It’s true that many people use the term barbecue and grilling interchangeably.
There is another set of individuals, though, that chose one specific term over the other. These are typically regional variations.
For example, certain people only use the term “to grill”, while others in different localities refer to this type of cooking as “barbecuing”.
But, technically, there are differences and they not only include bbq vs grilling, but also, smoking vs grilling.
Therefore, our extended guide is your go-to resource for mastering the art of barbecuing, smoking, and grilling. It includes many details, tips, and FAQs to enhance your barbecuing, grilling, or smoking experience.
|Top Pick Gas BBQs and Grills
|Gas barbecues are the most convenient. They are easy to use because they are quick to start, have less mess and cleanup, provide better control over the temperature and heat, and are more like cooking on the stove. To help you, we have reviewed the best overall BBQ, the best large sized BBQ, the best tabletop barbecue, the best BBQ with side burner, and the best value for the price.
|More and more people are looking for ways to barbecue in the bad weather. Also, they want the taste of good barbecue without having to leave their kitchens. That makes indoor grills the perfect substitute for an outdoor barbecue. Of course, indoor grills are electric for safety reasons but you can save on charcoal. Let’s take a look at the selection of indoor grills!
Introduction to barbecuing vs grilling vs smoking
Cooking over an open flame speaks of tradition, flavour, and community. Barbecuing, grilling, and smoking are three distinct methods that have been refined over generations, each with its unique charm and technique.
As we’ve said, though often used interchangeably in casual conversation, these methods differ significantly in terms of cooking processes, flavours imparted, and the types of equipment used.
We will look at all these aspects and talk about each in detail. From the slow-cooked, smoky flavours of barbecued meats to the quick, high-heat sear of grilled delicacies, and the mouth-watering aroma created by smoking, we’ll see that each method offers its own unique, but appetising experience.
Definitions of bbq vs grilling vs smoking
Barbecuing is a slow cooking method that uses low heat and long cooking times. It typically involves cooking meat at temperatures ranging from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many barbecues have a spit or rotisserie so that chicken, turkey, lamb, and pork can cook slowly and evenly.
Grilling is a way of cooking that involves high heat and shorter cooking times. Grills can reach temperatures upwards of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for cooking steaks, burgers, and vegetables.
This method is known for the distinctive charred lines it leaves on food and is perfect for searing meat to lock in flavours. The lines are part of the appeal and fun of cooking hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks on a grill.
Smoking is a technique that uses smoke to flavour and cook food. This method can be done at low and slow temperatures, similar to barbecuing, but the primary focus is on the flavour the smoke from the wood imparts.
Different woods provide a unique aroma and taste to the food placed in a smoker. Generally speaking, this type of cooking takes long hours and sometimes more than one day.
Brief history of barbecuing, grilling and smoking
Barbecuing originated from the Caribbean and was adopted and evolved in various cultures, particularly in the American South. It became a staple of American cuisine, known for its communal and celebratory nature.
Grilling has ancient roots that can be traced back to the time when early humans cooked over open fires. This method gained popularity worldwide, with different cultures adopting various styles of grilling.
Smoking was initially a method used for preserving meat and fish, especially before the invention of refrigeration. Over time, it evolved into a cooking technique craved for the unique flavours it gives to food, with different cultures developing their own smoking methods.
4 Basics of barbecuing
1. Equipment needed for barbecuing
The essential equipment for barbecuing includes a barbecue, which can vary in size, fuel source, and functionality depending on your needs. Other important tools include tongs, a meat thermometer, good knives a basting brush, pot holders, a cutting board, and a grill brush for cleaning.
|Top tools for successful barbecuing and grilling
|Thermometer for safety
|Salt and pepper grinder
|Meat grinder for perfect burgers
|Electric salt and pepper grinder
|High quality knives
|Budget friendly chef knives
|Knife set in block
|Oil & vinegar dispenser
|Tongs for grabbing hot dogs, flipping steaks, and testing ribs
|Every one of these BBQ items is a great gift idea! Whether for birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, or just for yourself because you deserve it.
2. Types of barbecues
Barbecues can be broadly categorized into three types based on the fuel source:
They provide a traditional barbecue experience, using lumps of charcoal or black coals. They truly give the food a distinctive taste that most people crave and look forward to.
But, they do require more effort to control the temperature. If you are not careful, you might burn your food from too high heat and trying to cook too quickly!
Similar to charcoal barbecues but specifically designed for briquettes, these grills offer a more consistent burn and temperature control. Briquettes are known for burning longer and more evenly than traditional charcoal.
They are fueled by propane gas either by a 1 pound (16 oz) cylinder, 20lb tank, or permanently attached to gas in a home like the stove or furnace.
Gas barbecues are typically convenient and very easy to use. They heat up quickly and offer precise temperature control, making them a popular choice for those who barbecue frequently.
3. Types of meat best cooked on barbecue
The best meats for barbecuing are typically tougher cuts that benefit from slow cooking. These include brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and certain cuts of chicken. The low and slow cooking process tenderizes these meats, making them juicy and flavourful.
4. Techniques for barbecuing
Barbecuing techniques focus on maintaining a consistent temperature and managing the smoke for optimal flavour. Key techniques include:
Open pit barbecuing
Open pit barbecuing is a traditional and rustic method of cooking that involves grilling food over an open fire, typically in a large pit. It is popular because it is easier to cook large quantities of food at once this way. It is often used for social gatherings, big picnics, family reunions, community events, or outdoor parties.
An open pit barbecue typically involves a large, rectangular pit dug into the ground, lined with heat-resistant material like bricks or stones.
A grill grate is placed over the pit, and a fire is built underneath using wood or charcoal. The size of the pit can vary, allowing for the cooking of large items like whole pigs or multiple racks of ribs.
Many cities host rib contests and you’ll see the ribs cooked in big black barrels with grates on tops acting as the grill. They are also used at carnivals and amusement parks.
Wood is a common fuel for open pit barbecues. The type of wood used (like hickory, mesquite, or oak) can influence the flavour. But wood is ideal for outdoor cooking. Controlling the heat is required to prevent burning. This is typically done by adjusting the amount of wood or coals (charcoal), and the distance between the food and the fire.
Open pit barbecuing is a slow cooking process, often involving indirect heat and low temperatures. Frequent turning and basting might be necessary to ensure even cooking and to add additional flavour.
Although open pit barbecuing is commonly associated with meats like beef, pork, and chicken, it is also suitable for vegetables, fish, and even fruits. The idea is to choose items that benefit from slow cooking and smoke infusion.
Marinades, rubs, and basting sauces are often used to add flavour to the food. The choice of seasonings and sauces can vary greatly depending on regional preferences and personal tastes.
Open pit barbecuing is often a social event, bringing people together to enjoy food and each other’s company. The act of cooking and tending to the fire is a communal activity, enhancing the overall experience.
As such, it’s a cultural and social experience, deeply rooted in tradition. Open pit barbecuing does require skill and patience, but offers a rewarding and enjoyable way to prepare and share a meal.
Please remember that due to the open flame, safety is a concern. It’s essential to have a clear area around the pit, keep a fire extinguisher or water source nearby, and never leave the fire unattended.
Barbecuing a whole pig
How to cook a whole hog
Barbecuing a whole pig is a tradition in many cultures. The roasting of the pig is often the centerpiece of large gatherings and celebrations. It’s a process that requires careful planning, some skill, and a lot of patience, but the result is a memorable and delicious feast.
The size of the pig depends on the number of guests. A general rule is to estimate about 1 to 1.5 pounds of pork per person. The pig should be fresh, and properly cleaned, and ready for roasting. Many people prefer a pig that weighs between 50 to 100 pounds, as larger pigs take longer to cook and can be more challenging to handle.
Before cooking and after cleaning, the pig is often seasoned or marinated. This might involve rubbing the pig both inside and out with a mix of spices, herbs, and sometimes acidic components like vinegar or citrus. Some cooks inject the pig with a marinade to enhance flavour and moisture.
The pig’s cavity can also be stuffed with aromatics such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley or some chopped citrus fruit to further add to the finished taste. Be careful, though, not to overpower the taste of the pig with strong flavours, as it is very delicate.
Cooking a whole pig requires a large grill or a special roasting box, like a La Caja China or even a smoker. Open pit barbecuing is a popular method, where the pig is cooked over a large pit of charcoal or wood. Alternatively, a rotisserie setup can be used, allowing the pig to be evenly cooked on all sides.
It is important to regularly baste the pig so that it doesn’t dry out. You want it to stay nice and juicy.
The pig is cooked slowly over low heat. This slow-roasting process can take several hours, depending on the size of the pig and the cooking temperature. The goal is to cook the pig evenly, ensuring the inside is fully cooked without burning the outside. The skin should be monitored to achieve a crispy texture.
Cooking time can vary greatly. A general guideline is to cook the pig for about 1 hour per 10 pounds of weight. However, this can vary based on the exact cooking setup and temperature. For a whole pig, a temperature around 225-250°F is often recommended.
When finished cooking, allow the pig to sit and rest before cutting into it.
Carving a whole pig can be a spectacle in itself, and is often done in view of the guests.
You’re bound to hear many oohs and aahs from the crowd!
In many cultures, cooking a whole pig is a celebratory act and a sign of hospitality. It’s often associated with major events and gatherings, from luaus in Hawaii to pig roasts in the Southern United States and the Caribbean.
It is usually a social event, with family and friends participating in the cooking process. It’s an opportunity for social bonding and sharing culinary traditions. It is a unique experience that leaves a lasting impression on both the cooks and the guests.
How to cook ham on the grill
Barbecuing ham is a delightful way to prepare this versatile meat. It turns out tender and juicy. Plus, the flavour of maple is brought out making this an excellent treat for supper.
When choosing the right ham for the barbecue, choose one that is not already cooked. This will allow you to get the desired flavour. Cooked hams only need reheating so are not that great for barbecuing.
To prepare the ham, marinade it overnight. Be sure the barbecue is not so hot that you char the outside of the ham leaving the inside raw. Also, if you decide to use a glaze, do not add it to the ham until near the end of cooking. Doing this, will prevent burning from the sugar.
In fact, apply the homemade or store-bought glaze during the last 30 minutes to 1 hour of cooking. Glazing properly gives a beautiful caramelised finish which is quite tasty.
Barbecuing ham is best done using indirect heat. This means the ham is not directly over the flames or coals but off to the side. This method calls for slow and even cooking, again preventing the outside from burning before the inside is done.
The cooking time will depend on the size and type of ham. But be sure the finished ham is at least 145°F inside to avoid any unsafe bacteria.
Let the ham rest for a few minutes after taking it off the barbecue. The juices will redistribute throughout the meat, making the barbecued ham moist and flavourful when you slice it.
Finally, the key to a successful barbecued ham is the slow cooking process and keeping a consistent temperature.
Barbecuing pork roast
Grilled pork roast
Barbecuing a pork roast is a popular and delicious way to cook this meat. The finished roast is succulent and moist and cuts like butter.
It’s important to understand the cut of pork that you buy for barbecuing.
Common cuts include pork shoulder (sometimes called pork butt or Boston butt) and pork loin.
Pork shoulder is more fatty and full of flavour, making it ideal for slow cooking and smoking. Pork loin is leaner and can be more delicate, requiring careful cooking to avoid drying out.
Before cooking, it’s common to season the pork roast. This can be done with a dry rub, a mixture of spices and herbs, or with a marinade. Some people like to add slices of pineapple or chunky applesauce, but remember to do this near the end of cooking to avoid burning.
The method of barbecuing can vary. Low and slow cooking is often preferred, especially for tougher cuts like pork shoulder. This involves cooking the pork at a low temperature (225-275°F) for several hours. This slow cooking process breaks down the connective tissue in the meat.
One of the key aspects of barbecuing is the use of smoke. Woods like hickory, apple, oak, or cherry can be used to add a distinct smoky flavour to the pork. Make sure the wood you use complements the side dishes and the taste you prefer.
It’s really important to watch the internal temperature of the pork roast to ensure it’s cooked properly. For pork shoulder, an internal temperature of 195-205°F is ideal for pulling and making pork on a bun. For pork loin, the USDA recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145°F followed by a three-minute rest time.
Ribs on the grill
Barbecuing ribs is a classic cooking method, especially popular in regions known for their barbecue traditions, like the Southern United States. The process involves slow-cooking pork or beef ribs over low, indirect heat, with the addition of smoke for flavour.
Of course, the aroma will drive you crazy, and the whole family will be eager for the actual meal since ribs are so much fun to eat.
Common types of pork ribs include baby back ribs, which are smaller and leaner. Spare ribs are larger and have more fat. St. Louis-style ribs are spare ribs with the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips removed to create a uniform rectangular shape.
Beef ribs are generally much longer than pork ribs and have a dryer texture. They usually come in short ribs and back ribs.
Ribs are typically seasoned with a dry rub such as a blend of spices and herbs.
Some prefer to marinate the ribs, especially beef ribs, to tenderize and flavour them. Sweet and sour is a common flavour for spare ribs, but other people really enjoy a taste that is hot and spicy.
Ribs are usually cooked over indirect heat to prevent burning. In a charcoal grill, this means placing the coals to one side and the ribs on the other. The idea is to go low and slow for best results.
Throughout the cooking process, ribs are often basted with a mop covered in a thin sauce to keep them moist. In the final stages, some cooks apply a thicker barbecue sauce, which can be sweet, tangy, or spicy, depending on the recipe and individual tastes. Just keep an eye on the ribs to make sure they are not burning on the outside from the sweet sauce.
Ensure that pork ribs reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F for safe consumption. For beef ribs, the recommended minimum internal temperature is 135°F for medium-rare.
When done, the meat should be tender enough to tear apart easily, and it should have shrunk back from the ends of the bones. A common test is the “bend test,” where the rack should bend easily when lifted in the middle with tongs.
Once cooked, let the ribs rest for a few minutes before cutting. Ribs are typically served as a rack, or sliced into individual or two-bone portions, often accompanied by barbecue sauce on the side.
Barbecuing roast beef
Tender barbecue roast beef
Barbecuing roast beef can be a nice change from cooking it in the oven. If you do it right, the inside of the roast beef will be juicy and tender, perfect for a full-course meal with all the trimmings, or sliced thinly for beef sandwiches.
Popular cuts for barbecuing roast beef are brisket, chuck roast, and rump roast.
Brisket is popular for its flavour when cooked slowly.
Chuck roast and rump roast are more economical options that can also provide delicious results.
Obviously, the cut you buy will determine the cooking time and method. Fattier cuts like brisket are ideal for long, slow cooking to break down the connective tissues, whereas leaner cuts like rump roast require careful cooking to prevent drying out.
The key to barbecuing roast beef is to cook it slowly over low, indirect heat. The ideal temperature range for the barbecue is typically between 225°F and 275°F.
Maintaining a consistent temperature is the key for even cooking. When using charcoal grills, this means managing the coals. For gas grills, it means controlling the burners.
Cooking times will vary greatly depending on the size and cut of the meat, as well as the steadiness of the grill temperature. For example, a brisket can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours or more.
Always ensure that the roast beef reaches a safe minimum internal temperature. For beef, the USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145°F for medium doneness, followed by a rest time of at least 3 minutes.
Difference between grilling and bbq
The word grilling gives us visions of open flames, sizzling meats, and the joy of outdoor cooking. It is a popular, fun, and tasty cooking method. Grilling involves cooking food quickly over high heat, which not only imparts a unique flavour but let’s us know that better weather has arrived.
Grilling also creates the lovely grill marks which means the food is done properly. Even small children want their hot dogs (frankfurters) to show the black marks before eating their food. Those marks are part of the grilling experience!
Oddly, it’s a strange phenomenon that when you eat food done on the grill, you can eat way more than when done in the house on the stove!
But, understanding the basics of grilling, from choosing the right grill to mastering various techniques, is a learning experience for any grill master.
Basics of grilling
The first step in grilling is selecting the appropriate grill, which largely depends on your preferences and lifestyle. Charcoal grills are popular and have been used a long time. However, they require more time to heat up and a bit more skill to control the temperature.
Gas grills, on the other hand, offer convenience and precision temperature control, ideal for those who grill frequently. Nowadays, you can use the small propane canisters, the large tanks, or even a permanent hookup to your home’s gas line.
Electric grills are a suitable option for those with limited space or grilling expertise. They provide the simplest temperature control but lack the traditional flavours associated with outdoor grilling.
The basic idea of grilling lies in understanding how to manage heat. Grilling typically involves two methods: direct and indirect grilling.
- Direct grilling means cooking food directly over the heat source, ideal for searing meats and cooking smaller, quicker-cooking items.
- Indirect grilling involves cooking food next to, not directly over, the heat source, perfect for larger or tougher cuts of meat that need longer cooking times.
Learning when to use each method will make you more successful at grilling. Also, maintaining a consistent temperature is key. For charcoal grills, this means learning how to distribute coals correctly. For gas and electric grills, it’s about managing the knobs and settings.
Foods for grilling
Whilst most people think of hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages when they hear the word grilling, it isn’t limited to steaks and burgers. A wide range of foods, including fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, and even cheeses, can be grilled.
Fruits, with their natural sugars, caramelise beautifully on the grill, making for delicious desserts or side dishes. When grilling delicate foods like fish or vegetables, using a grill basket can prevent them from falling through the grates.
Grilling with marinades and rubs
Marinades, rubs, and sauces are a big part of grilling. They not only add flavour but also tenderize and moisturize the food. A good marinade typically contains acid (like vinegar or citrus juice), oil, and seasonings. It’s ideal for tougher cuts of meat.
Rubs, both dry and wet, are great for creating a tasty crust on the meat. They’re best applied just before grilling. Sauces, such as barbecue or teriyaki, are often used as a finishing touch, brushed on the food in the last few minutes of cooking to prevent burning.
Smoking vs grilling
Smoking food is a specialised art form that dates back centuries. It is a cooking technique respected for its ability to infuse complex flavours and preserve food. It’s an amazing process that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, using just the simple elements of wood and smoke.
Understanding the intricacies of smoking is hugely important to mastering this cooking method. To be honest, it involves more than just patience. It also requires an appreciation of the science behind it.
Types of smokers
Smoking involves cooking food at low temperatures in a controlled, smoky environment. To accomplish this, there are various types of smokers, each offering different features and benefits.
- Offset smokers separate the firebox from the cooking chamber, allowing indirect cooking.
- Vertical water smokers are compact and efficient, using a water pan to maintain temperature and moisture.
- Box smokers, also known as vault smokers, are popular for their consistency in heat and smoke distribution.
- Electric and gas smokers offer convenience and precise temperature control, making them suitable for beginners and those who prefer a more hands-off approach.
Choosing the right wood for smoking
The choice of wood is a big part of successful and enjoyable smoking. It is the key influence on the flavour of the food. Generally speaking and in brief:
- Woods like hickory and mesquite impart strong flavours, ideal for red meats.
- Oak, a versatile choice, offers a medium-strong flavour suitable for various meats.
- Fruitwoods like apple and cherry provide a sweeter, milder smoke, perfect for poultry and pork.
Experimenting with different woods can lead to exciting flavour combinations, enhancing the smoking experience. Therefore, we’ve put together a detailed chart explaining the types of wood used in a smoker, their specific flavour profiles, and what foods the smoker wood goes best with.
|Best Used With
|Pork, poultry, game birds
|Apricot & Peach
|Pork, poultry, fish
|Beef, pork, poultry, game birds
|Beef, lamb, poultry, game birds
|Strong, bacony, earthy
|Beef, pork, poultry, game birds
|Mild, slightly sweet
|Pork, poultry, game birds
|Beef, game meats
|Beef, pork, poultry, fish
|Beef, pork, poultry, fish
Techniques of smoking
There are two primary smoking techniques: cold and hot smoking.
- Cold smoking is done at temperatures between 68°F and 86°F and is ideal for foods that don’t need cooking, like cheese and smoked salmon.
- Hot smoking, the more common method, involves cooking food at temperatures ranging from 225°F to 250°F. This technique is suitable for meats, including brisket, ribs, and poultry.
Mastering the art of smoking involves controlling the temperature and flow of smoke to ensure even cooking and flavour infusion.
Interesting smoker ideas and new recipes
If you watch any of the cooking shows on TV in recent years, you have probably noticed the increasing number of contests and competitions for the best smoked meat, particularly brisket and ribs.
Contestants travel the whole country showing off their smoking skills and vying for the top position. To be known and crowned as the barbecue queen or king!
All of this means that the world of smoking is ripe for exploration, with endless possibilities for both traditional and innovative recipes. Classics like smoked brisket and ribs are just the beginning.
Adventurous pit masters can explore smoking cheeses, nuts, vegetables, and even desserts. Each food interacts uniquely with smoke, offering a new and welcomed array of flavours and textures.
All that is needed is motivation and experimentation to discover how different woods, temperatures, and cooking times influence the final product.
Final thoughts on bbq vs grilling vs smoking
Although there is a distinct difference between bbq vs smoking and grilling vs smoking, there seems to be a common thread in barbecuing vs grilling.
Depending on where you live will decide whether you call it barbecuing or grilling. Whatever your parents called the activity is probably what you will always call it. Either way, the fact remains that barbecuing and grilling are a huge part of many people’s lives.
For those that experience winter months, as spring arrives, the whole family eagerly awaits the day when mom or dad says the barbecue or grill can be brought out of the basement or garage and cleaned up for the new season. The fun has begun!
For those that are a little more experienced, a smoker may be in order. There are all kinds of successful individuals that use their smokers regularly. They make sure they have the proper cuts of meat in their freezers to keep up their smoking experiences and experimentation.
Regardless of whether you fancy yourself a pit master, or you just enjoy the lovely flavour of outside cooking in your backyard or at the park, barbecuing, grilling, and smoking are all wonderful and relaxing pastimes!
Round-up of bbq vs grilling vs smoking
Grilled watermelon with feta cheese
Asian chicken skewers on the grill
Marinated monkfish kebabs on the grill
Grilled marinated lamb with wine and peppercorns
Grilled pork cheeks with white peaches
Mediterranean lamb chops on the grill
Grilled prawns in green herb marinade
Chinese pork ribs on the barbecue
Potato salad is the perfect barbecue sidedish