The two most popular techniques of outdoor cooking are grilling and smoking. Perhaps these are not strange ‘’terms” if you frequently cook outside. Nonetheless, smoker vs grill, can you tell the difference between them?
If you get a good look at them, you’ll notice that they’re rather similar. Surprisingly, the countless distinctions between various methods of cooking may overwhelm you.
To be honest, understanding the characteristics of each will allow you to properly use and match your tactics. Be smart in cooking!
Read on to find out the answers!
Table of Contents
Smoker vs Grill – The Keynotes in their Difference
Cooking time, meat cuts, temperature, and wood usage are the variations between smokers and grills.
A grill, first and foremost, is responsible for cooking small pieces of food (veg, chicken pieces, chops, and steaks). It cooks food at high temperatures, between 400 and 550F, resulting in faster and hotter cooking. Aside from that, there’s no need to add smoke flavor to the mix.
On the other hand, a smoker is a big cooker that cooks tough meats slowly and evenly (pork shoulders, ribs, whole birds, briskets). Yet, it uses pretty low temperatures ranging from 90-300F. Regarding cooking time, the process can last for hours, and flavor wood needs adding to the fire to produce smoky flavor and smoke.
The fuels a grill uses resemble the way of a smoker, and both have sitting on grates, but due to very different pieces of equipment, both have their own cooking methods.
Grilling, fueled by gas or charcoal, is about cooking food over an extreme fire in a short time (less than an hour). Grilling could reach 500F, which enables you to shorten the cooking time.
The best meats for this method are the tenderest cuts, such as strip steaks, ribeye steaks, T-bones, and others from the rib and short loin primal cuts. These types of meat require rapid cooking to prevent them from overcooking, drying out, and preserving their tenderness. Overall, by cooking food over the fire quickly, grilling is the best method for a flavorful and juicy piece of meat.
Notwithstanding, the hot temperatures do not always go with delicate foods like vegetables, poultry, and fish. Towards these kinds of food, shooting for a lower is appreciated much. That’s also the reason why you should have the extra skill coming in: building a two-zone fire at appropriate times – when to use the high or low temperatures.
Smoking is regarded as an extreme example. Indeed, smoking entails cooking with smoke from mesquite, apple, hickory, or cherry pieces, each of which imparts its distinct flavor to the food.
Keep in mind that smoking takes place at a lower temperature than barbeque, allowing the meat to absorb the smokey flavor. To smoke food, conventional wisdom recommends setting the temperature between 125 and 175F. Cooking at a higher temperature can result in the food being cooked too quickly, causing the smoke to cross instead of soaking into the meat.
Beyond that, this cooking time of 24 hours is not unusual with this cooking temperature, yet the entire process always requires more expertise. Hence, first-time cooks might as well begin with simple grilling and work their way to a more complicated large-scale barbecue step-by-step. Patience, and one day, you will become proficient in smoking.
To gain the understanding of smoking and grilling better, let’s see this video:
Grill vs Smoker with Their Own Different Methods
Interestingly, there’s not only one way to grill or smoke. Let’s dive into our analysis:
Regarding grilling methods, there are 2 main types as mentioned below. Start our journey with a quick summary of each.
No grilling’s method is simpler and faster than direct grilling with a temperature of 450 up to 500F.
With this approach, place the food on the grate right above the fire and the heat’s source, and you can get started cooking with direct radiant heat. The intense heat will have your food cooked in minutes. Hence, direct grilling is appropriate for chops and steaks searing as well as the other small meat cuts.
Indirect grilling takes place between 190 and 300F, allowing you to cook food over flames without coming into direct contact with the fire. The convection cooks with a mitigated quantity of radiant heat while the lid is open.
We strongly recommend you apply this method to roast huge meat cuts for an extended period of time, as well as little burgers and steaks, without scorching them.
There’s more than one style of smoking, as well:
BBQ Smoking / Low and Slow / Hot Smoking
You guessed it right! BBQ smoking or Low n Slow is really popular when it comes to smoking by far. It’s always the great secret behind the best compelling-grade ribs and brisket you ate.
More often than not, Low n Slow/Hot smoking/BBQ smoking often takes place from 225-250F and lasts for several hours, yet it could turn tough-as-leather brisket into something more interesting and surprisingly soft for your taste.
By hitting temperatures over 275F, smoke roasting is a flawless method for lamp and crown roasts. Not to mention smoke roasting is a fast process yet leaving less chance of lower-fat meats drying out.
Alternately, most grills in the market are capable of this, yet you might as well check whether this method fits your cooking style in advance.
Cold smoking is the process of flavoring and preserving food without using heat. However, this approach is susceptible to bacterial infection since it uses low temperatures below 90F, posing a risk to customers. To this end, extensive study and skill development for safely cold smoking fresh meat need carrying out.
Cold smoking, on the other hand, allows you to efficiently impart a smokey flavor to pre-cooked meats, as well as smoking nuts and cheese.
A handful of people apply cold smoking out of the box with add-on smoke generators. You can try it out by checking whether your smoker could work well with this generator like that.
Types of Grills
As abundant as types of grills seem, you might as well narrow down the range for choice. We will pass several brief descriptions of best-sellers on to you as below:
Kettle Charcoal Grill
Kettle Charcoal Grill operates based on the airflow adjustment through vents at its bottom and top.
Some premium models have a built-in thermometer on the lid, allowing you to control the temperature with seeming ease.
Kamado Ceramic Grill is always impressive with its extraordinary warming-up method owing to its ceramic construction. This type of cooker is inspired by the Asian cooking tradition, so you could enjoy the cuisine style and food flavor somewhat relating to the Asian cuisine. Each ceramic grill is designed to allow the airflow to evenly distribute the flavor and heat flawlessly.
Albeit high cost, a Ceramic Kamado grill is really a jack of all trades: you can bake, grill, roast, and even smoke.
Gas / Propane Grills
Gas grills can be subdivided into 2 major categories: Using natural gas or propane gas (fuel by liquid propane – LPG or LP) as their heat source.
The biggest benefit of both is easy-to-use features and instant-on convenience.
Having said that, unlike charcoal or pellet grills, food cooked by Gas / Propane grills does not contain the yummy-smoky flavor.
Pellet Grills are also referred to as Pellet Smokers. They operate mostly automatically because of the auger system and ingenious hopper monitored by a digital thermostat.
Their initial function is just for smoking, yet occasionally it works as a grill when the temperature inside is hot enough.
More often than not, a pellet grill burns compressed sawdust’s pellets to create smoke, heat, and smoky flavor.
Currently, electric grills have earned a reputation as the most accessible and healthiest method of grilling. Regardless of cooking indoor, outdoor, or in balconies, an electric grill is perfect for making meals without flame.
Besides, there is a wide variety of electric grills in the market differing in serving-for-one countertop, large setup ideas for parties and get-togethers, and personal-sized grills. We can choose one which fits our needs most.
Infrared grills, which use electricity or gas as their heat source, can superheat a piece of ceramic or metal. They can achieve the highest temperature as 1200F with radiant heat, and your food could be done in minutes or even seconds. Extremely fast!
Although the stand-alone models are not popular, a host of cutting-end grills are equipped with the infrared element so you could look for and buy one at reputation brands for a better guarantee. What’s more, many brands have added IR grills to their top-of-the-line products recently. Why don’t you try out such interesting items for the upcoming parties?
Types of Smokers
There is a myriad of smokers’ types that differ in shape, size, and fuel types, as well:
It’s the most basic one in all smokers, with the fuel source being charcoal. A charcoal smoker burns charcoal to generate indirect and low heat to cook food. Owing to low temperature, the cooking time will last for quite a long time. Sometimes, you could see a charcoal smoker resembling a water smoker or smoker grill. Notwithstanding, a charcoal smoker is not the same as a charcoal grill, even though several grilling manufacturers combine a smoker component and traditional grill in their products.
Charcoal smokers are available in diverse shapes and sizes, such as egg-shaped ceramic Kamados, ugly drum smokers (upright drums), cabinet-shaped smokers, and bullet-looking water smokers.
The charcoal employed are wood chunks added to the charcoal’s top to produce the flavored smoke. It operates by using a consistent temperature for many hours on end and when the meat is cooked gradually, you could smell the distinctive BBQ smoker flavor and indulge in it.
The heating element of the electric smokers will set wood chips in a bowl smoldering to create smoke.
In electric smokers, heat and smoke rise from beneath the food. Also, the most popular type is the vertical models that are similar to small safes and fridges.
They are also called ‘’set-and-forget’’, which means that a digital controller available can help you set timers and temps without much attention. The cooking process will end up perfectly managed hands-off.
However, not to mention that electric smoker vs pellet smoker combat, it’s certain that the electric one could not create the smoky flavor as pellet smoker’s ability.
Have you ever wondered: ‘’gas vs electric smoker, which is better?’’
Overall, these units resemble the electric smokers’ appearance and function, yet they use a gas burner to ignite its wood chips inside. Both are very convenient wherever you cook food, yet be mindful that their food will lack the smoky taste.
The majority of gas smokers do not need electricity to operate. Meanwhile, some possess a digital controller that requires an electricity supply.
Stick Burners – Offset Smokers
The offset smokers are employed to cook low-and-slow barbecue with indirect heat. You could find an offset smoker very versatile with a firebox on its side and a host of the cooking chamber. This is the simplest one of all smokers. You just burn the wood in the firebox separating from the smoking chamber.
In an offset smoker, the indirect heat and smoke drift into its chamber, come across the food, and get out through a chimney. They control the temperature inside by keeping the charcoal or wood fire, monitoring the flow of oxygen into its firebox, and adjusting vents.
Albeit low price, this type of smoker is notoriously leaky and unreliable that could lead you to risky sometimes. Meanwhile, an expensive one may set you back a handful of thousand dollars. As a result, considering carefully prior to buying a smoker is vital.
Our Final Thoughts
Regardless of the combats of gas vs electric smoker, smoker vs grill, or propane vs electric smoker, the competition is really fierce at all. But which is the best?
By now, our professional team has already thrown light on the concept, definition, usage, and features of grills and smokers as well as their own types and methods. And you absolutely have your own answer for what to choose, don’t you?
Bear in mind that the greater your ‘cues are, the more fun you’ll have! It’s time to make a decision and buy one. Thanks for reading!