Ask some folks the question "what is barbecuing?" and they'll say it's any type of outdoor cooking. Slow smoke a beef brisket, or grill a steak over direct-high heat...it's all barbecue to them.
There are others who'll tell you that barbecuing is slow-cooking large pieces of meat (just about has to be pork), using indirect, wood fired heat. So who's right?
Authentic barbecue is low temperature cooking, using an indirect heat
source (has to be wood), for hours and hours. This method is perfect for
tenderizing tough cuts of meat containing lots of connective tissue.
Traditional barbecue came about as a way to make good use of the
cheapest, toughest cuts of meat.
Grilling is cooking foods directly over the heat source, and usually at a temperature of 500F or more. Tender cuts of meat, chicken and fish are quick cooking and perfect for grilling. The high temperature sears the outer surface of the meat, sealing in the juices. Some foods are better when grilled at medium, or even low temperatures.
Indirect grilling is a method that mimics true barbecue cooking. With this method, the food is cooked on one side of the grill, and the heat is on the other...or the food is in the middle with the heat on the sides. It's not true barbecue, but it comes darn close. Wood-smoke flavor from wood chips or chunks placed over the heat source completes the effect.
Smoking is cooking at a low temperature with smoke for hours. Wood fired smokers produce authentic barbecue. Some would even allow charcoal as an acceptable fuel for authentic barbecue. When smoking in an electric or gas smoker, wood-smoke flavor is added to the meat by burning a few wood chips or chunks. The heat source is separated from the food by a barrier, or by being in a separate, but connected chamber.
Just so we are all on the same page, this is how the three terms are generally used at BBQ-FYI.com. It's not set in stone...I'll use words interchangeably at times. I might use barbecue to refer to direct gas grilling or to smoking...just depends on how I feel! But for the most part, here are the guidelines used here.
Barbecuing - When the word barbecuing is used, it'll most often refer to the indirect grilling method. But occasionally you'll see it used to refer to authentic barbecuing, smoking and maybe even direct grilling.
Grilling - This usually refers to grilling over direct heat, but will be used sometimes for indirect grilling.
Indirect Grilling - This will refer to cooking in a grill, with the heat on one side and food on the other.
Smoking - This will refer to cooking in any type of smoker...wood burning, electric, gas or charcoal, and usually, but not always, at a low temperature.
The method used for the recipes will be clearly spelled out in the instructions. You'll see "indirect grill at medium heat", or "cook in a meat smoker", and not "barbecue for 6 hours". I want your "barbecue" to be a success...whether it's barbecued, smoked or grilled.
What is barbecuing? Good Eating!
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