Great moments in barbecue from Columbus' pigs to the first Black female hall of famer

Todd A. Price
Southern Kitchen
Payne's Bar-B-Que is a Midtown Memphis favorite and a family operation that has been in business since 1972 serving truly old-school barbecue. Pictured on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

The greatest moment in barbecue is each time you take that first bite of ribs, brisket or pork. Barbecue has been a part of America since the country was founded, drawing people together for a feast or helping politicians swing votes their way with a free meal. Here are some notable moments as America's original cuisine grew and evolved.

1493

Christopher Columbus, on his second journey, brought pigs to America, making pulled pork and whole hog barbecue possible. Prior to that, he had encountered Indigenous people smoking meat on the island that would eventually become Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

1661

The word "barbacu'd" appeared in English for the first time in a travel book by Edmund Hickeringill.

1839

"The Kentucky Housewife" cookbook included likely the first printed recipe for barbecue.

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1920

Ford Motor Company began selling pillow-shaped charcoal "briquets" made with the lumber scraps from its car plants. Ford's cousin, Edward G. Kingsford, oversaw the charcoal production. Later, the company would be renamed in his honor.

1940

Heinz launched its barbecue sauce, the first widely available bottled sauce.

Weber original kettle premium 22

1952

Weber introduced its now ubiquitous kettle grill, fashioned by George Stephen from a metal buoy.

1967

Writer Calvin Trillin started his "U.S. Journal" column in the New Yorker magazine. He frequently celebrated regional American foods and helped spark a renewed appreciation of traditional pit barbecue restaurants.

1974

The World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest was added to the Houston rodeo. It will become one of the four most prestigious barbecue competitions in the country.

May 6, 1978 - Bessie Louise Cathey was one of the 25 contestants who took part in the first Memphis in May International Barbecue Cooking Contest, which was held in a parking lot by the Orpheum Theatre at Main and Beale streets.  Mrs. Cathey won the $500 first prize.

1978

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, more commonly called just Memphis in May, launched with only a few dozen teams. It now draws competitors from around the world.

1980

The American Royal Barbecue Contest was added to Kansas City's annual livestock show. It will grow to be one of the largest and most high-profile competitions in the U.S. 

1985

Kansas City Barbecue Society was founded. It will go on to train and sanction thousands of judges for barbecue competitions.

The competition draws in nearly 100 master barbecue teams from all over the world to compete in seven categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder/butts, beef brisket, dessert, cook's choice and Jack Daniel's sauce.  Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue

1989

Jack Daniel's hosted its first World Championship Invitational Barbecue, better known as The Jack. Only teams that win other cook-offs are invited to compete. The competition, along with Memphis in May, the Kansas City Royal and the Houston Rodeo, is now one of the biggest prizes sought by serious barbecue teams.

2002

Restaurateur Danny Meyer opened Blue Smoke in New York, bringing wood-smoked meats to the heart of Manhattan.

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2012

The Barbecue Hall of Fame held its first induction ceremony at the American Royal in Kansas City.

2013

Texas Monthly magazine hired Daniel Vaughn as America's first "barbecue editor."

2015

Austin pitmaster Aaron Franklin won a James Beard Award, a prize in the past usually given to chefs at fine dining restaurants.

2017

Competition circuit champion Melissa Cookston, known as the "winningest woman in barbecue," became the first woman inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

Cozy Corner Matriarch Desiree Robinson, right, is officially inducted into the The American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame, receiving her trophy for the award from the first female to ever win the title, Memphis Barbecue Co.'s Melissa Cookston.

2020

Desiree Robinson, owner of the family-run Cozy Corner in Memphis, becomes the first Black woman inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

News tips? Story ideas? Questions? Call reporter Todd Price at 504-421-1542 or email him at taprice@gannett.com. Sign up for The American South newsletter. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.