A Homage To The Belizean Barbecue

Placencia, Belize resident Gary Peterson extols the virtues of the Belizean barbecue. If you’re a meat lover, Belize really could be a place to get comfy in.

One of the first pleasures I encountered on my first adventure in Belize, was that barbecues seemed to be everywhere!

They’re in every village large and small, on the side of the road or in front of homes. The smells permeating from these black charcoal or propane tanks make you delirious.

Ask any Belizean where he eats most often, and the answer is the local barbeque favorite, or in his front yard.

In Belize, the drum barbeque grill is king, made from old propane or butane tanks.

The local welder cuts them in half, welds on hinges and a handle, adds four legs and paints them black. Job done.

There are two reasons for the popularity of these kinds of grill; cost, and rust. Here on the Caribbean Sea, everything rusts. You can make that cylinder last many years and replacing it will only set you back about $100. Or instead you can get the fancy US-brand gas grill at Benny’s or other stores here, for around $600, and it will be a rust bucket in a year or two.

As I consider myself a “Barbeque Specialist”, I worried about the supply of both pellets for my Traeger Smoker and Vision Grill/Smoker.

My issue with the Vision was it used lump coal, and I wasn’t sure what the supply was here. To my delight, I learned that’s all they use here, and, in fact, they produce lump coal.

Still, two years after moving to Belize, I purchased one of those drum grills, bags of lump coal, and plastic bottles of lighter fluid for flavor.

Luckily my wife was still back in the States and wasn’t privy to my varied uses of starter fluid, and the re-growth time for my eyebrows. It wasn’t long before my chicken wasn’t blackened, shriveled and unrecognizable.

I’ve become a frequent taster at almost every roadside barbeque stand from Placencia to Dangriga, Belmopan, Spanish Lookout, and Belize City.

Many areas it’s like almost every home has a little barbeque shack and a Coke sign out front.

Because there are no McDonald’s or Burger King in Belize, these barbeque stands are the fast food equivalent around here.

Late morning brings out mom or dad and the kids, firing up the smoker grills, dragging out the coolers, and soon the smells of chicken and beans fill the air.

Many will offer you homemade giant flour tortillas with your choice of dark or white meat. For a side, and there’s always a side, usually, it’s coleslaw and or potatoes salad.

This delectable, delicious roadside feast will fill you up for only about $5 and even with a beer or pop, still under $8 per person. See if you can get that back in the States.

Fried and grilled meat and poultry are common in Belize. Gibnut, iguana, wild boar, and armadillo are the more interesting and unusual wild game found on many barbecue menus.

Although the typical roadside barbeque can be a tasty treat, beware. There could be an unwanted treat in store for you inside. Belizeans don’t like to waste any parts, and I’ve bitten into tamales before to find a mouthful of chicken beak or foot!

Our Belizean barbecues are a throwback to the days of pirates standing around barbeque spits drinking rum and trading stories of the high seas.

The fact is, a major pirate faction was responsible for much of the population of Belize, from early days as slave traders. When that stopped working for them, the pirate community switched to the lumber business here, plentiful with shipbuilding.

But the pirate spirit continued, and is still here today, hovering over every well-used barbeque grill.

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Gary Peterson lives on the Placencia Peninsula, Belize, where he writes books about Central America and the Caribbean. Read more of Gary’s work on his blog.