Grilling vs Smoking: Is One Better than the Other?


People have compared grilling vs smoking for the longest time. There is value in both cooking methods, but they have differences that make them better for particular types of food and occasions.

Knowing the differences between the two allow you to get a better appreciation of these 2 related but completely different cooking disciplines.

This article will answer some of the most common questions asked about grilling and smoking.

How does grilling and smoking work?

While food enthusiasts consider both as methods of barbecuing, grilling and smoking are 2 cooking methods that are completely different from each other.


Grilling is a method where food is cooked directly on top of a heat source. Traditionally, grilling is done over charcoal heat, but gas and electric grills are rising in popularity.

Grilling is one of the most common cooking methods in the world. Just about every country has a local delicacy that is prepared using a grill.

On the average, grilling exposes food to heat with average temperatures of at least 400° F (204° C). This allows for shorter cooking times and more even cooking.


Utilizing indirect heat to cook food, smoking uses a combination of steam and smoke. Traditional smokers run using charcoal and wood, but there are now gas and electric smokers available as well.

More than just a method for cooking food, smoking is also used as a method for preserving food. This is because the wood used for smoking creates compounds that inhibit the growth of bacteria.

The average temperature inside a smoker ranges from 160 to 300° F (71 to 149° C). For this reason, food is usually smoked for hours (or even days) before it becomes ready for serving.

What are the advantages of grilling?

Faster cooking time: Compared to smoking that can last anywhere from hours to days, grilling can be completed within minutes; however, you’ll have to rotate food from time to time to prevent burning!

Healthy way of cooking: Grilling has always been one of the healthier methods of cooking food.

It allows excess fat to drip while cooking, and nutrients are retained better when food is grilled.

Easier to do: Mastering the art and science of grilling is much easier compared to other cooking techniques.

Also, it doesn’t take much to get the best out of specific ingredients when grilling.

What are the advantages of smoking?

Unique flavor and aroma: Smoking brings a flavor and aroma that you just can’t find with grilling or any other type of cooking method for that matter.

The combination of slow cooking and wood smoke gives the unique characteristics only smoked foods have.

Minimal tending needed: While you need to make sure that the temperature is consistent, smoking in general requires minimal tending.

You just have to make sure that there’s enough water and wood, plus you need to check if the meat is cooked from the inside out.

Good for cooking large volumes of food: A smoker is best designed for cooking large volumes of food.

A typical smoker can accommodate whole birds (chickens, turkeys, pigeons), pork butts, full rib slabs, and other large food.

Which method is better?

As a cooking method?

It’s impossible to tell if one method is better than the other, as they are two completely different ways of cooking food. However, both methods are useful and provide their own set of advantages.

There are some foods best cooked thru grilling and there are some foods best cooked thru smoking.

There are numerous awesome recipes that make use of either method; some use both.

In terms of quality of food?

Some would argue that smoking creates food with quality unmatched by grilling, or of any cooking technique for that matter. It’s hard to argue with that, given the unique taste, softness, and aroma of properly smoked food.

However, a counter-argument can be made that properly grilled food has quality that can rival even that of smoked food.

If done right, grilled food is juicy, flavorful, and nutritious.

Ease of doing?

Depending on which side of the fence you are on, an argument can again be made that one method is easier to do than the other.

Grilling is easier in the sense that cooking time is shorter and the level of heat is easier to regulate.

On the other hand, smoking is easier in the sense that it requires minimal supervision while cooking.

Grilling vs Smoking: Is One Better than the Other?

At the end of this comparison, can it be said that one method is better than the other?

Both methods have its own strengths and limitations, and those things make each cooking style unique.

Between grilling vs smoking, we can safely say that both techniques are great in their own right. You can prepare excellent food regardless of what approach you use.


Which do you prefer: grilling or smoking? Let us know in the comments below!