Smoker vs Grill

Smoker vs Grill – Which makes the best Barbecue?


Whether you call it Barbecue, Barbeque or BBQ, we have all heard of this form of cooking. Most of us start out unaware of the nuances involved in doing a barbecue correctly. Vegetables are also cooked on grills and smokers but we’re going to focus on meat in this article. Specifically, We are going to look at that age old question of which is better, Smoker vs Grill.

Smoker vs Grill
Smoker vs Grill

Barbecue is also a form of art and a person who’s new to this magical process might get confused, because cooking meat over an open fire can be a very tricky thing to do well. In order to get a very good and delicious barbecue dish, you will need to have quite a lot of patience.


There are Two Methods to Cook Barbecue – Smoker vs Grill

While there are a million recipes, there are still only two basic methods of cooking it:

  • Grilling

    This method uses a direct source of dry heat such as charcoal, gas or electric.

  • Smoking

    This is a slower technique, where the meat is cooked away from direct high heat at lower temperatures. It also involves wood smoke that permeates the meat and changes the flavor.

Grilling is the quickest way to barbecue over a direct source of dry heat and is what most people think of when they think barbecue, whereas, smoking is a slow technique, where the meat is cooked away from direct high heat.

Whichever method you select to use for your barbecue, it’s best to verify your gear is in peak condition before you start. Clean it and restore it using grill replacement parts from respected manufacturers. Now let us take the two separately, to learn about each method of outdoor barbecue cooking.


Smoker vs Grill
Typical Grill

What to Cook on a Grill

Grills are used to cook a wide variety of foods outdoors. Some meats just best are best cooked on a grill. You wouldn’t normally think of smoking a hamburger, hot dog, steak, pork chop or chicken leg.

Three Types of Grills

There are three common choices for barbecue grills: charcoal, gas and electric. Each type has its admirers.

  • Charcoal grills are comparatively inexpensive when compared to the other two and can be great for a picnic.
  • Gas is easier to use but may not travel so well because of the gas tank.
  • Electric grills may be the only option if you are an apartment dweller.

Used properly, all three grills can be used effectively to produce excellent meals.

Direct and Indirect Heat

Grilling uses two forms of heat for cooking: direct and indirect. This usually just applies to gas and charcoal grills. A gas grill normally has multiple gas burners. By turning burners on or off you can create an area of high direct heat and another area of lower Indirect heat. On a charcoal grill the same thing is done by physically moving the charcoal away from one side to create hot and cooler areas.

  • Direct Heat – The Direct method uses intense heat and is best used for cooking relatively small items of food. Steaks, chops, poultry breasts, and so on are a few of the typical items that may be grilled directly.
  • Indirect Heat – When using the Indirect technique the food is kept to the side of the heat source, just as the name suggests. It is somewhat like baking a cake or such sort of foods. For example, Beer Can Chicken uses the Indirect method.


Smoking is considered by some to be the best way to prepare barbecue, although it takes an extended time to get results. If grilling is best for cooking smaller pieces of meat or bird, smoking is best for cooking the larger pieces when you barbecue. Virtually everything can be smoked. Roasts, hams, racks of ribs, briskets, turkeys, etc are a number of the meats that may be smoked.

A gentle temperature must be maintained if you wish to prepare scrumptious smoked barbecue. The traditional temperature for smoking is between 200-225 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cook the meat until it is a hundred sixty five degrees in the center, it will make the meat tastier, because the smoke flavor will get deep into it.

A key factor that a grill master has to be aware of when smoking is to select the right kind of wood chips to produce the smoke. Every wood is different and will produce different flavors. So you will need to experiment with many kinds of wood chips to discover which one is best for the particular meat you plan to barbecue. This is definitely a personal and regional preference.

The smokers you can use will vary in shape and size. For basic barbecue smoking, you might use your standard grill along with your soaked wood chips in a metallic box or wrapped in tin foil. Be aware though, you’ll generally get the best smoke ring using a purpose-built smoker.

Smoke RingThe Smoke Ring

This is the pink area on the outside edge of the meat that you see when smoke has penetrated the meat. This is caused by a chemical reaction of the smoke and the moisture in the meat and is the hallmark of well smoked meat. For the full story of how this ring is formed and what it represents, take a look at this Wikipedia article Smoke ring (cooking).

There are also a wide variety of purpose built smokers burning gas or charcoal and even electrical smokers, a must for apartment dwellers. Some smokers are large pieces of apparatus with a smoke box to the side whereas others are bullet shaped and take much less space. The latter are nice for a deck or small patio area.

Understand that the heat coming from any sort of smoker is at a lower temperature than that of a grill. Which means that your barbecue is going to take a lot longer time to cook when you smoke meats than when you grill them. But this is a good thing! Slowly cooked meat absorbs the smoke flavor over the longer cook and the meat is also the most tender it could possibly be.

Smoker vs Grill – Other Things to Consider

Digital Meat Thermometer

One accessory you will absolutely want to have if you plan to smoke meat is a good barbecue digital meat thermometer. The meats you smoke and grill, be they beef, veal, pork, chicken, fish or whatever else you choose will need to reach certain temperatures to be sure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. You definitely do not want to open your smoker or grill and lose both smoke and heat. You will need a good digital meat thermometer with a remote probe you insert into the meat before cooking.


Rubs can be anything from salt and pepper to exotic spices. It really is whatever you say it is! There are many rub recipes out there so you can easily prepare your own rub but there are also many prepared rubs.

Perhaps rub is a misnomer. You don’t actually rub the mixture into the meat, you simply apply a liberal amount all over the piece of meat so a delicious crust forms during the cooking process. I use olive oil spray first so the rub will stick to the meat. You could use vegetable oil just as well. Again, whatever you like. But if the meat is too dry, the rub won’t stick.

Barbecue Sauces

This is not really a smoker vs grill issue but is still an incredibly important issue. To finish off your barbecue, there is one more essential step – saucing the meat. This is a crucial step you can’t omit if you want real barbecue. Types of sauces vary in keeping with the area of the country. Whereas a vinegar-base sauce is typical for the South, tomato-base sauces are typical in the West. Other recipes define the barbecue of specific cities or sub-regions.

Some grill masters will sauce the meat while it cooks. Others consider this a heresy (in Texas for sure) and sauce is provided only at the table.

If you choose to do your barbecue using sauce on the meat while cooking, the very best time to use the sauce is during the last stage of cooking. Do this when you are certain that the meat is effectively cooked because sugar is without doubt one of the primary ingredients in barbecue sauces and it’ll burn easily if it is on too long.

There are a million sauce recipes if you choose to make your own and there are very many excellent commercial sauces to choose from.

Video – Smoker vs Grill


The Smoker vs Grill debate will never be decided but who cares. Many people either own both a smoker and a grill or simply use their grill for both methods. The final, and best, step of any barbecue is what really matters – calling your friends and family to the table to eat!

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