If you are thinking about getting started in BBQ and grilling, or if you are considering jumping into this world, we have a few pointers that can help you carve the path to an amazing journey.
Grilling and BBQ are two distinct culinary arts, but both involve and require many of the same techniques, skills, and equipment. It is a hobby for some, a passion for most, and a business for others.
Regardless of what it might mean to you, if you are thinking about starting in BBQ or grilling, there are a few things you should think about, and no, I’m not going to talk you out of it. The fact is that BBQ can be an amazing pastime, and you can learn amazing skills.
Top that with being able to cook amazing food for the people you love and cherish, and we have a win-win situation. BBQ and grilling can be a hobby, but there are also strong communities you can join and be part of.
Advice for those wanting or getting started in BBQ and Grilling
The first piece of advice I can give you if you want to start grilling or smoking BBQ is to try it. This is a very rewarding pastime, and once you learn a few things, you can cook amazing tasty food for your friends and family. Again, very rewarding.
But this is also a skill. You will learn a lot and master many skills that you can then pass on to others, but you will also learn more about yourself.
Grilling and BBQ, lastly, take you outside, outdoors. To grill, you have to go outside, which is one of my favorite things about this hobby. You have no choice but to go outside, breathe fresh air, and enjoy nature while cooking something amazing, not bad.
BBQ and Grilling
Sometimes people use the words “BBQ” and “grilling” together to refer to cooking food using an outdoor grill of some sort. You’ll hear things like, “I’m going to a BBQ party” or “Let’s cook the vegetables on the BBQ.”
Let’s define these terms. Understanding the differences between BBQ and grilling is your first step towards getting into this amazing pastime and culinary art.
First, let’s make sure we clearly explain that BBQ and grilling are two different cooking methods and styles, both involve using an outdoor grill of some type. I say “type” because within the grill category, you will find different kinds of grills that use different fuels.
Some grills are more beginner-friendly than others, but the point is that for grilling, you need a grill.
Also, grilling food is done at higher temperatures, usually in the 300-500 degree range, and sometimes higher if you are searing meats like steaks.
Second, you have BBQ. Traditional BBQ involves smoking or roasting meats for long periods of time at low temperatures using a BBQ smoker of some sort. BBQ smokers are also available with a variety of fuel types, including propane, pellets, and charcoal.
These smokers, in one form or another, use wood to infuse smoke flavor into the food, giving it that authentic BBQ smokey flavor.
So now you know that BBQ and grilling are not the same, and there are two main groups of cooking appliances for both grilling and BBQ.
Below are a few things you should consider if you are thinking about getting started in the BBQ and grilling world, which can help you with choosing equipment, how to learn, and getting started.
Looking and searching for equipment is one area where you will spend a lot of time. I mean a lot. When you start looking for grills and smokers, you will quickly realize how many options there are. But here is a simple way to narrow down your choices and find something that might work for you.
First, decide what type of fuel you feel comfortable using. In my beginner’s grill guide, I go over the different fuel types and their pros and cons. But in short, propane and pellets are the easiest grills to use, and charcoal can be the hardest.
Regarding flavor, charcoal grills remain the unbeatable choice, followed by pellet grills. The least flavor you will get will be from a propane grill.
One thing about charcoal grills is that yes, they can be hard to use, but once you master a charcoal grill, you can cook anything on them. So if you want a versatile grill, suck it up buttercup, look at charcoal grills.
If you like tech and gadgets, pellet grills give you all that in abundance but because these grills burn wood pellets for fuel, you get smoky flavor, just not as much as in a charcoal grill.
Cooking styles, Grilling, BBQ, Both
The second thing you should consider is which cooking style you want to adopt. If grilling is more your style and you just want to cook simple recipes, a small propane grill might be enough. If you want to grill but also want flavor, a pellet grill might be a better choice.
However, if you want to get into cooking authentic BBQ, then a smoker will be a better choice. Smokers are designed to cook low and slow and infuse smoke flavor into foods. These appliances can work as grills, but most are designed to work at lower temperatures.
If you are interested in doing both grilling and smoking, know that any grill can be “tuned down” to cook at low temperatures. But some grill types can do this better than others.
Pellet grills work well as smokers not only because they burn wood, which adds flavor, but also because their digital temperature controllers are excellent at keeping temperatures low and steady.
The second-best choice are charcoal grills; as I mentioned before, these things can do it all, and as for flavor, well, they can’t be beat.
But if you are inclined to use grills like propane grills, you can get smoker boxes and even pellet tubes to still smoke delicious meats. Just don’t expect the flavor to be as strong as if you used a pellet or charcoal grill.
You First Equipment List
To get started in BBQ, there are a few things you will need. And no, you do not need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on high-end equipment. In fact, I have seen people win BBQ competitions using 300-dollar smokers; equipment will not replace skills.
First, you will need to choose a grill or a smoker. Again, here are a few articles we have published that can help you navigate and see options for beginners.
Second, you will need fuel—lots of it. If you opt for a pellet smoker or grill, we have an excellent guide on wood pellets.
Lastly, you will need a few grilling tools, such as a tongue, spatulas, and cleaning brushes. Other things you might consider are a good grill cover to protect your grill and a few barbecue books to get you started.
How to Learn
With us, of course. Start with our learning guides and explore hundreds of topics around BBQ and grilling. You can also learn from other pitmasters who have published amazing books for you to read and learn real techniques.
Here are a few tips that will help you learn and improve at BBQ and Grilling.
First, do you! I say this because you will find all kinds of so-called experts telling you the right ways to do something, and in some cases, they are wrong. Why? Because when it comes to foods, there are basics and foundations, but this is an art, and as such, everyone will have their own style.
There is not one way of smoking a brisket or a rack of ribs; there is well-cooked, good-tasting briskets and ribs; how you get there is irrelevant. If you go to a barbecue competition, you’ll see a few dozen people competing and cooking the same dishes, but not in the same way.
The best flavor is what you like. Not everyone likes the same things and flavors. Find your way and what you like, and focus on cooking foods well. Once you’ve mastered that, you can concentrate on flavor, but the most important thing is that you know how to cook something correctly.
Getting started in BBQ and grilling can be very rewarding, and anyone can get started. It does take some time, practice, and patience. Getting the right gear is helpful but not a huge deal. Many of us started with tools that were later replaced by high-end gear.
The main thing is to get restarted.