Grilling vs. Barbecuing
The summertime for most people means that it’s time to go out and have fun in the sun. One activity that most of us Americans do is have parties in the backyard with our friends and family. For me, it means the chance to enjoy some delicious homemade burgers and hot dogs. Every summer it feels like it’s my American duty to consume as much cooked animal product as possible.
Almost as though my citizenship depends on it. Whilst participating in this act of carnivorous indulgence I thought about how some meats are classified as grilled, and others as barbequed. Then I asked myself, “Is there really even a difference?” After doing some research on the matter I have come up with a more solidified grasp on the difference between grilling and barbecuing.
So what is the difference between grilling and barbecuing? The answer comes down to a few factors in the preparation of the meats. The first is that the cooking time is much different, grilling is done within a few minutes. Usually one would take the readied meat and then promptly slap it on the grill until it’s done. Barbecuing is done a bit more methodically, and more often than not, the meat cooks for a much longer time.
With the slower time, this means the two cooking methods also have another disparity, cooking temperature. Grilling is done at a higher temperature, often exceeding 500°F. Barbecuing is done at half the temperature, which is where the term “low and slow” comes into play.
This often helps the meat become a bit more tender and lets it cook longer in some of the juices. Though this can also differ depending on what meat is used. Which is another difference between grilling and barbecuing. Grilling is often done with the more traditional types of meat, such as burger patties, hot dogs, and chicken cuts. Barbecuing features ribs, brisket, and shoulders. The two processes have definitive characteristics, however, they are also similar in that they have a shared history of bringing people together.
The History of Grilling & Barbecuing
Grilling dates back even further than one might think, tens of thousands of years ago when primitive mankind discovered how to control fire. Though I still struggle to turn on a stove-top burner at times, our primitive ancestors learned to harness the power of fire and use it to prepare the meat they were able to catch. This makes me appreciative of the local grocery store that we have today. Barbecuing comes from the writings of Spanish explorers who discovered the process from the native inhabitants of the “New World”. This makes sense as modern America is known in many places for its BBQ, especially in the southern states. The difference between these two forms of cooking meat has only grown over the years.
Comparing Barbecuing vs. Grilling
When it comes to grilling and barbecuing, both methods get the job done, and meat is served on the table. There is also a misconception that adding barbecue sauce to meat is considered barbecuing, however, this is not the case.
Either meats can have bbq sauce added to them during or post-cooking. Nothing helps a nice piece of grilled chicken quite like some sweet and tangy bbq. However, if you’re adding on to the meat while cooking then you must be wary.
Barbecue can burn at high temperatures, meaning that it’s a bad idea to add it onto meats too early into either cooking process. For the barbecuing method, the sauce is generally added on somewhere within the last hour of cooking. This ensures that the sauce is able to achieve its goal of helping to flavor the meat.
When it comes to grilling, the sauce is added on in the last moments as it could potentially burn off. This however helps it with a nice glaze that can really spice up your meat and ensure that your friends and loved ones know you as the grillmaster that you are. This also allows you to achieve the nice grill marks that make it look like you are a professional, although you’re probably only going to get paid in compliments by your friends and not actual money.
Beyond this misconception, the methods are different in the way that they produce meat. The cooking time, temperature, the types of meats, and the grills used being prepared are where the main differences lie in the two cooking processes.
Cooking Time and Temperature
When it comes to grilling, the cooking time is often very short. If someone was throwing a large party with many people then they would probably want to choose this method of preparing meat, as it allows for many people to be served in a short amount of time. This is because a grill runs hot and allows for the meat to be cooked fast and efficiently.
This means less time spent preparing and grilling. It also means that more people’s stomachs will be filled at a greater rate, and your backyard parties will be the talk of the neighborhood or town.
Barbecuing is a completely different experience. Barbecuing is done over hours of time. The long and slow process is due to tougher meats being cooked, thus they need to be held in the heat longer so that they can soften up and become edible. There’s nothing more embarrassing than serving brisket that is impossibly tough. However, well done and carefully barbecued meats can be a delicacy.
Types of Meat for Grilling and Barbecuing
Grilling and barbecuing use different types of meat for their cooking. Grilling is often done with a bunch of different types of softer meats, such as ground beef patties and chicken cutlets. The reason is that the softer meats tend to firm up due to the higher heat.
Often times they can even have a nice char to them. They are able to do so because they are cooked directly over a flame or coals and therefore are able to cook faster.
The barbecuing process is done with heat that comes from a different chamber. This means that the heat is lower and allows for the smoky flavor to set in longer. The meats are usually longer and fattier pieces that are often tougher when they begin their prepping process. This is where the marinades and spices come into play. The meat is prepped and then is placed in the cooking mechanism where the heat is convected and slowly cooked for hours at a time.
Preparation Time for Grilling and Barbecuing
The preparation time for both methods of cooking varies greatly. Meat that is going to be grilled is usually done with little prep. Most meat is simply placed on the grill once the flame or coals has reached the optimal temperature. It is then cooked for as long as the meat needs to reach the optimal eating temperature.
Barbecuing is done by first prepping the meat with a dry rub or a wet-based seasoning placed on the meat. This is where the fun begins, after the meat is prepared you then start the grill or smoker and let the meat cook for hours. However, good things come to those who wait and the meat comes out delicate and tender. The marinades and spices that are added in the preparation are now deeply embedded in the flavor of the meat due to the long cooking time. Nothing shows your love of barbecuing like waking up at 4 in the morning to make sure that you’ll have lunch ready for kickoff.
Common Questions about Grilling and Barbecuing
How does smoking the meats play a factor? Smoking the meat is done only in barbecuing and is a great way for someone to help really get the most out of the barbecuing experience. Wood is often used in favor of coals in order to really get the meat smoky and flavorful. The smoke mixed in with the meat and other spices added to create a nice experience for anyone lucky enough for you to share it with.
Is a special grill required for either? For grilling, a simple gas or charcoal grill is all that’s necessary. There are other types of grills available, but even a hot dog on a stick placed over a fire is considered grilling. Barbecuing is often done by using a smoker with a chamber leading to the meat. The fire is created in a small chamber and leads to a much larger section containing the meats that you’ve placed on it.
Which is better, grilling or barbecuing? There’s no right answer to this and the simplest way to put it is that it depends on the situation. Carefully made barbecue is always a great sight to see. However, it’s not always easy to put time and effort into it. For this reason, grilling can often get the job done, quickly and easily. Both are always a good option when entertaining guests, and will ensure you’re known by your family and friends as the grillmaster.