Grilling vs Smoking

The barbecue world is filled with passionate food lovers who are crazy about great flavour. At Bradley Smoker, we know that good flavour and good fun with friends and family is what barbecuing is all about.

Most people associate barbecuing with grilling. “Hey come on over tonight, we’re going to have a bbq!” It’s natural right? Well it might surprise you to know that grilling and barbecuing, while used interchangeably in some areas, are very different! And food smoking is a whole different class of its own.


Grilling uses high heat and direct flames to sear the juices in and cook meat quickly. It is typically used for such things as hot dogs, hamburgers, fish, chicken, pork chops and steak.

Now grilling isn’t the same thing as barbecuing. Yes, they share a few similarities, but they differ largely in cooking time and cooking temperature. In fact, barbecuing is a lot more like food smoking than grilling.

A slower and more delicate process, barbecuing takes a lot more preparation and cooking time than does grilling. The secret is not to rush! It will be necessary to prepare the meat and apply the sauces at precisely the right time and at the right temperature for optimal results. The temperature of the grill has to be constantly monitored.


This is a more gentle process compared to grilling. It does not use direct flames for cooking, which helps preserve moistness in the meat. Moreover, this process allows you to cook larger meats such as ribs, roasts, briskets, legs of lamb and entire chickens. This is due to the low temperature, longer cooking process.

In many cases, barbecuing involves the use of wood chips that enhance the flavour of the meat and help with the cooking process. Popular types of wood chips include cedar, hickory, apple, cherry and pecan. Each have their special uses, but that’s a different topic entirely.


Meat smoking is a special class of its own. Unlike grilling, it takes a significant amount of preparation, cooking time, skill – and above all – patience.

Food smoking dates back thousands of years as a proven means of preserving meat, fish and poultry. In fact, the word barbecue likely comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa” which makes reference to a primitive smoking method used by early Caribbean communities.

The flavour food smoking produces is rich and “outdoorsy”. In addition, the use of soaked wood chips or flavoured bisquettes can enhance that flavour even more.

Differences Between Grilling and Smoking Food

One main difference between grilling and food smoking is how temperature dictates what you should and shouldn’t do with the meat. For instance, meat that is smoked usually responds better to sweeter sauces due to the lower temperature and gentler cooking method. On the other hand, grilling over high heat responds better to spicier concoctions, that cope well with the hot flames and direct heat.

It is possible to smoke meat with a normal charcoal or gas grill. But the results are almost always better when you use a dedicated smoker.

Which method is harder to master? The truth is, both grilling and smoking require a great deal of skill to perfect. However, smoking purists will tell you that smoking separates the men from the boys. Whether your strong suit is grilling or smoking or some hybrid method between the two, try something new!