The barbecue tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only [...] gives to the meat.

I thought of using the word campfire but in the sentence the barbecue isn't taking place in a camp; it’s just some grilling on the beach. I also thought of open air fire. But I wonder if there’s a shorter phrase or a single word for it?

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    Open flame? Grilling? Note that meat can be barbecued, grilled, or cooked over an open flame indoors. Only campfire necessarily signifies outdoors.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 13:19
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    The barbecue tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only wood/firewood gives to the meat.
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 13:58
  • If you're trying to convey the idea of cooking on a grill over a wood or charcoal fire that is open to the air, I don't think that either barbecue or smoking will work unambiguously. That's because at least two methods of barbecuing/smoking exist: direct or open-pit, where the meat is cooked over an open fire and permeated by smoke from the wood or charcoal fire; and indirect or kettle- or smoker-based, where the meat is cooked by long exposure to smoke ported into an enclosed box or kiln containing the meat. I'd go with "open-fire grilling" to describe what you have in mind.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 17:26
  • See the page on "Grilling: open pit Vs. kettle" at SmokingMeatForums.com (smokingmeatforums.com/t/103009/grilling-open-pit-vs-kettle) for various opinions on the subject. One commenter makes this distinction: "Grilling - is cooking meat quickly with direct heat at high temperatures. 500° F / 260° C. BBQ - is cooking meat slowly with indirect heat at lower temperatures 200°-250° F / 93°-121° C." Another suggests combining "direct" and "side fire box" methods. The subject gets very deep very quickly among the cognoscenti.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 17:33
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    In UK English, it's called a barbeque. "The food tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only a barbeque gives to the meat."
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:17

8 Answers 8


As a native American English speaker living in the Northeast United States, I would refer to this colloquially as a cookfire (or cook fire).

Dictionary.com defines cookfire as follows:

cookfire - a fire for cooking

For example, in the town of Mattapoisett Massachusetts, an individual must apply for a cook fire permit before starting a cook fire.

  • The permit allows the kindling of a fire no bigger than 2 feet in diameter for the purpose of cooking a meal or recreation.
  • A cook fire requires a proper fire pit to be built. A ring of stone, firebrick, or metal must completely surround the fire.

Note, a cookfire is distinct from a barbecue or hibachi or grill.

Cookfire image courtesy of historiccamping.com:

enter image description here

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    As another American living in the Northeast, I am in complete agreement. But note that Ngrams shows that cookfire is a predominantly American expression. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 15:10
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    As a British English speaker I'd perfectly understand what you meant - I suspect that the word is sufficiently transparent that you'd be fine using it outside the US. I think in British English "bonfire" and "campfire" would cover all these uses (though some might be termed "barbecue" I guess). Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 15:45
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    As an American living in the Midwest, I've never heard the term "cook fire."
    – jeremy
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 17:06
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    "Cookfire" was not common in the where I grew up in the US south, either, but it was not unknown. Mostly a word used by campers and hunters who stayed out in the woods. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 4:04
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    Hmm... I also used to always watch the discovery channel survival shows and still the word to me isn't one I recognize.
    – jeremy
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 4:07

Probably wood fire is the expression you are looking for:

Fire from wood usually gives a special, distinct flavour to food. Wood fire is also used for indoor cooking because of its characteristics.

Wood-fired ovens:

  • also known as wood ovens, are ovens that use wood fuel for cooking.

Why not barbecue itself? There are very few times when one will associate barbecue without fire (or grill) or food.

Note that barbecue doesn't necessarily specify the method (grilling, broiling, etc.) of cooking, just that it's a [gathering around a] heat source for cooking out of doors.


The answer is to the title. But the body asserts a different question:

The barbecue tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only [...] gives to the meat.

Except, generally, wouldn't you want to eat an item prepared on the barbecue?

The chicken tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only barbecue gives to the meat.

This would present a better picture overall, because it not only describes what is being cooked, but how it was prepared.

  • Barbecue's first listed definition is a less technical one, noting the event of communal outdoor cooking. For an actual device or technique, a "barbecue" will generally be considered a very long cooking technique, possibly using a hot smoker, rather than a standard american grill.
    – DougM
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 16:31
  • @DougM But the first verb definition for barbecue says to cook on the barbecue. So are you saying that "on the barbecue" means method instead of destination?
    – SrJoven
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 16:48
  • So the better response is that the barbecue isn't the fire, it's the device upon/in which the fire exists. I can go with that.
    – SrJoven
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 17:35
  • See Wikipedia's article on barbecue. The various meanings of barbecue are linguistic artifacts that convey a certain cultural context from the speaker.
    – DougM
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:29
  • At least to me barbecue doesn't imply that you're burning wood and not coal or perhaps even gas. Since the OP wants to emphasize the taste a wooden fire produces, I don't think this is a good choice here. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 16:34

I've heard of people saying smoking. Like Smoked ham, it basically is what everyone else is saying about the wood fire etc. but mine is more colloquial to me, though mine is shorter ;-)

  • Except that smoking is a distinct cooking technique. Smoking meats is the process of cooking them with just smoke and no direct contact to the flame. Smoking meats is also a longer cooking process. Barbecue (or BBQ) foods almost always includes charring which can only result in more direct contact with fire.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:02

I would say the word choices of charcoal, briquettes, or a combination of the two would paint the appropriate picture for your readers.

"The barbecue tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only charcoal gives to the meat."


I would use the term flame broiled. This is often used in advertising to give the image of outdoor barbecues roasting the meat offered for sale. It is often on packages of burgers sold at grocery stores. A well known fast food restaurant also uses the term flame broiled to describe their burgers.

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    That would work in North America only. The rest of the world has no idea what it means :-)
    – user63230
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 23:25
  • Like with smoked, this term is only applicable to a subset of cooking over a fire. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:06

In South Africa you can use braai (short for braaivleis) which Oxford Dictionaries defines as:

A picnic or barbecue where meat is grilled over an open fire.

A few example sentences:

The braai tasted incredible, with that unique aroma that only firewood gives to the meat.

They covered topics such as measures to take when storing food at room temperature, and how to handle and braai meat in open areas to ensure that food is not contaminated.

  • AFAIK that term's use is limited to South African English. I don't think I've ever seen anyone from elsewhere ever use it. Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:05

Hāngi is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven, called an umu. It is still used for large groups on special occasions

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    This site is about the English language and, therefore, it's not unreasonable to assume that the question was asking for an English word. Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 10:01

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