Smoking vs BBQ vs Grilling : What Is The Difference?

Barbecuing and smoking are two popular cooking methods that are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different techniques. While both involve cooking meat at low temperatures for an extended period of time, the key difference lies in the way that heat and smoke are used to cook the meat.

Smoking, BBQ or Grilling: which should I use?

1. Grilling

Grilling is what many people mean when they say “barbecuing.” Grilling involves cooking over a high heat for a short duration of time. You can either grill directly or indirectly over a flame. Indirect grilling is done off the flame but is still at a high heat than when barbequing. Direct grilling is best for the tenderest meats such as steak or simple burgers. Whereas more delicate foods such as fish, vegetables and chicken thighs are best cooked on the grill over indirect heat.

2. BBQ

Barbequing involves cooking low and slow. Larger cuts of meat are used for BBQ such as pork shoulder, beef brisket or whole poultry. The cooking of these meats tends to take several hours and the key is to keep the temperature consistent. So a lot of BBQ involves using a combination of indirect heat from a fuel such as charcoal, as well as using smoke from wood chips to help keep the burn going. This type of barbequing is most commonly seen in America. Read our guide to American BBQ to learn more. 

3. Smoking

Smoking is a form of cooking and preserving food using smoke combined with low, indirect heat that's contained in an enclosed space. It is like a more extreme version of BBQ where the temperatures are even lower, the food is left to cook for even longer and it is actually cooked from the smoke that is produced.

What are the main differences?

The main differences across the three techniques are temperature, time and taste. The below table summarises the key differences. Of course there are exceptions to these rules, they're just a rough guide.

Grilling Barbecuing Smoking
Temperature High (160+°C) Medium (90-150°C) Low (50-120°C)
Time Up to 1 hour 1-8 hours 5-24 hours
Taste Chargrilled Smokier, heartier flavour Richest smoky flavour
Texture Firmer texture with chargrilled marks Melt-in-the-mouth Extremely soft, falls apart

What can be cooked on a BBQ vs a smoker?

One of the key differences between BBQ and smoking is the type of meat that is typically used. BBQ is typically used for leaner cuts of meat, such as ribs, brisket, and chicken, which can be cooked quickly and easily over a hot fire. Smoking, on the other hand, is best suited for tougher cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder, beef brisket, and ribs, which require a longer cooking time to become tender and flavourful.

In terms of flavour, both BBQ and smoking offer a unique and delicious taste that is beloved by many. BBQ offers a smoky, charred flavour that is often associated with summer and outdoor cooking, while smoking offers a more rich, smoky flavour that can be enhanced with different types of wood chips or seasonings.

See all our BBQ & smoking recipes.

Barbeque, smoking & grilling equipment

Barbeque, smoking and grilling can all be done with the same equipment provided that you can create an enclosed space for smoking.

BBQ typically requires a grill or smoker, while smoking requires a dedicated smoker or pit. Smokers come in a variety of styles, including electric, gas, and charcoal, and can be used to smoke a wide variety of meats and other foods.

Grills can be used without a lid to contain the smoke, they are also often very portable.

Browse and shop our range of:

  1. Grills 
  2. Food Smokers 
  3. BBQs

Can you use smokers and BBQs in winter?

The simple answer is yes. We offer the Cameron's stovetop smoker which can be used indoors and our range of ProQ BBQs and smokers are able to be used year round due to their enclosed shell. You can also use BBQs in the winter of course but unlike smokers they will need to be watched 24/7 so it can be chilly work!

Want to learn more? We recommend the below articles to help you get started with smoking or BBQ


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