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Grilling v. Barbecue

May 1, 2009

Generally speaking:

One doesn’t barbecue a hamburger.  Burgers get grilled.
Ribs often get grilled, but really they should be barbecued.

It’s almost summer, so if you are unclear on the concept, it’s time to get straightened out.

Grilling is what you do over direct high heat.  It creates a lovely charred crust.  It cooks food quickly.  It seals in all the beautiful juices.  Which is why you need to keep all sharp objects away from grilling meat, lest you puncture the crust and lose the juice to the fire demons below.

Barbecue is what happens when you mix meat with smoke and time.  It’s a process that requires your b-game.  For some of us, it’s difficult to check the type-a personalities at the door.  This is where the beer (or Seagram’s VO) comes into play.  It’s a low heat, just hot enough to keep the flies away, that breaks down and tenderizes even the toughest cuts of meat.

Both are great.  Both have their place.  Both are cherished techniques and rites of summertime.

Please just pay them the respect they deserve and call them by their proper names.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2009 10:45 am

    I also think of a barbecue as an event though. You go to a barbecue to eat grilled meat, but you get barbecue food from Capital Q.

  2. May 5, 2009 12:03 pm

    Please don’t repeat the myth that “[grilling] seals in all the beautiful juices.” Grilling (as you pointed out) applies high heat and chars the meat due to the delicious Maillard reaction. The only way to “seal in juices” is to not poke the meat with sharp instruments or press down on it with flat ones.

    Oh.. and welcome to the club!

  3. omaxwell permalink
    May 5, 2009 3:01 pm

    To further complicate your taxonomy, let me point out that lots of fast food cooks refer to the “griddle” as the “grill”. It’s probably an abbreviation but it still messes up the comprehension just like other diner slang (“adam and eve on a raft” etc.)

    If you want to find lots more whining and fussy talk about barbecue I recommend going to and doing a search for “barbecue”.

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