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Yes, There is a (Delicious) Difference Between Barbecuing & Grilling

Types of meats determine which cooking method is right

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Table of Contents

  1. 1. We Have the Meat
  2. 2. The Art of Barbecue
  3. 3. The Grilling Difference
Barbecuing in my opinion is a practice makes perfect kind of thing. Cooking in general is very subjective so what one person may love, might not be for you.
- Lindsay Higel, Hospitality and Restaurant Management Program Director
with Central Community College and a culinary instructor

Standing in front of the grill with a drink in your hand dreaming of the meal you’ll soon enjoy is the quintessential summer day. You may be barbecuing a giant brisket or just grilling up a few burgers at a pool party. Either way, there are few things as great as cooking over an open flame.

The issue is that most people don’t know the difference between those two cooking terms and often use them interchangeably.

“I think at times there can be some confusion between grilling and barbecuing,” said Lindsay Higel, Hospitality and Restaurant Management Program Director with Central Community College and a culinary instructor. “Grilling is usually fast, done over an open flame and high heat. Barbecuing is slower, lower temp and rarely done over open flame.”

According to Spices Inc., to barbecue something, the cooking temperature is 190 to 300 degrees and is cooked for an extended period of time. By comparison, typical grilling temperatures are 400-550 degrees.

Still, there’s no doubt that cooking meat and vegetables over an open flame is mighty delicious.

We Have the Meat

In the Midwest, Higel said beef brisket is often a popular choice for barbecuing along with pork products like pork butts and loins. Carolina-style barbecue generally refers to pork while Kansas City-style is typically ribs with a dry rub that is slow roasted and doused in wet barbecue sauce.

With Texas-style barbecue, Higel said there’s a lot of beef — as one might imagine — but they also include sausage, chicken, and pork in their barbecue repertoire.

“Regardless of the meat choice, it generally has a sauce that is concocted of vinegar and tomato base,” Higel said. “Of all of the slow smoking, Texas-style has the most heat, but is still considered indirect cooking.”

The Art of Barbecue

Mastering the art of barbecue is not something that Higel said happens overnight.

“Barbecuing, in my opinion, is a practice makes perfect kind of thing,” she said. “Cooking, in general, is very subjective so what one person may love, might not be for you.”

So her basic guidelines for taking on the art of barbecue are low and slow and indirect heat. Allow the meat to stand at room temperature before cooking, have a good thermometer, plenty of wood, wood chips or pellets, and let the meat rest after cooking.

The Grilling Difference

Higel said grilling is different in that the meat can be cooked in much higher heat and shorter times but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t as delicious.

While he uses the term barbecuing, Jim Headley, a longtime expert grillmaster, said some of his favorite products to throw on the grill are steaks, burgers, and kabobs. His favorite creation, however, is ribeye, a recipe that he said he’s perfected.

“I have developed my own rub for the meat but always start the rub with salt and pepper,” he said. “My rub is kind of secret but I will share that I use mesquite.”

Depending on the thickness of the cut of meat, Headley said he will adjust the cooking time and he uses a stopwatch to be exact. “Medium is usually around 6 minutes cooking time on the grill for each side,” he added.

Headley said he first started cooking meat on the grill because he was terrible at cooking in the kitchen. Over the past 12 years, his confidence has grown to the point now where he grills a few nights a week for the family.

“The thing I love most about barbecuing is the food,” he said. “There is nothing better and everyone in the house loves it when I fire up the grill. It is so good!”

The following is a barbecue pork recipe recommended by Higel:

Carolina-style Short Ribs


  • 6-pound bone-in pork shoulder


  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Mop Sauce

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup beer

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Vinegar BBQ Sauce

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1/2 cup ketchup

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes


1Preheat your smoker for indirect smoking at 250 degrees F.

2. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the rub and apply liberally on all sides of the pork shoulder. Place the rubbed shoulder in the smoker and close the lid.

3. In a glass bowl, combine all the ingredients for the mop sauce. Apply the mop sauce to the pulled pork every hour. Smoke the pork shoulder, while mopping hourly, for 8-10 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 200 degrees F.

4. Remove the shoulder from the smoker, cover tightly with foil, and allow to rest for an hour before shredding and serving.

5. Make that BBQ sauce! In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the BBQ sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes. Cool completely and set aside to serve with the pork.

6. Remove the shoulder from the foil and shred. Discard the bone and any gristly pieces and pull the rest of the meat into shreds. Moisten the meat with some of the BBQ sauce and mix together. Serve with buns, slaw and additional BBQ sauce.

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Yes, There is a (Delicious) Difference Between Barbecuing & Grilling



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