What's the Difference Between a Smoker and a BBQ?

What's the Difference Between a Smoker and a BBQ?

With spring around the corner and summer beckoning in the distance, thoughts turn to the long, lazy evenings relaxing with friends and family having parties in the back garden or on the campsite. Cooking outdoors can be done in a variety of ways and each one produces deliciously flavoursome foods guaranteed to please the whole party. 

Whether you’re aiming to use a smoker, or a BBQ will depend on the food you’re wanting to produce and also other factors, such as the speed at which you want to have the food ready. 


This blog will explore the differences between a smoker and a BBQ and any similarities as well. 



Both a smoker and a BBQ are methods for cooking food, fish, meats, vegetables and even cheeses. Both are for cooking and preparing food outdoors, and both use heat and smoke to cook and flavour the foods. However, this is where the similarities stop as they are different in almost every other way. 



Smoking is a slow-cooking method that can take several hours, or even days, to complete, to infuse the meats, fish or cheeses with the smoky flavour. BBQing food is a much quicker process as the meats, fish or vegetables are cooked directly over a much greater heat and the smoky flavour isn’t as strong as a result. The smoker will produce the finished smoked meat or vegetables with very little time spent in tending the items inside the smoker, whereas a BBQ is more time-consuming in the cooking process, as the foods need to be watched and turned regularly on the grill, to ensure that an even cooking occurs. 



The smoker will impart a strong, distinctive, smoky flavour to the meats, fish, cheeses or vegetables placed within it. Depending on the type of fuel being used to create the smoke and low heat, smokers can produce subtle and delicious variations of flavour, whether using charcoal or different types of wood chips.  A BBQ grill, however, creates slightly less of a smoky flavour, but more of a distinctive char-grilled taste to the foods being prepared on it. There are ways to impart extra flavours to foods cooked on a BBQ grill, such as marinades and flavoured rubs. However, although BBQing your food won’t give such strong flavours, the food will tend to stay moister, and it is generally a healthier option as fats are burned off and vegetables and meats retain more vitamins through grilling than through the smoking process. 


Heat source

A smoker generally uses a low, indirect heat source. The smoke is produced from burning wood or charcoal in a separate chamber or container below the cooking chamber. When the fuel produces smoke, it is then drawn up into the cooking chamber where it comes into contact with the food, giving it flavour and also helping to cook it. The heat for a smoker is low and slow which allows for even cooking, greater tenderness and flavour. Additional fuel and water will need to be topped up until the food is properly cooked – and a food thermometer will ensure it’s fully cooked. A BBQ on the other hand can use varying different fuels for its heat source depending on the time available for cooking and the flavour that is desired. Charcoal is a popular fuel for BBQs because it gives a traditional flavour to the food although it can be difficult to light and maintain a constant temperature. Wood and pellets are also popular fuels for a BBQ’s heat source. Whilst wood usually has to be combined with charcoal to create the right level of heat, pellets offer a more constant heat but are more expensive. 



Both smokers and BBQs can be relatively portable, although some models are deliberately designed to easily transport so that you can take them with you on a camping adventure to ensure delicious foods at the end of every day’s busyness. The option of whether to take your smoker or BBQ will depend on the camping situation and the preferences of your group. Some campsites don’t allow open flames, so a BBQ is off the cards. But if you’re camping in a location that allows a BBQ grill then you have the option for a vast selection of foods that you can cook, from burgers and hotdogs to pizzas and much more. A BBQ will also enable you to produce food for everyone more quickly, whereas a smoker takes a longer cooking time and might not be the best option if you have limited space. ProQ is a respected brand of smokers and BBQs with a wide range of accessories to enable you to make the most delicious meals, whether you prefer to use a smoker or a BBQ. Several of their range can both BBQ and smoke foods: a win-win if you love both methods of food preparation. 


So, which should I buy?

Whether you purchase a smoker or a BBQ is going to depend on where you’re planning to cook, who you’re cooking for and how much time you have. An experienced smoker and BBQ stockist, such as Preppers Shop, is in the best position to advise you on which to purchase and also which fuels will produce the flavours you’re aiming to entertain with. You can even visit our dedicated BBQ Showroom in Cornwall to help make your decision! 

Get in touch or call today on 01637 850259 to chat with a member of our experienced team who can offer you advice based on your unique requirements.