What’s the difference between grilling and barbecuing?

The difference between grilling and barbecuing

Summertime is fast approaching, and it won’t be long until you want to dust off the barbecue and gather your friends and family for a feast in the sun, or is it a grill? Barbecuing and grilling are terms that many people use interchangeably, which is understandable considering both cooking methods use the same type of equipment in an outdoor setting. However, they are in fact quite different methods of preparing meat and it’s important to know the differences, so you know which one is right for various occasions.

What is grilling?

Grilling is the cooking method you would use when you want to cook smaller pieces of meat in a way that is quick, easy, and hot. It doesn’t take long to get a nice sear on your meat, making it ideal for smaller products like New York strip steak, burgers, and sausages. Even though you’re inviting people to a barbecue if you’re cooking meat and/or vegetables quickly over a strong, direct, heat source (a gas or charcoal grill flame), chances are you will be using a grilling cooking technique.

What is barbecuing?

In the opposite way to grilling which works by being hot and fast, the term that is often used to describe barbecuing is low and slow. The process can be done on a grill or in a smoker, but the emphasis is on cooking the meat for significantly longer than the grill on a lower temperature not directly over the flame. Larger cuts of meat like Boston butt, ribs, and whole chickens are often used for barbecuing as they are tougher.

The long cook on a lower temperature allows the meat to become beautifully soft and tender, so it just falls off the bone. Charcoal or wood are the main sources of heat for barbecuing, different woods can be used to provide different smoky flavours that the meat will take on and provide unique and amazing notes of various tastes.

How to use sauces and spices when grilling and barbecuing

Aside from the normal salt and pepper that every meat should have no matter the cooking technique, there is also a big difference in how spices and sauces should be used when grilling and barbecuing. Even though the name is very specific, barbecue sauces can also be used during grilling and make a tasty addition to the meat when they are used.

A great approach to take when grilling meat is to soak it in a marinade for at least a few hours or overnight. This will allow the meat to soak up the flavours from the liquid and maintain a nice juiciness when cooked, but make sure to discard the marinade as if too much is on the meat when it’s cooking, the moisture can stop it from browning.

Dry rubs and spices are more commonly used for barbecuing meats as when they are used on grilled products there is the risk of it burning in the direct heat, leaving you with a bitter taste instead of the flavours of the spice. Therefore, you will likely find stronger spices and seasoning mixtures available for barbecuing as the lower temperatures means there is less risk of burning or carbonising and the long cook means there is enough time for the meat to absorb the flavours of the spices.


Despite some similarities, grilling and barbecuing are very different cooking methods so the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Whether you’re looking for large cuts of bone-in meat to create the perfect melt in the mouth barbecue food or you need delicious steaks, hot dogs, and burgers for quick cooking that’ll feed a large group of people The Village Butcher has got you covered.

As online butchers in Essex we can ensure our high-quality meats, seasonings, sauces, and more are freshly delivered directly to your door. Find everything you need for a summer of food fun online with our tasty recipes and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

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