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What Is the Difference Between Grilling and Barbecuing?

Updated on July 12, 2011
BBQ Pork sandwich just the way I like it- with cole slaw and hot sauce! Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. It's pure heaven. Yeah, baby! photo: biskuit @flickr
BBQ Pork sandwich just the way I like it- with cole slaw and hot sauce! Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. It's pure heaven. Yeah, baby! photo: biskuit @flickr

Southern BBQ - A Source of Southern Pride

Grilling, barbecuing- what's the difference? Is there a difference? That really depends on whom you ask. A lot of people use the cooking terms interchangeably.

However, there is a distinct difference and if you come to the southern United States, you will quickly find out. Southerners are very proud of their bbq! Ask anyone from Memphis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Texas, North Carolina, or pretty much anywhere in the south and you'll quickly see. They even have bbq contests that are highly competitive.

Grilling and Barbecuing - Direct Heat vs. Indirect Heat

So, what is the difference between barbecuing and grilling? Basically, one is cooked with direct heat, and the other uses indirect heat. Here is a basic explanation of direct heat vs. indirect heat:

Direct heat is when food is cooked directly over top of the heat source. The food gets cooked quickly by the heat that rises directly from the coals, as well as from the heat of the hot metal grate.

Indirect heat places the food away from the heat source. It delivers a low, steady heat to the food. When using a grill, the coals are placed on both sides of the bottom. The meat is centered above on the grill. The meat gets cooked with convection heat as the heat and smoke rise off of the coals and envelop it.

Grilling vs. Barbecuing - What Is the Difference?

Grilling is a method of cooking that involves hot, direct heat and the foods are cooked quickly. Usually tender cuts of meat are used. Chicken, hamburgers, steaks, and seafood are all popular grill recipes.

In this regard, barbecuing refers to a type of cooking as well. Barbecuing uses low, indirect heat and a long cooking process, usually taking all day if not longer. Most of the time the meat is enclosed and wood smoke is used to accentuate the flavor. Some popular woods used are hickory, oak, and mesquite.

The result is tender meat with a rich, smoky flavor. Barbecuing is an all-American cooking technique. It is often used to turn tough cuts of meat into melt in your mouth delights. Some of the most popular types of meat used for barbecue are ribs, brisket, and pork.

Some people say that smoked meat and barbecue are the same. Technically, that's not true, although that is usually what people are referring to when they mention barbecue. But barbecuing refers to the process of cooking meat for a very long period over low, indirect heat. It doesn't necessarily mean that the food is enclosed or intentionally smoked.

So, if you're ever in the south and about to light up the grill to make some hamburgers or perhaps a rare steak, please don't offend the natives by stating that you're going to barbecue a quick supper. Thanks!

Find Out About a True BBQ Competition!

Grilling vs. Barbecuing - What Is the Difference? Comments

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    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

      GojiJuiceGoodness 7 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      In the South, BBQ is assumed to be pork. That's just what it means down here. :)

      I think when you say BBQ most people think grilled, but it's not necessarily that way.

      Good hub. I enjoyed reading it.

    • profile image

      pinkboxer 7 years ago

      Thank you for this hub! I have had so many people tell me that they were barbequeing when they were actually grilling. Or torturing steaks in the name of grilling: burned on the outside and raw on the I love it!