Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL
"The standard definition of barbecue is cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time, as opposed to grilling, cooking over direct heat, hot and fast—but barbecue's a heck of a lot more than that. Barbecue's the time and the environment; it is what is happening while the meat is on the grill. Down in Alabama, barbecues last all weekend. It's not just the meat on the grill, it's how you spend your time and who you spend your time with. That, my friend, is barbecue."
Drew Robinson of Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q in Birmingham, AL
"My definition of barbecue is obviously meat that's cooked low and slow over wood, but more importantly, I think barbecue is an occasion that brings people together."
Patrick Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville, TN
"Macro: It defines us. It's our food as Americans. It started in the South originally...but just like France has its cheese, we have barbecue. I don't care where you are in the country; even if you go out of the definition of barbecue and into the definition of grilling, there's something about us as Americans that like to get around a live fire, cooking protein. So that's what defines us, and that ends up lending itself into love and family."
Mike Mills of 17th St. Bar and Grill in Murphysboro, IL
"It's meat, normally pork, cooked low and slow over direct or indirect coals - whether it be charcoal or whether it be burned down embers - along with a seasoning and a mop sauce added on during the process and a sauce towards the end. That's my definition."
Skip Steele of Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis, MO
"I guess it's comfort food from my childhood. That's my definition of barbecue: being out in the backyard with good friends, having a blast."
John Stage of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in New York, NY
"Other than the process of cooking, I guess to me it's a lifestyle. It's what I do, day in and day out."
Joe Duncan of Baker's Ribs in Dallas, TX
"Any meat that's grilled, smoked, cooked low and slow."
Leslie Scott (Daughter of Garry Roark) of Ubon's Bar-B-Que of Yazoo in Yazoo City, MS
"Barbecue is the music of food."
I forgot to take a photo of Leslie and Garry, so just imagine two faces with smiles as big as the one that lights up your face when you see this pulled pork sandwich.
Ed Mitchell of The Pit in Raleigh, NC
"Whole hog is my definition of barbecue. Cooking a whole animal for twelve to fourteen hours (depends on the size) and chopping it up, using an Eastern style vinegar-based sauce, is my definition of barbecue."
John Schafer of Wildwood BBQ in New York, NY
"The only originally American cuisine."
Charles Grund of Hill Country Hospitality in New York, NY
"My definition of barbecue: Cooking food low and slow, and enjoying the company and the camaraderie and the community all around."
Baby Back Ribs From Rack and Soul in New York, NY
"I managed to lose my recording of Memphis in May World Champion John Wheeler defining barbecue in his own words. Fortunately, I can never forget the flavor of the Alabama-raised pit master's baby back pork ribs. Combining sweet, smoky and savory in its thick, powerful bark, these ribs can be found daily alongside Charles Gabriel's masterpiece fried chicken at New York's own Rack & Soul."
Photograph: Danny of Food in Mouth
Nick Cochrane of Jack's Old South in Unadilla, GA
"My definition of barbecue: something not over-smoked, not overpowering. It still receives the natural flavor of that meat, whatever it be, beef, pork or chicken - you're able to pick up a mild smoke flavor, and you're able to pick up what you do to that meat."
Ken Bosley of Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, KY
"Barbecue is anything cooked over hickory wood over a period of time, slow cooked."
Jimmy Hagood of Blackjack BBQ in Charleston, SC
"It's gotta have a layer of flavoring, from the dry rub to the wood to the charcoal to the finishing rub to the sauce to the showmanship. Barbecue is the most democratic food there is, because you can look out here and see all walks of life, and they're all here, wanting barbecue. You don't do that with hamburgers. You don't do that with hot dogs. It's gotta be good pork barbecue, pulled pork—and it's, you know, the food of the gods."
Kenny Callaghan of Blue Smoke in New York, NY
"Low, slow and steady."
Pictured: Callaghan's masterful smoked beef rib.