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By Appliances Connection
Cookout season is coming fast. But first, you’ll want to learn more about the different cooking styles that are possible on your outdoor grill.
After a long winter (and an even longer year) we can all finally start looking forward to getting together with family and friends to enjoy the savory scents and sizzling sounds of an outdoor cookout, But not all cookouts are the same. In fact, there are three distinct kinds of cookouts you can enjoy: grilling, barbecuing, and smoking.
The odds are quite good you may have enjoyed all three without realizing the difference — except, of course, in the delicious results. The grill experts at Appliances Connection have put together a quick and easy primer to help you easily understand the differences between smoking, barbecuing, and smoking before you start slinging the spatula and twirling the tongs.
This is the most common style of outdoor cooking, if only for the simplicity of food preparation, the variety of foods which can be prepared, and the quick turnover on the grill. In general, grilling is done with high heat and lots of it so a cook can serve up hot dogs, burgers as well as tender, juicy steaks, chops, ribs in short order. But not all grilled food types need the hasty heat — more specifically fish, shellfish, poultry, and vegetables. These are much more delicate and require a lower, slightly longer stay on the grill due to their lack of fats which keep meats moist and tender.
People often clash on the best fuel source for grilling: There’s charcoal with its old-school, smoky goodness. Liquid propane or natural gas which provide quick, fiery power — especially if you’re working on a die-hard Hestan brand grill set and electric, which offers precision temperature control. All of them have their individual strengths. When all is said and done, this decision is purely subjective, But, so long as the end results are delicious, why argue the point?
The next — and many consider the most serious — type of outdoor cooking is barbecue. It’s evolved through the years into a culinary science of its own, inspiring countless contests across the world and numerous television shows exploring the skills necessary to make the very best barbecue — skills that are far too extensive to cover here. But we can explain what makes barbecue its own genre in the culinary arts.
A major difference between grilling and barbecuing is the size of the cut of meat, whether it’s pork shoulder, a rack of ribs, or briskets, High temperatures would only serve to scorch the outside while leaving the interior raw and inedible. Only low, steady temperatures (anywhere between 250–400°F, depending on the meat) will result in thoroughly cooked, tender results.
But the real factor that sets barbecue apart is time. True barbecue is a time-consuming project requiring concentration and the ability to respond when needed, adjusting the heat, adding sauce, etc. The process can take hours, so patience is key.
Now, for the cooking milieu that stands apart — smoking. Smoking meats is a far more time-consuming venture than either grilling or even barbecuing. This is because rather than being cooked by either direct or indirect heat, meats such as brisket, pork butt, or even turkey are slowly heated by the smoke from smoldering chunks or chips of various woods such as hickory, mesquite, cherry, or apple that add a uniquely succulent savor to foods. This occurs at very low temperatures (from 150—250°F, depending on the meat), over a long period of time — sometimes up to 24 hours. Thus, this cooking style takes the most experience to master.
There are different levels of to smoking. If you want the efficiency of grilling but would like to dabble with some smoke, many grills are equipped with smoker boxes you can load with wood chips. But if you’re serious about smoking, a separate single-purpose smoker would be right for you.
There you have it — the basics of the three basic cooking styles for your outdoor grill. Of course, keep in mind that there are rarely absolutes when it comes to cooking. There are any number of combinations and imaginative blending of cooking methods for a variety of dishes. After all, outdoor cooking is a blend of imagination and inspiration, trial and error, and most of all, enjoyment.