Summer is technically almost over—Labor Day is just around the corner, and for most people, soon it will be time to put away the grill and barbecue for another year—but while you still can, do you BBQ or grill? Funny enough, most people don’t know the difference between these two outdoor (and sometimes indoor) cooking methods. But believe it or not, grilling and BBQ are not the same thing.
Mostly, time. Specifically, how long it takes to cook your food, and the type of heat you’re using to do it.
When you think of grilling, think of that quick and easy summer meal that satisfies your hungry crowd of guests in less than an hour—like throwing some chicken legs on the grill to sear up fast, with high and direct heat. If you’re not a chicken person, some other meats compatible with grilling are steaks, pork chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, or seafood. If you don’t eat meat at all, vegetables are great for grilling, too!
Grilling might be easy, but the fast cooking process means your food can be easily burned, so it’s important to keep an eye on the grill, and to learn a few basics like when to use the grill lid and the difference between direct and indirect heat:
If you’re in the market for a new one, check out our guide to types of grills.
Barbecuing, on the other hand, means you’re cooking your food low and slow. Rather than using direct heat—like with grilling—the indirect heat and smoke produced from the burning of wood or coal fuels the BBQ cooking process. This is a typical style of cooking for cuts of meat like ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder. It can take up to a few hours, but patience is rewarded with tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth meat that can only be accomplished with this method. Just be sure to keep your guests happy with some snacks while they’re anxiously waiting.
In either case, you can anoint your meat with a marinade or dry rub before committing it to the flames (or smoke). And both techniques produce food that goes beautifully with barbecue sauce, of course.
While (almost) anyone can grill up a burger, barbecuing is more commonly reserved for the more experienced cooks and patient members of family gatherings, “usually, Uncle Larry,” says cookbook author Matt Lee.
If you’re the “Uncle Larry” of your family or just want to put your expert cooking skills to the test, here are a couple of our favorite barbecue recipes:
These down-home flavor ribs require an oven-to-grill method, but with their rich glaze and flavorful spice rub, the two-method cooking process will be well worth it in the end. You can prepare the ribs up to two days in advance to save some time on the day you’re serving them. Get our Easy BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs recipe.
It doesn’t need to be Thanksgiving to roll out the big ol’ BBQ turkey—it’ll be a hit whatever time of year. For this recipe, you’ll need a charcoal grill to cook your turkey slowly for tender, juicy meat. You’ll never want to cook turkey in the oven again. Get our BBQ Turkey recipe. And see more tips on smoking meat like a pitmaster.
If you’re not the “Uncle Larry” of the group, here are some recipes for grilling instead:
Spoil your guests with some fresh salmon, paired with a tasty and refreshing cream, citrus, and herb-based sauce. This dish takes less than ten minutes to make and you end up with deliciously moist salmon with a nice crispy skin. Get our Grilled Chile Salmon with Lime Crema recipe.
A sweet-salty teriyaki glaze with garlic and ginger makes for delicious grilled pork chops; throw some pineapple on the grill to go along with, and serve beside plenty of rice to catch all that delicious sauce and those meaty, fruity juices. Get our Grilled Teriyaki Pork Chops recipe.
Chicken is a popular go-to grilling food and always a crowd pleaser. This grilled chicken with a balsamic rosemary marinade is sure to be just as delicious as it is easy to make. To ensure the chicken absorbs the marinade completely, you may want to let your chicken sit for a few hours or overnight before throwing them on the grill (the easy part). Get our Balsamic-Rosemary Grilled Chicken Breasts recipe.
Who says grilling is just for meat? You can also add some smoky flavor and texture to your vegetables. This recipe involves quickly grilling some bread, tomatoes, and eggplant before combining them together for a tasty salad. Get our Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Salad recipe.