BBQ vs Grilling

BBQ vs Grilling

BBQ vs Grilling

By Justin Hrabik

Grilling and Barbecuing are two very different beasts. Knowing the difference is important though if you want to have an accurate understanding, and hold your own in any real conversation, of either. 

First of all there’s no versus about it. In fact, they’re on the same team. If I were to turn this into a football analogy, at least based on the origins of these cooking methods, Grilling is the quarterback and BBQ is the punter. Grilling can only take a butchered animal so far, it simply can’t score a touchdown on a tough sinewy piece of meat like pork shoulder or ribs. That’s when the punter comes in to salvage the progress you’ve made... Until the 20th century at least. 


Grilling describes the method of cooking quickly over direct heat, usually over Gas, Wood, or Charcoal. Grilling uses an open environment and flames to cook. 

If you really think about it, this is the very first cooking method. Cut a piece of meat off so it cooks fast and then eat it. This works great on tender cuts of meat like steak or belly, but then when you get to what used to be the less favorable cuts, eating turns into more of a chore than a joy.

“Over direct heat”

That statement holds the key to understanding the difference.

We think the terms started blending together around the 1970s when the Barbecue Grill gained popularity and the layperson began having back yard parties utilizing their Barbecue Grill for burgers, hot dogs, and other small items that can be cooked and served quickly. All these items however are typically grilled. Grilling isn’t wrong, it’s just not BBQ. That being said don’t be afraid to use our Barbeque Sauce as a condiment on burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips and other fare you think it might sound good on. One of our owners likes to use our Carolina Sunrise on BLTs or even just a thick tomato sandwich. We will talk about sauces more later.


Barbecue describes the method of cooking with low temperature over a long period of time. There’s a little more to it of course which is why it’s easy to confuse with Grilling, or at least fail to differentiate it.. BBQ uses a closed environment, indirect heat, and smoke to cook.

This is necessary to make certain cuts palatable.Ribs, Shoulder, Butt, and Brisket need 5 to 24 hours to cook. If these cook too fast the sinewy fibers common in these cuts will toughen up instead of break down. So, a common cooking temperature you’ll see when BBQing is around 225 degrees fahrenheit. The first record of barbecue is from about 500 years ago, and it wasn’t the bbq you see today. It allowed us to make the most of the meat we had. It wasn’t until the 20th century we started adding flavor and barbecue gained popularity, and it wasn't until the 21st century it was cemented as a delicacy. Now instead of discarding a rough cut of meat as second rate, we seek it out and revel in its tender, juicy glory!

The Connection

Both methods typically utilize the Barbecue Grill.

Both methods typically utilize at least wood or charcoal.

Both methods typically are an outdoor activity. And…

Both methods can be absolutely delicious!

Why Sauce Though?

Good Question! Grilling doesn’t typically use sauce while cooking, or a lot of seasoning for that matter. Grilling is, as stated earlier, hot and over direct heat. A dry rub or sauce would not maintain it’s flavor. Doesn’t mean you can’t use it after the meat’s cooked or at the very end, so you can take the now delicious piece of meat out before the sauce burns.

Barbecue is an opportunity to imbue all sorts of magical flavors into historically undelightful cuts. Even with barbecuing, sauce isn’t always used, but it makes more sense to call it BBQ Sauce instead of Grilling Sauce(although, Smokin Swine has something to think about now)...

Sauce in barbecue was probably most popularized by St Louis Style built entirely around saucy delicious pork baby back ribs. Of course we talk about the different kinds of sauces and applications in another blog post, but We’ll get into it a little bit here. Sweet & Smokey is the basic flavor profile of bbq in general, but if we look at the different regions famous for their bbq we’ll find quite a few different ideas of what BBQ really means. You’ll find tangier mustard based sauces in North Carolina and even Mayonnaise based sauces in Alabama. And as far as east texas is concerned don’t get near them with Wet Barbecue… “Wait, wet BBQ? Why are you throwing all these terms at me?” Okay, okay… I just wanted to make sure you had a reason to check out our blog with all the BBQ terminology you need. You can find that here.


If you’d like to learn more about Barbecue, grilling, Dry Rubs and Sauces here is a list of resources you may find helpful. Also, join our mailing list to stay up to date on the latest Smokin Swine news, plans, and products!

Google It

I’m kidding, okay, here we go


We love Wikipedia -

Our Terminology Blog Post - 

Our History of BBQ Blog Post - 

Our Sauces Blog Post -

Our Mailing List -

The Difference

The difference is in the necessary steps to the same purpose. In the journey to wonderfully tender, tasty meat. For a steak to be delicious all it really needs is plenty of salt and a couple minutes over a hot, hot, hot grill. For a strip of ribs to even be edible it needs indirect heat that’s not too hot and then enough time to break down properly. To be delicious it needs needs lots of seasoning, the perfect temperature, and a looooong cooking time. Of course you can ad some Smokin Swine sauce to take either of these from delicious to life changing ;)

Hey, what happened to the football analogy?!?!?!

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about it. It just wasn’t necessary to drag out in this post. Also, it seems like it would be a fun opportunity to engage with our fans on social media! So please like us on Facebook or Instagram. We’ll be making a post asking folks in the comments to help us build out the analogy!


Instagram: @smokinswinebbqsauce or

TL:DR(Too Long: Didn’t Read)

Basically, Grilling is over direct heat and Barbecue is not.

Long story short,

BBQ = Low + Slow

Grilling = Hot + Fast

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