Although it has its roots in the French countryside, barbecue is one of the few culinary traditions that is almost entirely an authentic American tradition. The first barbecue on these shores was prepared by slaves in the Caribbean and in the American South, and it served two purposes: Because they were often given the less choice cuts of meat, cooking it low and slow served to tenderize it. This method also allowed slaves to come home to a well-prepared meal after spending the entire day at their labors. They would begin the barbecue in the morning and let it cook until the sun went down. Following are five classic American barbecue traditions.

Texas Brisket

It wasn’t just the first slaves who needed to find ways of making tough cuts of meat tasty and palatable. Because the American cowboy was also given tough cuts of meat for his dinner, smoked brisket was born in the back of chuck wagons as the followed the herds on cattle drives. Brisket should never be rushed because doing so risks the chances that it will turn out tough.

Beef or Pork Ribs

Ribs are another hallmark of classic American barbecue. Both pork and beef ribs are used, and they’re generally glazed with sauce of some sort. Honey-glazed ribs are very popular, and many barbecue cooks have variations on rib sauces that they keep secret. Some of the best sauces that are passed down through the generations are never written down so that exposure to prying eyes is minimal.

Barbecued Chicken is Always Delicious

Chicken can be barbecued whole or in pieces, and either way, it’s delicious. Brushing the meat with with a prepared sauce prior to placing on the barbecue grill will yield best results when gas grill covers are used. This method locks in the moisture as well as flavor. Barbecued chicken is an excellent choice for backyard gatherings because it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook as brisket or ribs.

Salmon and Shrimp

Barbecued salmon is one of the easiest and most elegant back yard meals of all time. Even though barbecue isn’t normally thought of as sophisticated cuisine, salmon’s unique taste blends well with lighter barbecue sauces, particularly those that contain a significant amount of honey mustard. Shrimp on the side and a fresh green salads rounds this out well.

Burgers and Hot Dogs

Everybody needs at least one backyard summer cookout with burgers and hot dogs on the grill. The beauty of this is that this simple fare can be dressed up or down according to individual preferences. No matter how they’re prepared and served, something about barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers just plain tastes like summer.

Whether your specialty is low and slow brisket that falls off the fork when prepared to perfection to burgers for the family on a summer afternoon, learning how to barbecue is a skill that you’ll ever regret obtaining.