Ah, the flavors of summer. And along with them comes the eternal debate of smoker vs. grill. Which is the better choice or should you use both? Learn more here.

Summer is here at last, and that means BBQ season! But, as every grillmaster knows, the only way to cook up succulent steaks and perfectly juicy chicken is by using the right tools and techniques. 

Enter the timeless debate: smoker vs grill, which is better?

In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of how both backyard cooking appliances work, and help you decide which is best for you. 

Keep reading to learn more!

Smoker vs Grill

Is a smoker better than a grill? The easy answer is: it depends on what you want to cook! In this section, we’ll explain the difference between the two.

Smoker

What is a smoker? Simply put, a smoker uses indirect heat to slow-cook. But how does it work?

A smoker can maintain a low cooking temperature for a long time. It accomplishes this by producing smoke and holding it around the food for absorption.

While many smokers use charcoal or soaked wood to produce this effect, there are plenty of other options like natural gas and propane, too. While different heat sources require slightly different techniques, the result should be the same.

A low and slow smoking method produces tender and flavorful food, infused with a deep smokey flavor. The slow-smoking cooking style is ideal for big cuts of meat like BBQ brisket, as well as grilled foods that are prone to drying out, like chicken.

But, unlike cooking on a grill, you won’t get a seared exterior or beautiful grill marks on your meat. That’s because what you’re smoking won’t ever come in contact with an open flame!

Is a Smoker Right For You?

Unlike grilling, smoking is a slow process. In most cases, your food will take hours to cook, just like using a crockpot or other low-heat cooking method. But, those rich smokey flavors are worth the wait!

A smoker won’t give you a crispy or crusty exterior on your grilled foods. Instead, it will impart a moist, melt in your mouth texture, perfect for meat that you want tender enough to fall off the bone.

This means that a smoker will perform well for big cuts of meat and some firm vegetables. But, more delicate foods like summer squash and tomatoes, or thin-cut steaks might not turn out with the texture that you want.

If super-tender and moist meat is what you’re after, and you don’t mind waiting for it, a smoker is probably your best bet! There are plenty of excellent models on the market, so choosing your perfect fit comes down to the space you have available for the appliance, and how much you’re hoping to spend.

For a look at some of the best options out there, read more now.

Grill

Unlike a smoker, traditional BBQ grills use direct and intense heat for cooking. That’s what produces the beautiful grill marks and perfectly seared exterior that many of us associate with cooking outdoors.

Whether you opt for an old-school charcoal grill or something more modern like gas or propane, you’ll still finish up with perfectly crisp food, imparted with a slightly smokey flavor. This method is perfect for steaks, delicate vegetables, and plenty of other foods, too.

Grilled pizza anybody?

A shorter cooking time over intense heat can produce tender and flavorful food, just like a smoker. But, you’ll probably have to take a few extra steps, especially for thick cuts like brisket and ribs, or meat that tends to dry out. This could include brining or marinating food before it hits the grill.

So, is a grill best for your home?

Grilling can be a surprisingly quick process, especially if you’re using natural gas or propane. So, unlike smoking, you won’t have to wait for hours while your meal slow-cooks. This makes it a more practical method for quick weeknight dinners and meals done in a flash.

But, you won’t have the option to cook some cuts of meat that require hours of deep penetrating heat to become tender. This includes whole chickens and turkeys, or meats that need to be slowly rendered to produce a delicate texture.

The Best of Both Worlds

If both of these options sound good, don’t worry. You might not have to buy both appliances separately! Grill and smoker combos are a popular option that will help you get the best of both worlds.

Combination appliances can also be used to produce some very specific results. For example, a slow-smoked brisket or ribs can be finished on the grill to create a perfectly seared exterior and an internal texture so soft you can cut it with a spoon.

These hybrid appliances can also be used to cook more than one thing at a time.

So, you can quickly grill up a few crunchy veggies while you wait for those ribs to finish smoking. Or, put together an exciting BBQ spread of chicken, sausage, and brisket, all at the same time.

Get Cooking!

Now that you know a bit about both outdoor cooking setups, the decision of smoker vs grill should be an easy one. And, if you’re still struggling to choose between the two, you can always opt for a grill and smoker combo!

Be sure to read up on the best cooking methods for both appliances before you start using them, for perfectly prepared dishes every time!

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