of the continent, South America also has a grilling habit. Across the entire continent you will find people enjoying asado. This, at its simplest form, is a wood fire that is burnt until its just coals, and then metal crosses are added as shelving to add beef to. The beef is salted before and during the cooking process and is sometimes later topped with salsa. Marinades are not common in this type of grilling. In Brazil, it is called churrasco. More commonly, out of practicality and the wider availability of grills, the metal placed over the wood coals is an actual grate, not just crosses.


Europe

  • Sweden - As soon as there is the slightest hint of warm weather, people in Sweden will pull out the grill. Wrapped up in jackets, they will drag their grills out and go at it. These people have nearly just as much love for the grill as the United States does. Pork sausages are the food of choice for the grill.
  • Turkey - Here, the outdoor grill called a "mangal" is used to grill kebabs of all kinds. Lamb is the meat of choice, but it is not uncommon to find others on the grill as well.
  • Russia - Mangal love is prominent here too, with shashliks being the food to look out for. They are very much like a kebab, with the distinguishing feature being their marinades, with lots of onion and woody herbs added in. The shashliks will be eaten in a big group with people playing music and will be paired with foraged mushrooms, something that is integral to the Russian country home experience.
  • Britain - Much like they do in Sweden, the Brits yank their grills out at the first sign that the weather might be getting warmer or brighter. Popular foods to British folk are just like the rest of the world, with there being lots of meat and lots of vegetables to choose from. Sausages are common, but then again so is chicken. You are unlikely to find anything super spicy though.

Grilling is absolutely something that unties the entire world. People from all over the place find solidarity in cooking food for groups of people and sharing in those blissful moments together. This is a reminder that no one is as different as they may appear and that people, no matter their situation or position in life, are united by food.


Read More

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