Difference Between Barbecue and Grilling

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Although these days, we do it on gas and electric cooktops, there have been numerous other ways of cooking delicious food and two of the most popular ways of cooking meat in specific are grilling and barbecuing. Grilling and barbecuing releases a different set of aromas and flavours from the meat that regular gas-cooking methods never can. And while they might sound synonymous the process and outcome of both the methods are drastically different. Here’s what is different between barbecuing and grilling

The process

Barbecuing is the process of cooking meats using indirect heat for long durations. Basically, the meat is slow-cooked for hours either with the use of charcoal or wood at temperatures not exceeding 160 degrees celsius. The meat coated with herbs, sauces and wrapped in an aluminium foil in the barbecue which is cooked using indirect heat. The burning wood and charcoal not only cooks and tenderises the meat but also gives it a warm, smoky flavour.

Grilling, on the other hand is when meat or vegetables are either skewered or placed on a metal rack with direct contact of the heat at high temperatures. The heat source could either be a gas burner or charcoal. Grilling helps cooking the meat by giving it a nice charred and crunchy exterior. The temperature for grilling can go as high as 350 degrees celsius.

The time

Speaking of time consumption, barbecuing can be far more time consuming, since it usually involves tough parts of the meat like ribs, pork shoulders, brisket etc and lower temperatures compared to grilling. The slow cooking  process tenderizes the meat helping it achieve a beautiful texture, along with the flavour of the fats, spices and other juices. Barbecuing can go on for hours and even days in certain cases.

Grilling is usually done with tender parts of meat like chicken breast, fish fillets or even minced meat patties that get cooked instantly. Since it is done with direct contact of the heat, it is usually quicker than barbecuing.

The flavour

When it comes to barbecuing, the heat source usually adds in a bunch of flavour to the meat, along with the herbs and sauces that the meat is covered with. Many barbecuing enthusiasts use charcoal for cooking, but additionally add wood to the mix to create a complex combination of aromas and flavours. Charcoal already is responsible to give it the smoky rich flavour, but with the addition of wood, it takes the overall taste to a whole new level. In fact, there are varieties of wood that are specifically used to create different flavours.

In grilling, if one uses a gas burner, there is no additional flavour as such, that is added to the meat. However, some choose to add a burning charcoal to the side to give the meat a smoky flavour, but this is not as impactful as barbecuing. Many also grill directly using charcoal as the main source of heat, which delivers varied results.

The texture

Both barbecuing and grilling deliver drastically different texture. It is also important to note here that the kind of meat used is different. In barbecuing, the slow cooking process results in the meat being soft and tender, to such an extent that it slips off the bone. Grilling, on the other hand gives out a more crunchy texture on the outside, and a juicy tender texture on the inside, but it is not as tender as barbecued meat.


What separates barbecuing and grilling are the temperatures it is cooked at, and the process of cooking. The choice of meat is another differentiator. However regardless of whether you grill your meat or barbecue, the end result is going to be downright delicious.


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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.