You might think that the word "barbecue" originated in Texas, or the Carolinas, or Memphis. But barbecue's roots run deeper than that—back to barbacoas, the original all-purpose home gadgets.

By Annie Quigley
Updated May 23, 2017
Pork and Bacon Kebabs
Credit: © James Baigrie

In this series, we reveal the secrets, histories and quirky bits of trivia behind your favorite foods.

You might think that the word "barbecue" originated in Texas—or one of the Carolinas or Memphis (depending on your preferred BBQ style). But barbecue's roots run deeper than that. In fact, the word can be traced back to long before the United States of America or the argument about which style of BBQ sauce is better, vinegar or ketchup, even existed.

Native Haitians are credited with constructing the original barbecue. They fashioned frameworks of sticks called barbacoas over which whole animals were slowly cooked. The twigs were green to prevent the wood from burning too quickly, and the result was a delicious, deep, smoky flavor. The word "barbacoa" probably comes from the Caribbean Taíno word "barabicu," which morphed into "barbecue."

A barbacoa wasn't just a cooking rack, however. The very same structure used for slow-cooking meat was also used as a cage-like protection against wild animals. So a barbacoa was the original all-purpose home gadget: You could roast dinner and fend off hungry animals, all with one wooden frame.

Salute the Taíno people this weekend by throwing your own modern take on a barbecue with these delicious recipes. Rigging a DIY barbacoa out of green twigs is optional.