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Apr 5, 2012 02:19 PM

What is the difference between barbequing and grilling?

It's that season again, and I was watching a show on BBQing this afternoon. One of the hosts made an interesting comment -- "we are barbequing, NOT grilling..." and proceeded to put potatoes on the grill, along with chicken breasts and fruit skewers. He didn't explain the difference. there a difference?
Is food cooked on a bbq "bbqed"? Or is it grilled? Is it a technique thing? Or is it called what it is called based on what you call your equipment (some say Grill, some say BBQ)?

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  1. Generally, grilling is fast, high heat cooking over direct heat (flames or charcoal). BBQ is slow, low heat cooking with indirect heat (coals are off to the side), plus there's some smoke to impart flavor to the food.

    However, on the West Coast, people use grilling and bbq'ing interchangeably where they're cooking food on a bbq.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dave_c

      I'm gonna disagree with you over one small point. You CAN bbq direct, but it's still low and slow.

    2. East Coast, too. I remember people coming over the house for a BBQ...well, in reality it was a meal done on a charcoal grill. Innumerable TV shows about TRUE BBQ...Carolina, Texas, Memphis for the main types. Beef or pork...wet or dry...the mind boggles. But the stomach rumbles!!!

      1. Where are you?

        In parts of the USA, especially the South and Texas, the distinction is clear - bbq is low and slow with smoke, grill is fast. But in many places without the low-slow tradition, the terms are used interchangeably. Or bbq is outside with charcoal or gas flame, grill can include an electrically heated grill/griddle inside.

        2 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          It seems like the terms are almost interchangable...if I go to my grocery store and buy what is labelled "a bbqed chicken" its a chicken off an electric rotisserie. If I order a dish in a restaurant such as bbq'd ribs, usually they are over a gas grill with bbq sauce on them. BUT, If I go to Italy and my friend who has an indoor wood oven, she grills her food over the charcoals, not bbq's them. On the other hand, in Australia you'll slap some shrimp on the barbie, so the speak, not the grill. And lets not even bring up the issue of smoking vs bbqing, where you cook meat long and slow over indirect heat with smoke that bbquing and how does that differ from smoking?

          1. re: freia

            While the low-slow approach to bbq (cooking items like pork shoulder, beef brisket, ribs, whole pigs) involves smoke (because hot smoke is the cooking medium), not all smoking is bbq. For example ham is smoked, salmon is either cold smoked or hot smoked (west coast, BC style),

            The name supposedly comes from Caribbean Island tribe which cooked/preserved game by smoking it on racks over a fire, it evolved into the Mexican pit cooking (barbacoa), and modern Carolina versions involving truck size 'bbq pits'.

        2. The host was talking nonsense.

          Many places and many people don't really make a distinction. But IF they do make a distinction, grilling is cooking quickly over direct heat while BBQ is cooking slowly with indirect heat and smoke. Normally, you would bbq meats that have a lot of connective tissue to break down slowly. You wouldn't bbq chicken breast and potatoes and fruit skewers. Chicken thighs or whole chickens maybe. More often things like pork shoulder and ribs and brisket.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            From freia's regional posts, I suspect that this host is Canadian.

            1. re: paulj

              I figured in Canada there would probably be a lot of people who use the terms interchangeably, just like a lot of the Northern US. But I would still assume that if someone bothers to make a distinction, then 'grilling' should be fast and use direct heat while 'bbq' should be low and slow.