Grilling and smoking are two popular outdoor cooking methods, which are popular amongst backyard party lovers. But when it comes down to grill vs smoker the former is mostly about heat, and the latter revolves around the flavor-uplifting wood smoke.
Choosing between grilling and smoking is s big decision; it influences how the backyard gala will unfold. To help you out in this article, we’ll discuss the difference between smoking and grilling in detail.
We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each method, the time required to set up grilling and smoking, differences in terms of flavors, and so much.
All this will help you make a well-informed decision, and the rest of the ball is in your court, you’ve to take the final call.
Difference Between a Grill and Smoker
What is Grilling?
Grilling is a cooking method that is similar to open fire; it uses direct & radiant heat. It is a dry heat cooking method where the juice is completely separated from the foods.
When the food is being grilled, the heat source is right above and underneath. There are mainly two ways of grilling: gas grilling and the other is charcoal grilling.
The former grilling style is quite convenient as no specific setup is required, but your home gas can’t yield the same super high-temperature that a charcoal griller does.
What is Smoking?
Smoking is another traditional method of cooking meat and other foods over the fire. The chips of wood are added to the open fire to render a smoky flavor to the food.
The method of smoking is way different from drying. Smoking adds flavor to the poultry, meat, fish, and besides, the small food has a preservation effect, as the removal of moisture from the food prevents fungal growth and bacteria.
Typically, the pork roasts, beef briskets, salmon, oysters, and Hans are smoked. The method of smoking is slow, and it takes time to add flavor.
You, Man A Grill, But Set A Smoker!
When it comes down to grill vs smoker there is a common proverb that says; You man a grill but set a smoker. Grilling is quick but requires your attention while you set a smoker and it will be done within hours. Second, you cant grill with a smoker but can smoke using a grill.
Yes, you can set up a smoker using a grill; here’s how it is done. First, you require a charcoal grill, and pan of water, and an oven-safe thermometer.
When you’ve all the necessary supplies, you’re required to build a fire. You do it by taking out the grate from the grill and building a fire on one-half of the grill.
In case of wind, make sure the fire is wind side. Now is the time when the grill is ready to be converted into a smoker. You’ve to place a drip pan on the grill’s opposite side, opposite to the fire.
Make sure there isn’t any charcoal beneath the pan. Then, you’re required to put the grate back on the grill. When the coals are hot, you are now ready to cook your food.
Now, place the water pan directly on the heat source and then fill the two-thirds with hot water.
Place the meat on the drip pan’s opposite side, and you’ve to cover the grill using a lid, and after some time, your smoked food is ready to serve.
For smoking, the time required for roughly preheating the smoker is between 30 to 45 minutes and even longer to heat up from the cold.
You must add the chips of the wood to the chips tray before you use the smoker. A steady smoking temperature is required for smoked, rendered, and full-cooked meat.
So, it means that for the smoker to attain the temperature of 225 to 250F, it would take 4 to 16 hours.
We are now coming to the grilling. As a rule of thumb, the time required to preheat a grill is approx 25 minutes to get the results in terms of taste and crispy feel of meat in the hands.
If you want to cook at a much lower temperature, then you’ve to preheat for ten minutes and even less. Both times, it largely depends on windy and cold outside conditions.
Whether you are setting up a grill or a smoker, preheating is a fundamental aspect of both these cooking methods and something, which cannot be overlooked.
In a smoker, the air temperature is increased & controlled carefully to raise the meat’s temperature to produce fully-cooked and smoked meat that strikes a chord with your taste buds like crazy.
Generally, the fish, meat, and poultry are soaked in saltwater prior so that they retain little moisture during the process of smoking.
A smoker, in simple words, an outdoor cooker designed for the same purpose; you can also burn your barbeque grill into a smoker; all you need is a drip pan of water that has to be placed beneath the meat.
The wood chips that lend the real smokey flavor are tossed directly inside the burning charcoal to create the smoke.
On the other hand, a griller is made of a cooking surface, which is typically a porcelain-covered metal grid or bars, over the source of fuel that can generate intense heat, up to a temperature of 500 degrees and even beyond.
There are several options for grills in the market, but charcoal and gas are most preferred. The charcoal on the offside produces radiant and convection heat.
The grates do the absorption of the heat and conduct heat over the surface for food grilling.
The direct heat drilling exposures the meat to a high temperature above 260 degrees. The grilled food has a distinct flavor and roasted aroma from the Maillard reaction, a chemical process.
This reaction happens only when the temperature of the griller crosses the temperature of more than 155 degrees.
For smoking meat, good command over the temperature is the prerequisite. Generally, the meat is smoked in the temperature range of 200-220 degrees.
For having the real tender barbeque feel, the final temperature must be somewhere around 180 degrees.
The distinct smoke flavor mainly depends upon the wood combustion conditions. If it has too little oxygen and too wet, the flavor would be smoldering acrid.
On the other hand, if the wood combustion condition is too hot and too dry, then the flavor isn’t what you expect. The best smoke is in the range of 650-750 F.
The foods that have a milder flavor that every meat lover falls for.
Coming to the grilling flavors. The flavors of grilling happen when the meat juices start to dip over the hot wood or charcoal.
These drippings get pyrolyzed by the heat, and further fumes are created and are absorbed by food.
So, the result is juicy and tender meat that will melt in your mouth, and you’ll remember the taste for the rest of your lives; that’s the uncanny ability of the grilling method.
Grill vs Smoker: Sub Types & methods
There Are Broadly Three Types of Grills, and These Are as Follows:-
Charcoal Grill: This is the most popular type of grill. First, it is easy to ease. And, every foodie falls for the rich, smoky flavor that only charcoal can impart.
Kamado Grill: Second, on the list is the kamado grills which are also known as ceramic smokers. They are the most sophisticated charcoal grill’s version; they work on similar kettle grills.
Gas and Propane Grills: The gas and propane grills have burners to cook your food, and it either has a direct or indirect heat supply.
Here Are the Most Prevalent Types of Smokers:-
Stick Burners: As this smoker’s name implies, it relies on wood solely for its fuel source. However, near-to-constant attention is required during the smoking process.
Charcoal Smokers: This is a top-rated category of smokers, including ceramic kamado ovens, drum smokers, and bullet smokers. Although this type of smoking process isn’t wholly hands-free, it requires as much attention as a stick burner.
Pellet smokers: Third on the list is the pellet snooker; just like your kitchen oven, it is controlled thermostatically.; therefore, it is convenient to use, just plug in, set the temperature, and the pellet smoker will do the rest for you with precision.
Reverse Flow Smoker: A reverse flow smoker is a barbecue smoker that leverages air to further travel inside the smoker to achieve a uniform temperature. I have written in detail about them in “What Is Reverse Flow Smoker? It’s Working Use And Cleaning“.
Pros and Cons of Grilling
Pros of Grilling
- The grills cook the meat at a rapidly fast rate, thus reducing the time required to prepare meat compared to the alternative cooking meat methods such as frying, baking, etc. it also allows you to take cooking to your backyard.
- In comparison to frying, the meat cooked over a grill is low on calories and fat. Moreover, consumer fried foods have several health risks such as stroke, blood pressure, and heart disease. Even low-fat food is not advisable to fry.
Cons of Grilling
- Yes, grilled food is low in calories and fat content; however, the high-intensity grilling method interacts with the proteins present in the meat products, causing a chemical reaction producing heterocyclic amines that poses a risk of cancer. This risk can be reduced to a certain extent by microwaving the food before grilling.
- Another danger of grilling is the fire hazards; you should be grilling for the first time, then you must have someone by your side who is experienced in grilling to help you out.
Pros and Cons of Smoking
Pros Of Smoking
- The meat changes its color due to the process of smoking, it appears redder and shiner, therefore it feels tasteful.
- The food smoked has a better smoky taste and smell than you can expect from grilling.
- Smoking helps to increase the shelf life of any meat or food product, and this is why commercial kitchens prefer this method.
- Smoking cooking methods prevent the food from becoming rancid, which can be cancer-casing.
- Smoking kills any growth of bacteria on the food and slows down the algae process.
Cons of Smoking
- The smoking process requires special equipment, which could be expensive to buy or rent.
- The smoking process causes the loss of nutrients from the food and even the vitamins. Moreover, the higher shelf of the product also means loss of nutrients after harvesting.
Grill vs. Smoker: Which One is Better
The decision between smoking and grilling depends upon the time you’ve. The grilling procedure is much easier, and results are produced in no time.
Cooking food on direct heat means the food will be prepared quickly, but you’ve to pay great attention to the food all the time.
On the flip side, smoking requires hours for the meat to have the real infused flavor. However, the best part is there is no need to stay by the smoker all day long.
If you smoke meat, you’ll have the true signature authentic barbeque flavor. Also, the meat takes on a smoky flavor that has a lasting appeal in the mouth.
The griller won’t have a smoky feel, but the meat will stay juicy. Further, grilling is a much healthier option as it burns all the fat and retains more vitamins.
So, it’s down to your personal preference to either smoke your food or grill when you host a backyard galah for your family, friends, and neighbors.
In the end, we learned a lot about both the outdoor methods of cooking; We discovered that each method has its unique taste, each one its own set of pros and cons.
Also, we also explained how you can set up a smoker with the help of a grill.
So, we suggest that you must not see smoking and grilling competing with each other instead they both are two good open cooking methods.