Are You Barbecuing or Grilling?
Yes, They are Different and it Matters
With phrases such as, “put some shrimp on the barbie”, products for our backyard that claim to be, “BBQ grills” and recipes for, “BBQ chicken wings” the majority of us assume that the term barbecue is synonymous with grilling, when in fact, they are two very different techniques. If you have ever been given a sideways glance from any BBQ connoisseur when discussing the backyard barbecue you are hosting for the fourth of July, it is probably because you mean to say that you are grilling in your backyard, not barbecuing.
So What’s the Big Difference Between Barbecuing and Grilling?
To put it simply, time, heat, smoke, and cuts of meat. Barbecue is cooked with coals at low temperatures using indirect heat, often for 2-20 hours, while grilling means to get a quick sear with direct heat at high temperatures. “When you barbecue you are cooking with a slow circumvented unit of hot air with the lid closed. Grilling is done with the lid up and you’re cooking with direct heat on the bottom, instead of all around the source.” Explains Ken Hueston, owner of Smoken Bones Cookshack in Victoria, BC.
The Time, the Heat, the Smoke, the Meat
Traditionally, with barbecue, you have meats such as ribs, pork shoulder, or brisket. These cuts of meat have to cook a very long time to tenderize at a very low temperature. (Think about what would happen if you tried to grill a pot roast...yuck.) In addition, you have the added flavor of the wood smoke, which is a distinguishing characteristic of different regional BBQ styles. Smoke is the essence of barbecue. it is what differentiates barbecue from other types of cooking. One of the 5 tenants that make Bird Dog BBQ’s Oklahoma Style BBQ is smoking with white oak exclusively. The result of barbecuing is beautiful meat candy with a subtle smoke flavor that literally melts in your mouth.
Grilling, on the other hand uses cuts of meats that are delicious when cooked quickly, such as boneless chicken breasts, hamburger patties, steaks, or seafood. Characteristic grilled flavors come from fat that drips off the meat hitting the heat source and generating smoke that seasons the food slightly. You might, (like me), love char on the outside of everything, an option only available with the direct heat of a grill.
Then, You’ve got the History
The history of barbecue goes back centuries and different techniques can be found all over the world. From Hangi’s in New Zealand, to Indian Tandoori, barbecuing is deeply rooted in a variety of cultures. In our own culture, you will also find a sense of identity surrounding BBQ. “Whether you call it barbecue, BBQ or Q, it's more than a way of cooking, it's myth, folklore, and American history.” proclaims culinary historian Sylvia Lovegren.
What About the Sauce?
BBQ Sauce might be the culprit of all the confusion. Ted Lee blames the sauce for the blending of the terms "grilling" and "barbecue." As more prepared sauces came on the market in 1950s and 1960s with the growing popularity of outdoor grilling, more people started using the terms interchangeably, he said. Barbecue sauce usually refers to a specific type of sauce that can be used on meats cooked on a grill, barbecued or even cooked in an oven. Yet the techniques of barbecuing, grilling, and oven cooking do not require sauce of any kind.
So, to BBQ or Grill? Which One is Better?
Really, there is good answer here, it all depends on what you are going for. If you want an easy task resulting in quick, seared meat with mild char then grilling is the way to go. If you want a day long experience resulting in mouth-watering meat candy, then BBQ all the way. Or, you can always just come into Bird Dog BBQ and let us do the work for you;)