Note: Although originally published in June, 2014 this article was thoroughly revamped and updated in May, 2020.
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between barbecuing and grilling. Several, actually.
Both involve broiling and open fires.
- To grill: to broil on a gridiron or other apparatus over or before a fire
- To barbecue: to broil or roast whole in large pieces over an open fire, on a spit or grill, often seasoning with vinegar, spices, salt, and pepper
Grilling: High Heat & Fast Cooking Times
- Involves cooking food quickly (between 5 and 20 minutes)
- Cooks at high temperatures (500 to 700 degrees F for the surface of the grill grate, higher for the actual coals and gas flames)
- Uses direct heat
- Means usually leaving the lid up
- Is best suited to small, tender cuts of meat like chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks, hot dogs, or hamburgers; vegetables are popular too
- Works well with marinades
Barbecuing: Low Heat & Waiting a Long Ass Time for Your Tenderized Meat
- Involves cooking food slowly (between 2 and 18 hours)
- Cooks at low(er) temperatures (20 to 300 degrees F)
- Uses indirect heat
- Means putting the lid down
- Is best suited for large, bone-in cuts of meat like ribs, pork butt, pork shoulder, or brisket
- Works well with dry rubs
- Require you refrain from touching the food a lot as it cooks
- Allow you to use barbecue sauce if you so desire
- Yield delicious food
More Info You Might Need to Know Before Cooking With Open Fire
If you’re cooking food in your backyard you’re probably grilling, even if you say you’re having people over for a barbecue. If you do in fact want to barbecue at home, know that not every grill is equipped to do so, so you’ll want to do your research.
For a comprehensive guide to grilling – including different types of grills and how to use them, how to grill food, how to clean your grill, and safety tips (apparently they can be a fire hazard), I point you to the link below at CampingCooks.com.