Smoking vs. Other Types of Cooking
Are you feeling the lure of the smoker? We get it. For centuries, people have smoked foods to bring out their natural flavors. Yet smoking can be a misunderstood practice. Plus, it might not be the best answer for every cooking situation.
To help you get an idea of when and how to smoke meat, we designed this guide to distinguish between smoking and other types of cooking. That way, you can pick and choose the best cooking practices depending on your desired outcome.
What Is Smoking, Anyway?
The essence of smoking is cooking at low temperatures (less than 250°F) for an extended time while the meat bathes in smoke from any number of popular wood flavors. Whenever you cook meat at temperatures below 250 degrees Fahrenheit in smoke created by wood chips or pellets, you essentially smoke the meat. Smoking with wood gives meat a robust, deep and earthy flavor. For the best smoking results, you should purchase better cuts of meat. This ensures your finished meat will send out all the right vibes to hungry diners.
Smoking vs. Grilling
Should you smoke those ribs or grill them? Grilling occurs at a higher heat, usually in the 400-500 degree Fahrenheit ranges. To grill meat, you basically place it directly over the heat source, such as charcoal or flames. Grilling sears the meat on the outside, flash-cooking the interior. Generally speaking, grilled foods have a caramelized exterior that may taste on the sweet side. If you looked at a side view of a cut piece of grilled meat, the top and bottom would look much firmer and crispier than the interior flesh.
Grilling works well for almost any type of meat, although grilling very thick pieces of steak requires careful babysitting. Unlike smoking, grilling can quickly burn food. More than one grilling adventure has ended in disaster because the pitmaster got distracted.
What is the bottom line? If you want to walk away from your cooking, you might prefer smoking. On the other hand, if you need a fast Kielbasa, grilling probably makes more sense.
Smoking vs. Barbequing
Barbequing has quite a bit in common with smoking. Both cooking methods happen at lower temperatures. However, barbequing temperatures tend to be just a bit higher. This means the food cooks faster. Plus, barbequing does not imbue the meat with the taste of smoke.
If you have some time on your hands but have a smaller piece of meat to cook, barbequing could be a good alternative to smoking. The food will still take a little time, but not quite as much. Still, barbequing is unlikely to produce smokiness. The only way to get smoked meat is by bathing it in a smoker grill for hours. And believe us, it is worth a little extra time.
Should You Smoke or Grill?
The question for most pitmasters is not whether to smoke or grill, it is when to smoke or grill. Ideally, you should swap between the two practices, which will give you far more choices. Plus, when you have both options available, you can cook your food to perfection every time.