If you’re new to the world of outdoor cooking, you might not know a lot about the different appliances at your disposal.
It doesn’t matter if you have an entire outdoor kitchen or just one or two things you can use, you need to know the difference between all your appliances and how to use them.
If you have found yourself wondering what the difference is between grills and smokers, you aren’t alone.
Here, we will be diving into the world of outdoor cooking and check out what makes these two appliances different.
To learn everything you need to know, keep reading! By the end of this article, you will be well-equipped to become a master of outdoor cooking. Ready? Let’s begin.
Jump Into It (or Read On)
Grills Vs Smokers – How They Work
Let’s start with the basics. Grills and smokers work very differently and give different results because of it. There are a couple of big things to remember about these two appliances.
• Can use both direct and indirect heat – food can be grilled using either direct or indirect heat to cook food. When food is placed on the side with the open flame, direct heat is used, and when placed on the other side, beside the open flame, it is cooked with indirect heat.
• Can use infrared grilling – infrared grilling is done by using a heat source that is made entirely of infrared technology. This is a relatively new type of grill that is gaining a lot of popularity. These are appliances that can reach temperatures of over 700 °F in just 7 minutes.
• Different varieties – you can cook food using gas, coal, or electricity. The most popular are gas and charcoal as they give the grilled meat a unique and delicious flavor compared to electric grills.
• Smoke food – as the name suggests, smokers smoke your food to cook it.
• Use indirect heat – these appliances use indirect heat to cook food and might use a combination of wood chips and a water basin.
• Use wood chips – the wood chips used for smoking are what gives the food the incredible flavor. Popular wood chips include hickory, beech, and alder.
• Different varieties – like with grills, you can get different types of smokers. There are wood, charcoal, gas, and electric varieties to choose from, but the electric and gas variations are easier to use.
Grills Vs Smokers – Their Cooking Temperatures
This is one of the biggest differences between grills and smokers. These two appliances use very different temperatures to achieve their delicious end results. The differences are as follows:
• Grills – grills will reach temperatures as high as 400 °F or more. These temperatures can vary, but most foods require this kind of heat to thoroughly cook food.
• Smokers – smokers use temperatures that are much lower than grills to cook their food. Generally, these appliances will use temperatures between 160-300 °F. Because of this low heat, smoking food takes much longer than grilling.
Grills Vs Smokers – Cooking Times
While neither of these appliances is super-quick, there are some big differences in the time they need to thoroughly cook food.
The time it takes for these cooking methods is both the reason some love them and others hate them. Let’s take a look at the differences in cooking times below.
• Grills – grills are quick cookers compared to smokers. When cooking on a direct heat, food will get cooked very quickly (or the outside will become crispy, at least). No matter which side you grill on (direct or indirect), food will be cooked quickly and easily. With these devices, you are also able to cook large amounts of food pretty quickly, so this is a favorite for events with larger groups that need feeding. When using a grill, the food needs to constantly be tended to in order to ensure that it doesn’t burn or overcook. Grilling food requires a lot of attention, but will not take very long.
• Smokers – smoking meat takes a long time. The low temperature means that, to properly smoke and cook meat, it could be there for many hours, and even overnight, depending on the size of the meat. However, smokers do not have to constantly be tended to and just be left to do their thing for as long as they need. To cook meat thoroughly and reach the correct internal temperature, you should do a calculation to find out how long it should smoke for. You will not be able to use a meat thermometer constantly to check this.
Grills Vs Smokers – The Flavor
Arguably, the most important part of cooking is the end result, right? The flavor. There is no point in cooking something in a couple of minutes if you don’t actually want to eat whatever it is.
Like everything, some people will love the flavor of grilling, and others will hate it.
Believe it or not, there are some people out there who do not like the taste of smoked meat, and if that is you, I think you already know which appliance is better.
Let’s take a look at what differences in flavor you can expect when using a grill vs a smoker. Chances are, you have tasted both at one point in your life and just didn’t know it.
• Grill – when you grill meat, you won’t get the smoky flavor that everyone talks about, but you will get that grill flavor everyone talks about. Of course, this can depend on the type of grill you have, but you get the point. Grilled meats are often more flavorful than smoked, as long as it is done right.
• Smoker – smoked food will have that authentic flavor that everyone is familiar with in some way. The flavor can be determined by the type of wood chips used, so always try out different ones to find your favorite.
Grills Vs Smokers – Which One Is Healthier?
Of course, it is important to know how healthy these things are to actually use. So far, we know that both can cook delicious food, but grills are a lot faster than their smoker cousins.
Before wrapping up, let’s have a look at which one of these outdoor cooking appliances is thought to be healthier and why.
• Grills – grilling food is thought to be healthier since the heat will burn off the fat. Additionally, meats and vegetables tend to retain more vitamins when they are grilled compared to when they are smoked.
• Smokers – it is believed that smoking your food, or eating too much smoked food, at least, is linked to cancer, according to research.
It should be said that eating anything in moderation is thought to be perfectly okay, so you don’t need to give up all your favorite smoked meats.
The evidence shows us that people who have consumed large amounts of smoked food throughout their lives are more likely to develop cancer.
However, when consumed in reasonable and healthy amounts, smoked foods are perfectly okay.
The possible health effects are likely to also be linked to the type of wood used for smoking and the process, so before worrying too much, it is advised to do your research.
How About a Combination? Smoker Grill Vs Regular Grill
The Smoker Grill: The Ultimate Hybrid Cooker
It was oilfield farmers working in Oklahoma and Texas who invented smoker grills. Oil prices fell to $10 a barrel in the 1980s, which caused buyers to hoard the fuel. Due to the downturn, oilfield workers were bored to tears.
One of the founders of oil contract-dependent businesses in Texas, Wayne Whitworth, used empty barrels as barbecue pits to keep his workers busy. With time, these barrels evolved into the early models of offset smokers or smoker grills we know today.
Both smoker grills and regular grills have very different mechanisms. Smoker grills resemble smokers more than grills, probably 60-70% of the time.
A smoker grill consists of three parts: on the right side, you’ll find a chamber, also referred to as a firebox, where the wood chips will be kept and smoked. A firebox is connected to the main barrel, where you will cook the food over the grates. Smoke would travel from the wood chip basin to the barrel, then exit to the left through the smokestack or chimney.
A smoker grill uses indirect heat to cook food, using metal grates like those found in a regular grill.
What effect does it have on the quality of the food? The meat cooked in offset smokers has a crispy outside and a smokey taste.
Nowadays, most offset smokers use reverse flow technology, which directs smoke from the firebox toward the barrel and chimney, then back to the barrel and firebox. The purpose of reverse flow technology is to stabilize internal temperatures even when the lid is open. This technology is not found in every offset smoker.
• The fire in the firebox can be tended or rekindled without disturbing the internal temperatures or opening the lid of the barrel.
• If you prefer grilled meat over smoked foods, the firebox can be transformed into a grill. Pretty nifty!
• There is plenty of space inside the barrel for large quantities of meat, such as whole chickens and turkeys, as well as thick meats.
• Smoker grills can cost around $1,000 for a high-quality one. There are many poor-quality models out there even at that price.
• The preparation is time-consuming. Preheating the smoker grill alone can take you up to an hour, and you have to check the temperature frequently.
• The smoker is heavy, large, and bulky. It takes up a lot of space in your backyard, and it’s difficult to move around.
• The weather can affect the performance of the smoker grill.
• Due to the hybrid nature of the grill, you will need to rotate the meat periodically during cooking.
• This is not good for people who do not know how to kindle a campfire (yes, this is a must).
Regular Grill: An All-Time Outdoor Favorite
You are most likely to have a grill in your backyard if you grew up in an American household. As a child, you probably ate grilled meats for lunch or special occasions, mainly steak and hamburgers cooked by your father.
Grills are a standard fixture in American homes. There are three types, grouped by the source of heat.
Most homes have a grill of this type. The heat source can either be propane or natural gas. Family members who want grilled meat but don’t have the time to wait for the preheating process to complete will find this device useful. Furthermore, it’s for those who don’t want to clean up the charcoal or wood after cooking.
Despite its convenience, gas-grilled meats usually lack the distinct smokey taste that distinguishes them from grilled or smoked food. This flavor can only be achieved with smoke from charcoal or wood.
Gas grills can be bought for as little as $100.
To light the grill, charcoal briquettes are used. If you burn natural wood to make your coals, your grilled meat will have the distinct flavor of the wood you burned.
People who consider themselves “purists,” or those who like their grilling to have a distinct smokey flavor, often use charcoal grills, despite the fact that they are more expensive than gas grills.
Preparation is also more time-consuming. Aside from buying charcoal of your choice (which can range from cheap to very expensive depending on what type of wood you prefer), you also need to burn and tend it until it reaches the perfect temperature. On top of the grilling time itself, this can already take you 45 minutes. As well as cooking, you should also devote time to cleaning, since charcoal can leave a great deal of soot in the kitchen.
Electric grills cook food by using heated grill plates instead of fire or smoke, which makes them relatively safer to use than other types of grills. They produce little smoke, so you can use them indoors. Your neighborhood won’t be concerned about fire and smoke regulations! In addition, you can eat grilled meat every day of the week.
Unfortunately, the grilled meat does not have a distinct smoky taste when it is prepared using an electric grill. By using this method, you can only get the seared metal appearance commonly associated with food.
A decent electric grill costs between $100 and $500.
The Differences Between Smoker Grill Vs Regular Grill
Depending on how you use it, the temperature of the smoker grill ranges from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Throughout the cooking process, you must maintain these temperatures to achieve a smokey flavor.
One of the perks of using a smoker grill is that you can easily control the temperature inside. If the temperature is too high, open the vents (offset smokers MUST have one) and wait for a few minutes until it settles. The temperature should rise a few minutes after you add more charcoal and tend the fire if it is too low.
On the other hand, a regular grill may require temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The process can be difficult and time-consuming. This process would take at least 45 minutes. Furthermore, you would have to manage the fire constantly since you have to maintain consistent temperatures-something you may not encounter with a smoker grill.
When it comes to choosing a smoker or a regular grill, the smoker would be an option that is far less hassle.
Fireboxes in smoker grills can tend to a fire and keep it going. Rather than using direct heat, this chamber transfers smoke to the barrel where the food is cooked, then spews out the chimney. The resulting meat has a wide range of flavors depending on what kind of wood you use in the firebox, and the smokey taste is distinct from other flavors in the meat.
Again, since it is a hybrid, you can also grill meat using the smoker grill by placing a metal grate on top of the firebox. The same grilling rules apply.
On regular grills, the food is cooked directly on the grate or flat surface. Due to the high temperatures and close contact of the heat, the food is cooked relatively fast compared to using a smoker grill.
If you prefer convenience over quality, then based on this information you should buy a regular grill.
Ease Of Use
In spite of the apparent advantages of smoker grills, they can be tedious to use. It might be necessary to rotate and bast the meat no matter whether you use a smoker grill or a regular grill. To keep the meat at the quality and moisture you desire, you need to check the smoker grill every hour or two. In addition to its massive size, the smoker grill’s appearance may also overwhelm first-timers.
Due to their popularity, regular grills are something you can easily manipulate without a manual. This is one of the reasons they are so popular.
Is it better to buy a smoker grill or a regular grill? If you plan to buy a smoker grill, it might take some time to get used to it. You can switch to a regular grill if you do not like the learning process required by the former. But if you like a challenge and want to try something unique, don’t be afraid to use a smoker grill.
Final Verdict: Should I Buy A Smoker, A Grill Or A Smoker Grill?
My personal recommendation would be a smoker grill. Not only is it versatile-it can also be used as a grill at the same time! It also has a low learning curve. Investing in a good quality offset smoker can help you get started and improve your skills if you are serious about grilling and smoking.
Well, there you go! Smokers and grills are very different, but they both have their place on the red carpet of outdoor cookware.