Understanding the Differences Between Barbecuing and Grilling

May 6, 2019 6:53 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There are many people who use the terms “grilling” and “barbecuing” interchangeably, but they are actually two different methods of cooking. You’ve probably invited people over to your house for what you called a “barbecue” when you were cooking hamburgers or bratwurst, but this actually isn’t barbecue at all.

So, with this in mind, it’s time to get technical with our methods of meat cooking. Here’s some information from a grill store in Wausau, WI about the differences between grilling and barbecuing.

What factors differentiate the two methods?

Both barbecuing and grilling involve cooking food outdoors over a heat source, whether it be gas or charcoal. However, the techniques differ in two primary respects: the type of heat being used and the amount of time the food is cooked.


Barbecuing involves the food being cooked much slower and at a much lower temperature, either in a grill or a smoker. The meat used for barbecue tends to be large, bone-in cuts, such as pork shoulder, ribs, pork butt or brisket. The method usually involves the use of indirect heat for anywhere from several hours to entire days. The result is meat that is so tender it practically falls off the bone when you eat it.

You’ll typically cook barbecued meat at temperatures ranging from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than the temperatures you’d use for regular grilling. Another big difference here is that the food is typically surrounded by wood smoke for at least part of the cooking time, which isn’t necessarily true for grilling.

While the term “barbecue” is commonly used in reference to outdoor social events, the term as used to describe food refers to a very specific style of food. Barbecue varies widely from region to region as well—if you travel to Kansas City, you’ll notice differences from Texas barbecue, and from barbecue in the Carolinas.


Grilling is what people more commonly do on their grills, especially here in the Midwest, where the barbecuing culture isn’t quite the same as what it is down south. Grilling involves cooking food more quickly over direct heat at higher temperatures. Grilling results in a quick sear to the food, and is typically done with steaks, hamburgers, seafood, hot dogs, bratwurst (and other types of sausages), pork chops, chicken breasts, fruits and vegetables. It is most often performed over a gas or charcoal grill.

You can still use barbecue sauce on the foods you grill, but that doesn’t make it barbecue—it just means you’re adding barbecue sauce to your grilled meats. It’s still delicious, just not technically barbecue!

There’s really nothing to say that one option is better than the other—it all depends on what you’re in the mood for, as well as what you’re looking to cook. But now you at least know the differences between these two popular styles of outdoor cooking!

For more information, contact Marcell’s Specialties Inc. or pay a visit to our grill store in Wausau, WI today!

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