Is Smoking Meat Healthier Than Gilling?

meat being cooked on a bbq grill.

Smoking is a type of grilling or slow cooking of food over low heat. Equipment and personal preferences determine which foods to choose for grilling or smoking. Smoking adds a pleasantly deep, woody flavor to foods, so a smoky flavor is sometimes added to sauces and vegetables, but true charcoal grilling and smoking is really only made with great cuts of meat, such as pork shoulders, whole chickens, flanks, and beef ribs. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of grilling versus smoking will help you decide which the best option for serving your guests is.

Decisive moments

Barbecue does not refer to food grilled over embers and slathered with a sauce, but rather to a slow cooking method of meat. Usually refers to a process by which meat is prepared over a wood or charcoal fire over a low heat of 200 to 250 degrees. Tough meats are generally chosen for charcoal grilling, as prolonged simmering helps to break down the collagen fibers in the meat, resulting in a very soft and silky meat dish.

Smoking is a charcoal grilling process that occurs when food is cooked with indirect heat at a temperature usually below 200 degrees. Smoking also means adding a smoky flavor to food, such as liquid smoke.

Necessary equipment

For a true charcoal grilling experience, you need something that resembles a well, be it a grill, a charcoal burner with a lid, or a fire pit. The heat is indirect, so it is unnecessary to turn the meat, but during grilling, the lid must be lifted to change the pieces of charcoal. The disadvantage is that it subsequently exposes the meat to the air and therefore dries out.

A smoker also needs a closed container, but you don’t have to move the meat while you’re cooking to accommodate the charcoal chunks. Thanks to this, the final product can be more humid and more succulent, especially in lean cuts of meat and poultry. The problem is that you will need an external heat source attached to your cooking container to generate the smoke.

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Smoked foods take on a distinctive flavor, usually from the wood used during the cooking process. If you like the flavor of walnut, cherry, or apple woods in your meat, smoked is for you. However, be aware that smoking can create an unpleasant dish if you use mesquite, which can be too spicy for many guests, and woods from sap trees, such as pine, which can ruin food due to being sparking and slightly toxic.

You can impart a smoky flavor when grilling if you use wood in charcoal or wood-burning grill, although wood cannot be used in all grills. Food has a less intense flavor if you choose charcoal or gas.

Adding liquid smoke to food, from potato salad to meat marinade, is easy to mimic the taste of long, slow cooking, but it can overload the dish and make food taste artificial and processed. On the other hand, liquid smoke works well for seasoning sauces and vegetables, such as summer squash and bell peppers, that are inappropriate for hours in a closed smoker.

My opinion and experience

I have used and still use both ways of cooking outdoors. Although you can also grill inside on an indoor grill that is not possible for smoking.

The meat that I smoke outside on a smoker is most of the time less chared and because of the long cook also more tender. Grilling can be done without charing too heavily when you pay attention and move the meat away from the heat source on time.

Peter Burrell

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