For those who aspire to achieve backyard cooking and barbecue greatness, the matter often boils down to an essential question: Is it better to smoke or to grill?Grilling, for example, offers a number of advantages for both the novice and the experienced outdoor chef. In this method, pre-sliced meats or vegetables are cooked at high temperatures at a rapid rate powered by gas, propane or charcoal, all for the primary purpose of speedy grill-to-table delivery.One benefit of grilling lies in the act itself, as the frequent turning that’s required for preparing food on a grill makes for good theater when cooking during social gatherings. Also, meats prepared via grill typically respond well to spicing, a flavoring technique that can get lost when overpowered by the more dominant flavors acquired through smoking.Besides faster cook times, grilling is often tapped as the preferred choice for amateur barbecue enthusiasts because of the ease of acquisition and storage of grilling equipment, which can usually be transported from store to home and integrated into a backyard environment with little difficulty.Smoking, on the other hand, typically involves a bigger commitment, in terms of space allocated, and different skills. In this method, whole meats like ribs, pork shoulder, chicken or brisket are slow-cooked over hardwoods like oak, hickory or mesquite, for time frames ranging from two to 20 hours, at temperatures much lower than those used in grilling.This process requires mechanisms to both generate and contain the smoke, usually via a smokehouse specially built or purchased at your favorite barbecue supply store---and smokehouses can be pricier and harder to store than their more efficient grill counterparts. Nevertheless, many barbecue experts opt for this method, since smoking can result in superior, more sophisticated flavors and savory meat quality.“I’m a smoker, and if given the option to make a suggestion to a customer, it’s always going to be smoking,” said Logan Childress, a sales associate at Barbeques Galore in Arlington.“There’s nothing wrong with gas grilling,” said Childress. “It’s a convenience that’s great for parties, where you can quickly throw something on the grill and then toss it on the table. But you get a better flavor when smoking than you do when cooking on a gas grill---and your food comes out with more moisture.”To boost flavor and create an optimum cooking experience. Childress said that he recommends blending different combinations of woods when smoking, or marinating the meat ahead of time in a tasty sauce before grilling.“Also, when you’re getting ready to buy, come in the store and ask questions, and do your research on the products you’re considering,” he added. “ ‘Consumer Reports’ is one way you can really learn a lot about product features and potential safety recalls.”
Safety tips for backyard cooking:
• Never grill indoors.
• Don’t leave food unattended on a grill.
• If you’re the chef, wait to enjoy your adult beverage until the food is safely on the table.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you clean and maintain your cooking equipment regularly.
• Allow enough time to cook meat to the proper temperatures, as undercooked meat can lead to serious foodborne illness.
• Wear close, tightly-fitted clothing when cooking. Use long-handled utensils.
• Cook within a safe distance of smoke detectors to prevent false alarms.