The difference between bbq and grill
Grill and barbeque are not the same thing. The former is something holidaymakers do in their back garden as soon as the weather permits, the second is a method, an apparatus, a verb and – at least in the USA – a lifestyle.
Grill – direct heat
Grilling mainly takes place over direct heat, that is to say on a grate situated over red hot coals. Many grills have a cover so that you can enclose the heat, but most of the action is with the grill open.
The food is cooked in a matter of minutes by being subjected to high heat, often in excess of 200°C/400°F depending on what part of the grill is used. The high heat and speed of cooking makes a grill suitable for, and , , sausages, , , and .
Barbeque – "low and slow"
Barbecue (it can be spelt both ways), however, is about cooking meat – because it is often a question of meat – for a long time with low heat and in a closed chamber. This method gives “lesser” cuts the time to develop a smooth and tender texture, while at the same time giving smoke and spices time to flavor the meat. For an American style barbeque, marinades and smoke and glaze are of essence.
The red hot embers are situated in another chamber and the food is cooked by smoke and indirect heat. The temperature at which the meat is actually being cooked can be 100°C/212°F, or even lower. The process might take hours.
Hickory, apple, and more
The purpose of wood in a barbeque is to give flavor, which makes it important to use the right kind. Hickory is an American favorite, but you can also use apple, pecan, mesquite, maple, cherry, grape vine…
Glaze works with BBQ
For those of us accustomed to grilling, the above differences can explain a lot regarding the use of ”glaze”. Many of us have discovered the hard way that that you can’t brush a sugary liquid on a cut of meat in a traditional grill. It only takes seconds for the sugar to burn and form a layer of unappetizing charcoal on the food. But using generous amounts of glaze works wonderfully in a barbeque with indirect and (relatively) low heat.
Try bbq on the grill
If you are fond of expensive equipment there is no limit to how much you can spend on your barbeque. But if you just want to test the principles and techniques regarding this mode of cooking you can get quite far with proper kitchen tools and the right knowledge:
How to bbq:
- Choose meat suitable for slow cooking. You want hard-working, marbled muscles with plenty of connective tissue that turns smooth, juicy and tasty from being cooked ”low and slow”. For example, , and .
- Use a grill with a cover or lid. Without a cover you will have to settle for grilling the traditional way.
- Use indirect heat. With the red hot embers (or other source of heat) on one side, and the food to be cooked on the other.
- Give it plenty of time. Get started long before the guests have arrived. Expect it to take two hours of cooking or more.
- Flavor with smoke. Add pieces – or chips – of aromatic wood to the embers. Some burn fast and some burn slow, some smoke a lot and some less. It is up to the “pitmaster” to control the process – and not to overdo the smoky flavors.
- Choke the fire. With less oxygen the wood will smolder rather than burn. That’s the kind of smoke you want.