Summer is here, and it is time for cooking outside. We often talk about wanting to BBQ, grill, and smoke meat, but what is the real difference in these terms? Because the words are commonly used interchangeably in American jargon, we are here to help settle the disputes by telling you everything you need to know about grilling vs. smoking cooking methods.
The two main ways to cook meat, poultry, or fish are by grilling or smoking. Both require different preparations and cooking time, and can be done on the same grill – whether gas or charcoal-based.
What’s the difference between grilling and smoking meats?
The Real Truth: Grilling vs. Smoking.
Grilling = Hot and Fast
If you choose this method, this means you are cooking over a fire – hot and fast. Temperatures are usually between 400-550F, for under an hour.
Grilling leads to a charred surface or searing that seals the natural juices of the food inside. This method is perfect for cooking tender meats like chicken, burgers, hot dogs, pork chops, and steak. You can also grill a variety of foods – vegetables, fruits, meats, and more.
Because of the high heat in a short amount of time, grilling is not as effective in breaking down tough meat. If you have pork or brisket, consider smoking.
Smoking = Low and Slow
Smoking means you are cooking with smoke, low and slow. This type of cooking has been used since ancient times to prevent food from spoiling. Nowadays, it’s used to add a smoky flavor and tenderness to meats, poultry, or fish. There are two main types of smoking: cold and hot.
Cold smoking is a commercial smoking process that is usually used in a smokehouse. The temperature is generally between 68-86F, and cooking can take days.
Hot smoking usually uses a grill or smoker with a temperature between 180-250F. You are going to be using 200-250F, which means you may likely be cooking for several hours. Smoking requires more expertise and experience to get it right.
Regardless of your level of expertise, summer is a great time to experiment. You’ll get bonus points for being able to explain to your family and guests the difference between grilling and smoking, and hopefully, you’ll make time to taste the difference as well!