Cooking Tips and Tricks

What is the difference between grilling and barbecuing?

Do you know the difference between grilling and barbecuing? Both techniques make for some fantastic food, but there is one significant difference between grilling and barbecuing.

Summer is here, and everyone is getting out of their kitchens and onto the deck to do some grilling. Or is it barbecuing? Does it matter? Is there any difference? Even though we use the words “barbecue” and “grill” interchangeably, there is a difference between grilling and barbecuing. And if you’re a true outdoor chef, it makes a difference!


Most people do this in their backyard for dinner. This is what most of us mean when we say “barbecue.” Grilling is cooking food hot and fast (usually 500-550 degrees Fahrenheit or higher). This is generally done over direct heat. Meats such as

  • Steaks
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot Dogs
pexels photo 776314 What is the difference between grilling and barbecuing?

are perfect for grilling. Many vegetables and some fruits are also grilled. Grilling is done over direct heat, where the flame (gas or charcoal) is directly under the meat.


Barbecuing is cooking food low and slow. Barbecuing is typically used to cut meats such as ribs, pork, beef brisket, or whole chicken or turkeys. These types of meats tend to be tougher and require the low, slow heat of a barbecue (or slow cooker) to get nice and tender. Barbecued food is cooked over very low heat (usually 225 degrees Fahrenheit or less) for a very long time (hours or even days).

pexels photo 410648 What is the difference between grilling and barbecuing?

Barbecuing is often done with indirect heat, where the heat source is attached to the chamber where the meat is placed, but the meat is not directly over the flames like on a grill. Charcoal or wood is commonly used as the heat source for barbecues. Different types of wood impart different smoky flavors that the meat can absorb. The best barbecue chefs pride themselves on very long cooking times to achieve the most tender and flavorful meat.

SAUCES, MARINADES, AND SPICES Sauces, marinades, and condiments for grilling and barbecuing

Don’t let the name fool you – barbecue sauce can be used with barbecuing or grilling. Marinades are often used for foods that will be grilled. Soak the meat (or vegetables or fruit) in the marinade for anywhere from an hour to overnight. The meat absorbs some of the liquid from the flavors and pickles.

The marinade is discarded, and the meat is grilled (hot and spicy), resulting in a very juicy, flavorful meal. Spices can be used in any cooking method. Many barbecue foods are treated with a dry rub of spices before cooking. This method can also be used for grilling, or just toss in your favorite seasonings (or even a little salt and pepper) for some extra flavor before putting the meat on the grill.

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