Difference Between Barbecuing And Grilling

By MariJo Kolze

Barbecuing and grilling are often mistaken for the same thing by many people. While both of these methods make excellent meats, their flavors are very different. Unlike grilling, barbecue involves cooking food slowly and can be used to cook tougher meat. As for grilling, you prepare your meat using higher heat, and for a shorter period of time. Either method will result in a tasty meal, but barbecuing is a better option if you prefer an intense, smoky flavor.

What is Barbecuing?

BBQ Ribs

Barbecuing is known as a slow and low-temperature cooking process. If you love those large, authentic BBQ pieces of meat, you're familiar with this process. Because you grill at lower temperatures ranging from 190 to 300 degrees when you barbecue, you get a juicier, more even cut of meat. If you cook large pieces of meat at these temperatures, cooking time will be longer, ranging from 4 to 6 hours, or even longer.

There are also differences when it comes to how the heat reflects off the meat when barbecuing. As an example, the meat isn't cooked directly over the flames, but instead uses indirect heat and a two-zone method of cooking. The indirect heat method gives barbecue its authentic smoky flavor. Often, people use wood or charcoal when barbecuing to enhance the flavor and bring out that distinct taste. As long as "slow and low" is on your mind, you'll be able to barbecue some delicious meat.

As for the seasoning part, it is best to avoid adding BBQ sauce while barbecuing meat due to their long cooking times. Due to tougher meats taking longer to cook, adding BBQ sauce will simply burn the meat. If you want to enhance the flavor even more, add a bit after you take the meat off or use it as a side dip!

Best Foods to Barbecue

As mentioned earlier, the best foods to barbecue are the big and fattier pieces of meat. Meats such as a pork shoulder, ribs, or a whole chicken can fit into this category. When grilling, you should choose meats that are less tender and already marinated. Next time you fire up the grill, watch this smoked pulled pork recipe by chef Billy Parisi!

What is Grilling?


Grilling on the other hand, is something that is very common across households. Due to the faster cooking process, families often choose to use this method during the busy week to prepare their meat. As a result, grilling is often referred to as a fast and hot cooking method. Normally, grilling takes place at temperatures between 450 and 550 degrees, for a shorter period of time.

When grilling, you place the meat directly over the flames. Using direct heat, you prepare food over a charcoal or gas grill. Since you are grilling for a shorter period of time, you will not produce smoke like you would if you were barbecuing. Although grilling gives you the same natural, juicy taste as barbecuing, it will not have the same smoky taste. We recommend adding a rub, marinade, or sauce to your meat to give it more flavor.

If you wish to add seasoning to your grilling, you can marinate beforehand with your rub or spices. In addition, you can also apply a BBQ sauce during the last few minutes of cooking to achieve the desired taste and texture.

Best Foods to Grill

When it comes to the best foods to grill, there is a wide range of options. However, cooking smaller pieces of meat like hamburgers, chicken, steaks, etc. is better. Despite the smaller meats, there are still thick cuts, like a filet mignon or ribeye, you can grill. The key to grilling meats is choosing those with the most tenderness because they cook more quickly and will be able to maintain their juiciness. Grilling is also a good way to cook tasty vegetables, as it enhances their sweetness and flavor.

Check out this Youtube video for a fast and easy way to grill chicken on the grill!

Always Keep Internal Temperatures in Mind

No matter what cooking method you decide to use, you always want to check on your meat when finished to make sure it is at the right internal temperature for that perfect, juicy result. Save this cooking temperature chart next time you decide to barbecue or grill!

chart via foodsafety.gov