What Is the Difference Between Barbecue, Grilling, and Smoking?

What Is the Difference Between Barbecue, Grilling, and Smoking?
Elixor DDO

Once you start hanging out with your friends who love to cook, it won’t be long before you hear someone mention out words such as grilling and smoking. You will also find some of them arguing about whether grilling and barbecuing mean the same thing.

This situation is most likely to happen when people from different parts of the country meet since these terms tend to have different meanings in different regions. However, the truth is that these terms are quite different.

This post is designed to help you understand the difference between barbecue, grilling, and smoking.


In simple terms, grilling means preparing food over a fire pretty fast. The fire can be fueled by either gas or charcoal. Hot and fast in the context of grilling refers to cooking at a temperature of approximately 350oF  for less than one hour.

If you are preparing food items such as chops and steaks, it is recommended that the grilling temperatures approach 450oF or 500oF to shorten the cooking time.  The best meats for grilling are usually the tenderest cuts such as stripe streaks, ribeye steaks, T-bones, strip steaks, and the short loin primal cuts.

Cooking these steaks quickly is the most effective way of preserving the tenderness. If you overcook them, they will simply dry out and lose their delicious taste.  But, you need to understand that there is not a lot of finesse involved in grilling meat steaks, but that may not be the case when it comes to poultry, vegetables, and fish.  For more delicate foods, it is always advisable that you go for relatively lower temperatures.


While grilling is about cooking small meat cuts more quickly, barbecue involves cooking large cuts of meat. We are talking about slabs of ribs, beef briskets, or even a whole turkey.

To cook the large meat cuts on a typical grill, you need to maintain relatively low temperatures, which increase the cooking time. Typically, barbecuing temperatures need to be between 200oF and 300oF.

The biggest trick when it comes to barbecuing is maintaining a stable temperature for the duration of your cooking. Barbecuing is basically a long and slow process just like the BBQ ribs in Montreal’s favourite restaurant Elixor.


Smoking is usually considered the extreme version of both grilling and barbecuing.  When smoking, you are cooking your food with smoke from chips of hickory, apple, cherry, or mesquite. Each one of these smokes contribute a unique flavor to your meat.

Smoking is done at a much lower temperature than grilling and barbecue to make sure that the smoky flavor infuses well into the meat. While smoking, you need to ensure that your grill is between 150oF and 175oF.

If you make it any hotter, the outer parts of your meat will most likely cook too soon, forming a strong barrier that the smoke can’t cross. Smoking takes a lot of time, and it requires a lot of expertise. If you want to try out all the three methods, consider starting with simple grilling before you work your way to the more complex smoking method.