A lot of people don’t understand the difference between smoking, barbecuing, and grilling. When grilling, you quickly seal in the juices from the piece you are cooking. An outside crust is created that acts as a barrier and prevents meat juices from migrating outside. Grilling takes minutes and it needs high temperatures to burn the meat on the outside. Smoking takes hours, sometimes even days. Don’t be fooled by the common misconception that by throwing some wet wood chips over hot coals you can smoke your meat. At best you can only add some flavor on the outside because the moment the surface of the meat becomes dry and cooked, a significant barrier exists that inhibits smoke penetration. A properly smoked piece of meat has to be thoroughly smoked, on the outside and everywhere else. Only prolonged cold smoking will achieve that result. All these methods are different from each other, especially smoking and grilling. The main factor separating them is temperature.
Smoking ? almost no heat, 52? ? 140? F (12?-60? C), 1 hr to 2 weeks
Barbecuing ? low heat, 200? ? 300? F (93?-150? C), few hours
Grilling ? high heat, 500? F (200? C), minutes
The purpose of grilling is to char the surface of meat and seal in the juices by creating a smoky caramelized crust. By the same token a barrier is erected that prevents smoke from flowing inside. The meat may have a somewhat smoky flavor on the outside but it was never smoked internally.
Barbecuing comes much closer, but not close enough. It is a long, slow, indirect, low-heat method that uses charcoal or wood pieces to smoke-cook the meat. The best definition is that barbecuing is cooking with smoke. It is ideally suited for large pieces of meat like ribs, loins or entire pigs. The temperature range of 200? ?300? F is still too high to smoke meats which is especially important when smoking sausages since the fat will melt away through the casings and the final product will taste like bread crumbs. A barbecue unit can be used for smoking meats but remember that to smoke a large piece of meat will take hours and if the temperature will be high the meat will be cooked for a long time. That will make it very dry. Burn your charcoal briquettes outside until the ash is white, then introduce them inside otherwise they will impart a nasty flavor to your meat. This charcoal flavor might be acceptable for barbecued meats but must not be allowed when making quality smoked meat. Now wood chips may be placed on glowing embers to generate smoke. You can not substitute hardwood with charcoal briquettes no matter how pretty they look and how expensive they are. Hardwood wins every time. Smoking is what the word says: smoking meats with smoke that may or may not be followed by cooking. Some products are only smoked at low temperatures and never cooked, yet are safe to eat. Generally we may say that smoking consists of two steps:
After smoking is done we increase the temperature to about 170? F (76? C) to start cooking. The Food And Drug Administration recommends cooking meat products to 160? F (71? C) which is fine when cooking fresh meats. Meats to be smoked are almost always cured with nitrite and a considerable safety margin is added and most professional books recommend 154? F (68? C). Smoked meats don’t always have to be baked to the safe temperature inside of the smokehouse. Many smoked meats such as hams, butts and sausages after smoking are cooked in hot water. The correct word would be poached as the water temperature is kept at about 176? F (80? C). There are important differences between smoking and barbecuing. Barbecued or grilled meats are eaten immediately the moment they are done. Smoked meats are usually eaten cold at a later date. When smoking foods a higher degree of smoke penetration is needed and that can be only achieved at lower temperatures. Furthermore, smoked meats are eaten cold. Many great recipes require that smoked products hang for a designated time to lose more weight to become drier. It is only then that they are ready for consumption.}