When the summer sun graces the skies and the air fills with the sweet aroma of sizzling meat, you know it’s barbecue season in Canada. While Canadian cuisine might not be the first that comes to mind when you think of barbecue, it offers a unique blend of flavors and techniques that make it stand out. The country’s expansive geography, diverse culture, and historical influences contribute to a barbecue culture that is distinct yet familiar. From coast to coast, Canadians have developed their own methods and recipes for barbecuing, incorporating regional ingredients and local flair.
While the southern United States may be renowned for their barbecue styles, such as smoky, slow-cooked brisket and tangy pulled pork, Canada offers its own array of mouth-watering options that are equally deserving of attention. Some dishes reflect the multicultural fabric of the nation, integrating elements from French, British, Indigenous, and even Asian cuisines. Others are pure Canadian classics, born and bred in the Great White North.
The popularity of barbecue in Canada extends beyond simple backyard grilling. Various festivals and competitions are dedicated to this culinary art, where enthusiasts and professionals alike gather to showcase their skills. These events often serve as melting pots of flavors, where traditional recipes are shared, and new ones are created.
In this article, we’ll explore the various dishes that define Canadian barbecue. You’ll find recipes that incorporate quintessentially Canadian ingredients like maple syrup, and others that employ techniques adapted from across the globe. But one thing is certain: Canadian barbecue is as expansive and diverse as the country itself, and there’s something for every palate to enjoy.
What are popular Canadian BBQ dishes?
Whether you’re a BBQ enthusiast looking to try something new or simply curious about what Canada has to offer in the world of grilled and smoked delicacies, this article promises to be an enlightening gastronomic adventure. We’ll explore each dish in detail, providing you with not only the recipes but also the historical and cultural contexts that make them uniquely Canadian.
Back Bacon on a Bun
The concept of bacon takes a delightful twist in Canada with the creation of “back bacon” or “peameal bacon.” Unlike traditional bacon, which comes from the pork belly, back bacon is made from wet-cured pork loin that’s rolled in cornmeal. The result is a lean, juicy cut of meat that’s less fatty but equally delicious. The traditional way to serve it is grilled and sandwiched between a fresh bun, often accompanied by condiments such as mustard, relish, or mayonnaise. The simplicity of the ingredients highlights the quality and flavor of the meat. This dish is popular not just for BBQs, but also for breakfast and at food markets, epitomizing the easy-going yet flavorful nature of Canadian cooking.
If there’s one dish that stands out in Quebecois cuisine, it’s tourtière, a spiced meat pie often enjoyed during the holiday season. However, the flavors of tourtière translate exceptionally well into the form of a burger. Ground pork is seasoned with a mix of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, then grilled to perfection. The burger captures the essence of the traditional pie in a form that’s perfect for a summer barbecue. Served on a bun with the usual burger accouterments, this dish brings a piece of Quebecois heritage to BBQs across Canada.
Salmon is an integral part of Canada’s coastal culinary landscape, particularly in British Columbia. Cedar-planked salmon offers a deeply aromatic, smoky profile to the tender, flaky fish.
The fish is seasoned with herbs and spices before being placed on a water-soaked cedar plank. The plank is then placed on the grill, infusing the fish with flavors from the cedar.
The combination of the rich salmon, aromatic wood, and the smokiness from the BBQ creates a dish that is uniquely Canadian and deeply rooted in the Indigenous cultures of the region.
Alberta Beef Steaks
Alberta beef is synonymous with quality, making its steaks a Canadian BBQ staple. These are often thick cuts like ribeye or T-bone, seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper, and perhaps a brushing of olive oil.
The focus is on the beef itself—high-quality, flavorful, and tender. Alberta’s climate and geography make it an ideal location for raising cattle, leading to meat that’s rich and full of flavor.
While beef steaks are a common barbecue item worldwide, Alberta’s local pride in its cattle industry gives this dish a special place in the hearts of Canadians.
Maple syrup is a quintessential Canadian product, and its culinary applications extend beyond pancakes and waffles. In the context of BBQ, maple syrup serves as the perfect glaze for ribs, offering a sweet contrast to the smoky and savory meat.
Typically, the ribs are first seasoned with a dry rub, then slow-cooked until tender. They are finished off on the grill with a generous brushing of maple glaze, resulting in ribs that are sticky, sweet, and irresistibly delicious.
This dish exemplifies how traditional Canadian ingredients can be innovatively used in modern cooking.
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cheese Curds
Taking inspiration from poutine, one of Canada’s most beloved comfort foods, grilled corn on the cob with cheese curds is a unique hybrid.
The corn is grilled until it develops a smoky char, then it’s adorned with cheese curds and sometimes a drizzle of gravy.
It’s a dish that manages to combine the best of BBQ and comfort food, making it a hit at gatherings and a testament to Canadian culinary ingenuity.
A traditional Indigenous bread, bannock can be easily made in various settings, including over an open flame. The bread is simple, often consisting of flour, baking powder, and water.
Yet, it serves as a versatile side dish at barbecues, where it can be enjoyed with meat, soups, or even jams and spreads. The preparation of bannock over an open flame is not just culinary but also cultural, serving as a reminder of Canada’s rich Indigenous heritage.
Butter Chicken Skewers
Canada’s multicultural society is reflected in its cuisine, and the inclusion of butter chicken skewers in BBQ menus is a perfect example. Marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices, the chicken is skewered and grilled, then served with a butter chicken sauce. The result is a fusion dish that brings the flavors of Indian cuisine into the Canadian BBQ scene, symbolizing the country’s cultural mosaic.
As we conclude our culinary journey through the diverse landscape of Canadian BBQ, it becomes clear that Canada’s barbecue scene is as varied and expansive as the country itself.
Far from being a mere imitation of other barbecue traditions, Canadian BBQ has carved out its own niche, blending Indigenous techniques, local ingredients, and multicultural influences to create a distinct identity.
From the smoky and sweet allure of Maple-Glazed Ribs to the cultural fusion found in Butter Chicken Skewers, each dish we’ve explored adds a unique chapter to the ongoing story of Canadian cuisine.
Whether you’re grilling in the urban settings of Toronto or Vancouver, enjoying a backyard BBQ in the plains of Alberta, or partaking in a community feast in the coastal regions of British Columbia, the flavors of Canadian barbecue offer something for everyone.
They celebrate not only the rich agricultural and coastal resources of the nation but also the patchwork of cultures and communities that call Canada home.
Beyond the flavors and techniques, perhaps what truly sets Canadian BBQ apart is its ability to bring people together. Just like the country itself, Canadian barbecue is inclusive, inviting, and constantly evolving, echoing the nation’s broader values of community and diversity.