My new book, Great American Grilling, is out and hitting the stores. I’m pretty proud of the book as it’s a combination of fun, history, food trivia, and of course great recipes. However; there has been one unexpected result.
I’ve been emailed several times from fans asking questions the differences between outdoor cooking methods. The question most often is this; “Kent, Do you grill or do you barbecue? Is it the same thing? Because I barbecue up burgers all of the time.”
Difference between Que and Grilled Food!
Well, I blame regional terminology, strange marketing, and poorly written ad copy for the confusion. First off – grilling and barbecue are two completely different things. A grill is an outdoor cooking appliance. Barbecue is a term applied to a food, such as pulled pork, smoked chicken, and other slow smoked foods
Both are associated with great tasting food but the question should be this. Do you cook on a grill? Or do you use an offset smoker to produce “barbecue?” The answer depends on what you’re cooking.
Grill: Think of grilling as broiling in your oven… only outside, and on a grill, and upside down when compared to the broiling in an oven. That was kind of goofy but I think you get the picture. A grill generally has one chamber and uses a heat source such as charcoal, wood, or gas.
The main thing is that you cook directly over the heat source. Or, you can grill by zones often called indirect grilling. Heat over there – meat on the other side. But still, pretty close to the heat source. Grills are perfect for burgers, steak, seafood, chicken, hotdogs, veggies and just about anything. Temperatures can become quite high.
Barbecue Smoker: A smoker generally has two chambers. One is for food and the other is smaller and used for the heat source. The second smaller chamber is used to maintain a controlled level of heat with smoke. An opening between the cooking chamber and the firebox, with the addition of vents, allows you to control the flow of heat and smoke from the firebox to the cooking chamber where the food is cooked using low heat, smoke, and longer cooking times.
There are also bullet smokers, pellet smokers, electric smokers, etc, etc, and etc. Still, the main idea is lower temperatures, longer cooking times, and the addition of smoke for flavor.
Where they Meet: The neat thing is that many grills have vents and can be set up for offset grilling or cooking at low temperatures. This allows a covered grill to be used much like a smoker. And, many smokers are designed to use the firebox as a grill where you can cook directly over the heat source.
The Big Difference: The big difference is that direct heat grilling is perfect for foods that are cooked quicker. Barbecue smokers are designed for foods, such as pulled pork, that require longer cooking times with lower temps. This process breaks down the connective tissues of tougher meats which turns tough meat tender and easy to pull apart. In the end, all that really matters is having a great time while you enjoy your meal with family and friends.
Kent Whitaker is a culinary writer and cookbook author. His newest book is titled Great American Grilling. He is the winner of the Emeril Live BBQ contest and winner of an American Authors Association Gold medal. Kent’s books are in bookstores nationwide and are available online. Kent lives in East Ridge, Tennessee with his wife Ally and son Macee. Visit him online at www.thedeckchef.com or twitter @thekentwhitaker .