Grilling vs. BBQ vs. Smoking vs Plancha
Although cooking over flames has been around for literally thousands of years, with BBQ being the most modern interpretation of this cooking format, believe it or not there remains lots of confusion surrounding the differing terms & styles of BBQ cooking. For example, BBQ aficionados in the Southern US, consider BBQ to be a slow indirect method of cooking, using smoke and taking around 12 hours for a brisket of beef or small hog. But for most, BBQ means grilling over direct heat, So what’s best and do you need to take your time, or simply ‘go for the grill’ & what about smoking? Well they’re all great cooking techniques and can be tailored to the occasion or type, style or taste of food you want – so here’s a quick guide;
In the UK, Europe and Australia/New Zealand, the term BBQ is generally accepted to mean grilling on a flat-bed or hooded BBQ. Grilling is cooking at medium to high temperatures with the food being placed directly above the heat source, meaning the food cooks quicker and can be ready in minutes, rather than hours. However, unless you’re careful the high heat can easily cause food to burn and whilst a lightly char-grilled appearance is good, ‘burnt is bad’! Burnt not only looks and tastes bad but it doesn’t’ do you much good and plays havoc with the digestion!
Still using the grill, but this time, you’ll need a hooded Barbi; BBQ’ing is the slower process to be used on long summer afternoons or evenings with our favourite drink by your side. Food is cooked at one end of the grill with the heat at the other and the hood closed. The heat is kept at medium and dependent upon the size and type of food can take a minimum 1-1.5 hours or longer to cook. Remember to keep the food well basted with a good marinade, sauce or oil so as to retain flavour.
Smoking – Arguably a more sophisticated and slower version of BBQ’ing, much favoured in the USA that uses only the heated smoke to cook foods. The aim being to get a smoke-ring around the edge of your meat. Cooking is by the indirect method, which means that the heat source is normally in a separate area, a heat-box, away from the food, with flavoured wood, chips or herb branches placed in a tray over the heat source. The smoke is then channelled into the separate cooking area by way of a smoke-pipe. These American style smokers are now becoming popular and can be found in DIY stores and garden centres, but you can also make your own.
Plancha, which originated in Spain, is a method of cooking on a flat metal sheet which has been heated to a hi-temperature and which helps retain all of foods natural juices and flavours. Originally a separate cast-iron sheet placed over charcoal. A staple of Tapas bars, Plancha grills have now started appearing which are fired by gas. Whereas the old style plancha took some time to reach temperature, gas planchas’ can be ready to grill in a few minutes.
So, what’s best?
The truth is they all have merits. Most people start of grilling, and most never change; but it all depends on the occasion, preferred flavours and foods and the time you have to cook. Either way given time, practice and patience you can produce perfect BBQ’ed food to be enjoyed with friends and family throughout the summer.