Smoker vs BBQ: Which Is the Better Choice?


Have you ever faced the question of smoker vs BBQ? Both methods can result in deliciously cooked food.

Whether or not you choose to smoke or barbecue your food depends on your available time and cooking preferences.

It is not easy to choose between smoking and barbecuing unless you understand the ins and outs of both cooking methods, so we will give you a comprehensive discussion on the basics of barbecue and smoking.

Many use BBQ/Barbecue/Barbeque interchangeably with grilling (direct and indirect heat) and smoking (I do too), but there are differences.

Barbecue 101: The Basics of Barbecuing

What is barbecuing?

BBQ is a cooking method that uses smoke to cook meat at low temperatures. Meat is usually prepared over a wood or charcoal fire in temperatures ranging about 190-300° F (88-149° C).

When barbecuing, the meat is cooked with indirect heat so you don’t have to turn the meat. You do however, need to lift the lid to replace the coals/wood used.

What and how to barbecue?

It is best to barbecue meat from animals with tough muscle tissue. These tough meats are not delicious when cooked on high heat over short periods of time, however, they become more tender, juicy, and flavorful when cooked over fire for several hours.

Tough meat becomes more flavorful when barbecued because cooking it in low temperatures for a long time helps break down the meat’s collagen. This results in the silky, fall-off-the-bone meat that many people love.

Besides tough meat, true barbecuing is best on big cuts of meat, such as whole chickens, pork butts, and racks of ribs.

You can use a grill, charcoal burner with a lid, or a fire pit for barbecuing. The important thing is to make sure that your equipment replicates a pit.

Equipment specifically designed for barbecuing meat is also a good choice. These will increase your chances of cooking that perfect barbecued meat that you are craving.

What are the positives and negatives of barbecuing?

People who like tender, smoke-flavored meat will enjoy the barbecued meat.

Barbecuing meat requires the lid to be opened to replace coals. This process exposes the meat to the air and can make it dry out, though you can continuously spritz the meat with apple juice, beer, soda, or other liquids to keep the meat moist.

Smoking 101: The Basics of Smoking

What is smoking?

Smoking is a method of cooking meat in very low heat, usually at temperatures ranging from 68-176° F (20-80° C). It also has a lengthy cooking time of 1 hour to about 2 weeks.

Meat can be smoked in two ways: cold smoking and hot smoking. Cold smoking is used to primarily flavor meat (or fish or cheese) while hot smoking is used to cook it.

Cold smoked meat requires curing or cooking meat before eating. This is because cold smoked meat are only flavored but not completely cooked after being smoked.

Curing is a food preservation and flavoring process that aims to draw moisture out of the food. This is done by adding combinations of salt, nitrates, nitrites, or sugar to the food you want to preserve.

Besides curing, cold smoked meat can be eaten after being baked, grilled, or steamed. Cooking does not remove the smoke flavor of the meat.

Hot smoked meat, on the other hand, is safe to eat right away because the hot smoking both cooks and adds flavor at the same time.

How do you smoke meat?

The first step to delicious smoked meat is to choose the right ingredient. Large cuts of meat are preferred for smoking, such as roast, ribs, and ham.

The second step is to choose good quality equipment. This will ensure that the meat you smoke will cook just the way you like it.

Smokers are generally closed containers with a water basin and a wood chip basin placed at the bottom of the smoker chamber. The water keeps the temperature stable while the wood flavors the meat.

Smoking, like barbecuing, cooks meat in smoke for long periods of time. However, unlike barbecuing, smoking doesn’t need to move the coals while cooking meat.

Smoking cooks meat using indirect heat. It acts like an oven, but it cooks meat slower which allows the smoke flavor to penetrate the meat.

The secret of great tasting smoked meat is the length of time it is cooked and the wood used is also very important.

The long period of smoking gets the smoke flavor inside and outside the meat. Cooking meat in high heat with wet wood chips will not give the same flavor as the smoked meat because high heat causes the surface of the meat to become cooked which prevents the smoke from entering it.

Besides the time it takes to cook meat, the wood used in smoking is another key in making great smoked meats.

The smoked meat takes on the distinct flavor of the wood used in smoking. Hickory, cherry, and apple wood are popularly used in smoking.

Mesquite, while very popular, may be too pungent for many and should be used carefully.

Positives of smoking meat?

Smoked meats are flavorful and tender. They are bursting with that smoky flavor many people enjoy.

Smoking meat is also quite easy due to the availability of electric smokers that are convenient and simple to use. Smoking meat also require minimal tending so even those who are not fond of cooking can find smoking meat agreeable.

Smokers vs. BBQ equipment: Differences

Barbecue equipment and smokers are both useful tools. Buying either one or both will depend on your available time and purpose.

If your time to cook is limited, barbecue is for you. It gives you smoke-flavored meat in a shorter period of time.

Buying a smoker is a smart choice for those who have time to cook. It is also good for those who want to smoke cheese or create beef jerky.

Smoker vs BBQ: Which Is the Better Choice?

Both smoking and barbecuing are great methods of cooking meat. If you can’t choose which method to use, it is great to have knowledge and understanding of the ins and outs of both cooking methods.

Now, to answer the question “Smoker vs BBQ: Which is the better choice?”...well, we’ll leave that answer in your hands.


Which do you prefer? Grilling, Smoking, or BBQing?

Let us know in the comments below.