Grilling vs Smoking

grilling vs smoking

Most people have heard of barbecuing, but not everyone knows some of the art it takes such as grilling vs smoking. Yes it is an art, there’s more to it than holding a piece of meat over an open fire. There is a difference between barbecuing, which cooks food quickly and grilling, which takes longer to cook. This is further broken down into grilling and smoking.


If you’re looking to buy a charcoal grill, should you consider getting one that will smoke as well? It’s good to have the option of cooking either way but its grilling that’s the quicker of the two. Grilling is normally carried out over direct heat and smoking is much slower because the food is kept further away from the heat source. So is one method better than the other?




There are three types of grills, electric, gas and the charcoal and there are two ways of grilling, with either direct or indirect heat. Although gas and electric grills are becoming more popular due to their ease of use and less mess, there is nothing to beat the original way of grilling over a charcoal fire.


Using direct heat means that the temperature will be higher and is best for smaller pieces of meat. Steaks, chops and chicken breasts are the types of meat that suit this method. With the indirect heat method, the food is kept away from the heat source and is placed to the side of it. It cooks more slowly and is similar in some ways to baking.



There is a big difference between grilling vs smoking, perhaps smoking is the finest way to cook but it does take much longer. It’s better for larger pieces such as roasts, ham, ribs, brisket which are thicker and sometimes tougher so benefit from being cooked slowly. In order to get the food smoked properly it’s important to maintain a steady temperature, which is usually around 200 – 225 degrees. If the meat is cooked until it reaches 165 degrees in the middle it will make it much tastier because the flavors from the smoke will penetrate right into the meat.


You can get different types of smokers with some people preferring a wood smoker, but there’s nothing like charcoal smoked food as it has a distinctive flavor. You might want to take a look at our review of the Brinkmann charcoal grill, which is for both grilling and smoking. It’s a good place to start if you’re a beginner as it does both types of cooking and isn’t very expensive.



As you can see, there is a big difference between both types of cooking and it comes down to your personal preference but also to the type of meat you’re cooking. Thicker, tougher meat is favored by smoking whilst smaller pieces are better grilled. In an ideal world having a charcoal grill which can do both, as already mentioned, would be a better option so you can pick and choose.


It’s smoking which gives you more flavor, but there’s always sauces you can add to make it taste even better. Again, this depends on your personal taste but vinegar based sauces tend to be more typical in the southern states while tomato based sauces are usually favored in the western states.

Whichever sauce you use, it’s best to add it towards the end of cooking. This is because most of these sauces contain sugar, which will burn easily, so applying it at the end means the meat is cooked before the sugar is burned.


Experimenting is the best idea as you may find tastes and flavors you’d never thought of. When it comes to grilling vs smoking, each has its place so it’s good to have the option of both methods.