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The Difference Between Grilling and Smoking

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Summertime often means time spent outside soaking up the Florida sunshine. To extend the time outdoors, many prefer to spend their summer days cooking outside either grilling or smoking their favorite meats and sides. 

What’s the Difference?

Both grilling and smoking your foods creates delicious meals packed with flavor. So what’s the difference? It really comes down to time, temperature, equipment, and overall flavor. We’ll dive deeper into these techniques below.


Grilling wasn’t popular until the 1940s when World War II ended and families left big cities for suburban neighborhoods. Take a love for cooking and combine it with having enough outdoor space to entertain your neighbors. What do you end up with? Grilling

Grilling only requires a grill, whether it’s charcoal or gas-powered, and an appetite for delicious meals. When grilling, the goal is to cook food that both locks moisture inside and creates a crispy exterior. 

Time and Temperature

Grilling is much quicker than smoking, making it more widely adopted. There are two different techniques to cook food on the grill: indirect and direct grilling. When you use direct heat, you are cooking right on top of the flame for the fastest results. Indirect heat cooks food on the unlit part of the grill and borrows heat from the lit flame near the food. Indirect grilling uses a “low and slow” approach to avoid burning the food. You should use indirect heat for whole chickens, brisket, pork shoulders, and ribs.

Temperatures to grill range from 250°F (low) to 450°F (high), offering a wide range of options depending on the food and your time restrictions.

When to Use a Grill

Grilling is flexible and can offer quick cooking for delicious meals. While keeping your foods extremely flavorful, grilling is a convenient option. You should opt for the standard grill when choosing to cook chicken, pork chops, steaks, and fish fillets. 


Smoking has been around since Medieval times. The smoking process was originally used to cure and preserve meats since refrigerators were not around for a few more centuries. Nowadays, smoking is used primarily to slowly cook meat for maximum flavor and tenderness. 

Smoking is done in a metal chamber that is either portable or can be so big that it needs to be attached to a car to be transported. Smokers can be fueled by gas, wood, or charcoal, the most popular being wood. Different types of wood give off different flavors, adding more variety to your smoked meats.

Time and Temperature

Like grilling, there are two techniques when smoking: cold and hot. Cold smoking is done with an internal temperature of 68-86 degrees for 12-24 hours, but you’ll need to cure your food first. The purpose of cold smoking is to add that smokey flavor. Hot smoking, on the other hand, needs no curing period and uses temperatures between 126 and 250 degrees. Time depends on the type of meat and the thickness. It can range from 1 hour to an entire day. Find common smoking times for popular meats here.

When to Use a Smoker

The process of smoking is done to break down collagen in the meat. “Fall off the bone” barbecue is achieved by long and slow smoking of meat. Unlike grilling, smoking foods adds both tenderness and a smoky flavor. 

While it takes a considerably longer time to cook meat compared to grilling, the payoff is well worth it. Plus, Ward’s always has freshly smoked barbeque and meats readily available each day in our deli department if you don’t have 12 hours to spare.

Visit Ward’s Before You Fire Up the Grill or Smoker

You can’t go wrong with grilling or smoking your foods. It really comes down to equipment, time, and type of food. Whether you want to grill up a delicious steak or slow smoke an entire rack of ribs, Ward’s has all the products you need for your summer cookout.

(352) 372-1741
515 NW 23rd Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32609