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What is the Difference Between Grilling and Barbecuing Chicken?

We all love chicken, right? And what’s not to love? Chicken is versatile, relatively inexpensive, and cooks quickly. Plus, it’s a healthy protein option that can be cooked in a variety of ways.

But when it comes to cooking chicken, there seems to be some confusion about the difference between grilling and barbecuing. So let’s clear things up.

Chicken kabobs on a flaming grill

Grilling vs. barbecuing

The main difference between grilling and barbecuing chicken is the cooking method. Grilling chicken is done with the lid of the grill open and uses high heat.

The cooking time is usually shorter, and the heat helps to create a nice sear on the outside of the chicken.

Barbecuing chicken is done with the lid of the grill closed and uses low heat. The cooking time is usually longer, and the heat helps to keep the chicken tender and juicy.

Additionally, barbecuing chicken often includes a smoky flavor from the addition of wood chips.

Both cooking chicken on the grill or barbecue can be done on a gas or charcoal grill, but the results will differ in taste and texture.

Find out more about the differences between charcoal grills and gas grills.


The purpose of grilling in general is to quickly cook over direct heat at high temperatures in order to seal in the natural juices and create a charred surface.

Grilling temperatures often range from 350°F to 450°F and are usually done over gas or charcoal grills.

This type of cooking is perfect for tender meats such as chicken, ribs, pork chops, strip steak, burgers, and hot dogs.

Additionally, marinating chicken before grilling can help to retain moisture and enhance the flavor.

Try my grilled spatchcock chicken recipe, it’s crispy, moist, and delicious.


The process of barbecuing involves cooking food slowly over indirect heat, usually for several hours or even an entire day in order to get the tenderest and most flavorful meat.

Barbecuing is usually used for tougher cuts of meat such as ribs, pork shoulder, beef brisket, or whole chickens or turkeys, and is done at low temperatures between 225 degrees and 275°F.

The heat is supplied by burning wood or charcoal, which when chosen correctly can give off a variety of smoky flavors.

Learn more about when to grill with the lid open or closed in my post, should you cover chicken when grilling?

Tips for grilling and barbecuing

Grilling and barbecuing are great ways to enjoy delicious summer foods with family and friends. To make sure your fare comes out perfectly each time, follow these top 3 tips:

  1. Make sure your grill is clean. After you take the food off scrape away any mess on the grill grates.
  2. Resist the temptation to flip your food. When you put the steak or chicken on the grill, leave it alone until it starts to naturally release from the grate, then flip it.
  3. Use an instant-read thermometer to know when your meat is done.

It’s important to know how to tell when your meats are done before taking them off the grill. Find out how to tell when grilled chicken is done or how to tell when grilled chicken wings are done.


Whether you’re grilling or barbecuing chicken, the most important thing is to cook the meat thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, and make sure to rest the chicken for a few minutes before cutting it. Enjoy!

Also, find out what is the difference between grilled and blackened.


There are three main types of grilling: direct heat grilling, indirect heat grilling, and smoking. Direct heat grilling is used for thinner cuts of meat.

Indirect heat grilling is best for heftier cuts of meat like roasts, ribs, and whole chickens. Smoking is best for cooking meat, fish, and poultry, and is done at low temperatures and for longer times.

The temperature at which you want to cook your chicken will depend on what cut of chicken you are grilling. Typically you want to grill between 350°F – 400°F.

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