Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick One

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Last updatedLast updated: August 21, 2021
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Do you know the difference between a smoker and a grill? If you do, that is excellent, but if you don’t, then you will find this guide really useful. Here, we will consider the winner of the smoker vs grill debate.

In this informational article, you will see the differences between the two, an exercise which will assist you to decide which of them you want to use for outdoor cooking and similar stuff. Choosing between the grill and the smoker can be a hard task. When looking for new BBQ equipment to buy, you might be confused about which of the two to buy.

Well, by the time we are through with this article, you will have all the important information that will improve your ability to choose rightly.

Grilling and Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneTo know which is better between the two, we need to consider the features of each piece of equipment.

What is grilling Trusted Source Grilling - Wikipedia Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above, below or from the side. en.wikipedia.org ? Well, when it comes to food, grilling refers to a fast and convenient way to cook your food. When observed, grilling generally includes cooking foods at pretty high temperatures quickly. Roasting, which many love, is actually a type of grilling, albeit one that occurs at lower temperatures and longer times.

Grilling is hotter and takes a shorter time than smoking.

What foods can you grill? Well, there are plenty of foods that will benefit from grilling. For example, you can cook foods like chops, hot dogs, steaks, chicken, vegetables, and so on. Since grilling involves plenty of heat, you have to be involved in the cooking process lest your food burns.

Because of the high heat, searing is a regular occurrence in grilling and is something that can only be done at such high temperatures.

Searing is one of our favorite parts of grilling. It makes the meat’s surface brown and will improve the taste and flavor of your meat.

With grilling, you can even get a smoky flavor in your meat if you include charcoal as a fuel source.

Different Types of Grilling

As we have pointed out earlier, there are different types of grilling. You should know each of these methods so that you can know what you will get from the whole process. Let’s now see some of these methods.

Direct

Direct grilling is very simple and if you are looking to quickly prepare your food, then it is the simplest way to grill.

Drilling, as implied by the name, involves placing the food on the grate directly above the fire. It, therefore, cooks exposed to fire. Since it is in direct contact with the flames, your food will be done in minutes.

For chops, steaks, and small cuts of meat, then direct grilling is the best type of grilling.

Indirect Grilling

Next is indirect grilling, which is exactly what is suggested by the name. In this method, you are not in direct contact with the fire. Also, this type of grilling has most of the work done by convective heat instead of radiant heat.

Indirect grilling is similar to oven cooking and will make for a more even result. It is a good method for roasting larger cuts of meat. It can also be used for smaller meat pieces.

This grilling is done at 190 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Types of Grills

When in the market for a grill, you might find it challenging to choose one, as there are just so many options on the market. There are multiple types, and each one comes with a different source of fuel. For the most part, you can choose between freestanding models or options that are set on a table. Some are designed to be used outdoors.

As if that were not enough, you will also find portable grills, tailgate grills, and camping grills.

So, if you are looking to buy a grill, you must have a plan in mind about the location of the grill and how you will set it up.

Let’s now consider some of the most popular types of grills.

Standard Kettle Charcoal Grill

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThese are the quintessential grills. When you hear of grills, these are likely the first types that come to mind. They come with a unique design and use charcoal as the fuel source. Temperature control is rather tricky as you can only adjust it via the vents up and down.

Ceramic Kamado Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneAnother popular type of grills on the market are these grills that are known for their heat retention. Since these are ceramic options, it is not really surprising that they hold the heat in so well.

Due to the material of the build, these are quite pricey; however, they make up for this by being very versatile. You can not just grill, but can also use them as a smoker, an oven, and a roaster.

Barrel Type Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThe original grills were made from oil drums, and today, these models are iconic options. Many manufacturers have seen the appeal of these grills, which is why they now make grills that come in this shape and design.

Gas Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThere are two main types of gas grills. These are the propane gas grills and the natural gas grills. As the name implies, these are fuelled by gas – either natural or propane from a tank. There are several advantages to these grills. For one, they are very convenient to use and more affordable in the long run. Weber is known as one of the top names in this industry, and the 61006001 model is regarded as one of the best propane grills available today.

The downside is that it burns only gas, so you cannot add wood pellets to add flavor to the food you cook.

Pellet Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OnePellet grills are excellent models that can be used without plenty of supervision. They are designed with an auger and hopper system which is controlled by a thermostat. It is a versatile option that not only grills but also be used as a means of smoking your food.

The fuel source, as implied by the name, consists of compressed sawdust.

Electric Grills

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneIf you want to grill indoors or anywhere else that prohibits you from starting a fire, then these flame-less grills are just right for you. They are a good alternative to the actual grills.

Advantages of Grilling Food

Less fat: The first reason why grilling your food is good is that it does not have excess fat. As you grill the food, the fats will drip off. This is different from other cooking methods that will still have the fats pooled in the food.

Preserves nutrients: Studies reveal that grilled foods, especially meats, retain a larger percentage of nutrients when compared with other cooking methods. By grilling meat, you will discover that important nutrients like Thiamine and Riboflavin are preserved. These are certainly great for your health.

Doesn’t need butter: Grilling is rather simple and straightforward. With this method, you don’t need to add any butter to your food. All the juices from the food ooze out and will enhance the flavor of the food. This can have a good effect on your health as it will mean you consume a lower number of calories.

It brings you outdoors: A grill is a social magnet. With grilling, you have everyone outdoors and having a good time. If you are arranging a picnic, a grill is one way to make things even more interesting.

Disadvantages of Grilling Foods

Health risk: Part of the advantages of grilled foods is that they have lower fat and calories. However, the high heat involved in grilling can work with proteins to result in heterocyclic amines. These amines are significant cancer threats. Grilled foods have also been linked with diabetes and heart disease.

Fire hazard: Many fire accidents across the country involve the use of grills. So, if you are wary of fire accidents, you should avoid grilling or use a grill that doesn’t involve the use of flames.

Smoking

This is the process of cooking food using a combination of low heat, longer periods, and of course, smoke. There are different types of smoking Trusted Source Smoking (cooking) - Wikipedia Smoking is the process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood. Meat, fish, and lapsang souchong tea are often smoked en.wikipedia.org , which we will discuss in the next section. Since there are different types, the temperature varies. You can have smoking temperatures of 9o degrees, to temperatures of up to 300 degrees.

How Can You Smoke Foods?

In a smoker, there is no direct connection to heat. Rather than that, the smoking is done consistently and evenly throughout the process. With this type of cooking, food is cooked from all angles simultaneously.

As the fire burns up the heat source, the wood creates smoke that will interact with the meat to cause a better flavor. The time for smoking is dependent on different factors, ranging from the food you are cooking to the size of the meat.

As we said, you don’t have direct heat in a smoker. Rather it is convectional heat that will help you to smoke the food from all sides. Since it takes a longer time to cook using the smoker, the smoke from your wooden pellets will penetrate the layers of the meat and leave a wonderful smoky taste. To taste or flavor will depend on the wood that you use.

Some smaller pieces might spend two hours in the smoker while larger parts might take even up to 12 hours!

Some have thought that smoking food will remove all of the moisture in it and make it nearly impossible to eat. However, that is not true. In fact, the exposure to heat for an extended timer will release flavor and make your meat tasting juicy.

There are also several types of food that you can smoke. Some of the foods that can be smoked.

Types of Smoking

As in the case of grilling, there are different styles of grilling your food. Here are some of the options that you have.

Low and Slow

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneAs the name implies, this is a type of smoking that has the heat turned down pretty low and the food left in the smoker for a long time. It is an excellent way of smoking and it is what most people love. With this style, you can turn meat that is pretty tough to eat into something tender and easier to eat.

Smoke Roasting

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneIn smoke roasting, you will need a smoker that is capable of hitting high temperatures of around or more than 275 degrees.

Smoke roasting is similar to oven roasting, but the advantage is that it will add smoke to the flavor of your meat. If you have lamb, crown roasts, or similar meats, then you will enjoy using this process.

Another advantage of this type of smoking is that it doesn’t take a long time, so you don’t have to worry about your lower-fat meat getting too dry.

Cold Smoking

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneIn this method, you apply smoke to the meat with very little heat. It adds flavor, but it also helps to preserve the food.

There are some downsides to this method of smoking. For one, since it is done in low heat conditions, it is dangerous because of the bacteria that might survive in the meat. You must do it properly if you want to safely cold smoke the meat.

Types of Smokers

Smokers are similar to grills in the sense that there are plenty of options to choose from. You can divide them based on their fuel sources, shapes, and sizes.

Charcoal Smoker

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThese smokers are basic smokers that use charcoal as a fuel source. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The common theme of these is that they are powered with charcoal. To enhance or add flavor, wood chunks are added on top of the charcoal.

Electric Smokers

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneIn these types of smokers, the heating element smolders to create smoke. The smoke and heat then cook the food and provide the flavor. Most of the models found on the market are vertical in design. Reviewers have praised the MB20071117 from Masterbuilt as one of the best digital electric smokers on the market.

One benefit of these is that your food does not require constant supervision as it might come with a digital controller for setting temperature and time without stress.

Gas Smokers

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneNext are smokers that resemble electric smokers but use a gas burner to start a fire. They are safe to use too and do not require much supervision as they might be built with a digital controller.

Stick Burner

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThese are regarded by many to be the simplest type of burner. All you need to do is burn the wood in a firebox which is built apart from the smoking chamber. The smoke and heat from the box then pass into the smoking chamber to cook your food and add the flavor.

Pellet Smokers

Smoker vs Grill: Know the Difference Before You Pick OneThese are often electric in nature. You have an electric controller that adds wood pellets to a firepot in the chamber. The pellets are made from sawdust and act as source of fuel and flavor.

Advantages of Smoking Food

Provides nutrients: By helping you to make meals that are high in protein more enjoyable to consume, smoked food will boost the nutrient intake.

Reduced fat content: The process of smoking will help you to avoid the trap of bad experiences with fats. It works to reduce fat content in food as this will drip out of the food.

Preserves food: Another advantage of smoking food is that it will preserve the food. Smoked foods will last longer than normally-cooked meals.

Disadvantages of Smoking Food

Presence of carcinogens: Smoking contaminates your food with harmful hydrocarbons. Some experts claim that eating smoked food can increase the chances of suffering from cancer.

Summary of the Differences between the Smoker and the Grill

From our post so far, we have seen that while these two come with similarities, like the fact that they use similar types of fuels and sit on grates, certain things set them apart. The main differences are found in the cooking time, the temperature, and the wood smoke.

The grill is designed to help you cook small pieces of food at high temperatures and in a short time. On the other hand, the smoker is designed to cook large pieces of meat at relatively low temperatures and for a longer time.

Side-by-side Comparison

  Grilling Smoking
Time 10 Minutes Up to 12 Hours
Temperature 250 degrees or higher Below 250 degrees
Foods You can Grill Hot dogs, Chops, Vegetables, Sausages Shoulders, Butts, Briskets
Cost Cheaper More Expensive
Flavour Moist Smoky`
Size  Compact Larger

Final Thoughts

The winner of the smoker vs grill battle is something that depends on what you want. From the article, you can see the features of each type, which should assist you in deciding on which of the two options best meets your needs.

Whether you have a grill or a smoker, you can rest assured of a good time. You can even get a gas grill and learn how to smoke on it. You can also get smoker-grill combinations to get the best of both worlds.

References

1.
Grilling - Wikipedia
Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above, below or from the side.
2.
Smoking (cooking) - Wikipedia
Smoking is the process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood. Meat, fish, and lapsang souchong tea are often smoked
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