Differences Between Grilling and Smoking

Many of us adore the aromas that permeate the air when there’s a backyard barbecue roaring or we wander into a restaurant ready to tuck into a feast. Grilling and smoking are popular methods of preparing and cooking meat, fish and vegetables but there are key differences between them. In this guide, we’ll discuss the main differences and provide tips to help you decide when to grill and when to smoke. 

What are the differences between grilling and smoking?

Whether you’re a barbecue king or queen or you love to dine out or rustle up delicious homemade dishes in your kitchen, it’s beneficial to understand the differences between smoking and grilling. 


Grilling means cooking meat or vegetables over a fire, which provides intense heat, which is concentrated on the product you’re preparing. 


Smoking offers an alternative to grilling. Instead of cooking your meat quickly and subjecting it to powerful heat, smoking is a gentler, slower process. Smoking involves using low heat settings and taking your time to intensify the flavor and enhance the taste with a rustic, woody, smoky quality. 

Smoking is a term used to describe cooking meat and fish while grilling can be used for any type of food. 

What are the processes involved in grilling and smoking?

Grilling can be done using a wood, gas or charcoal grill. If you go to a restaurant, you may find that there is a selection of grills, which use different fuels to achieve different flavors and cook specific cuts. You can buy a commercial gas or wood grill or invest in a grill that combines both technologies to enjoy the best of both worlds. Grilling is quick and it involves exposure to intense heat. 

Smoking occurs at a much lower temperature than grilling and it can be done using a smoker like the commercial wood-burning smokers you see at restaurants. Smoking cooks pieces of meat using the smoke from blocks or fragments of wood. There are various materials you can use to add flavor, including cherry, apple, pear and peach woods, hickory and maple, pecan and oak or mesquite. 

Which cuts of meat are suited to grilling and smoking?

Grilling is generally recommended for tender cuts, such as ribeye and strip steaks, short loin cuts and T-bones. Smoking is ideal for meats with high fat content, including pork shoulder, beef brisket and beef and pork ribs. 

Once you’ve chosen the cut you want to smoke, take care to select a wood that will maximize flavor and complement the meat. Apple wood is a perfect choice for pork, while hickory is a very popular option for ribs as it adds a rich, strong, smoky flavor. Mesquite works brilliantly with beef and lamb while maple is an excellent choice for poultry. 


Smoking and grilling are very popular ways to cook meat. If you’re looking to host a gathering or serve up a meat feast at home, it’s a great idea to think about how you’re going to cook the dish to enhance flavor and do the cut justice. Smoking is a slow process, which involves using low heat while grilling is much faster and it uses intense heat.