Grilling vs Roasting – What’s The Difference?

showing difference between grill and roast

This content contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking a link on this page, we might receive a commission at no cost to you.

Grilling and roasting often get confused or used interchangeably, even though they are completely different cooking methods. Roasting food means to cook it in the oven, and grilling food is when you cook it on a metal grid over a fire (or direct heat source).

In this article, we’re going to discuss in more detail exactly what the difference between grill and roast are.

What Does Grilling Involve?

grilling different food

Grilling is a method of cooking that is mostly used for meat and poultry, although almost any type of food can technically be grilled.

Usually, it involves a substantial amount of direct heat (around 500 degrees Fahrenheit or 260 degrees Celsius) and is used to cook food quickly.

The term “grilling” comes from the appliance it is cooked on – a grill. A grill is an open wire grid made of metal, and the wires are parallel with each other. The food is placed on top of the grill, and the heat source is directly underneath it.

Grilling is also seen as a healthier cooking method when compared to cooking with oils, while also being healthier for the environment. It has a much smaller carbon footprint than using electricity for an oven.


grilling burger patties on fire

In many countries, grilling with wood and fire is the norm, while gas and charcoal are not as popular. In the United States, it is quite the opposite. There are people in more rural areas of the U.S. who enjoy grilling with wood and fire.

Grilling with wood is certainly the method that would take the most amount of time, considering you would need the wood to first burn down to embers. This can take about 45 minutes, maybe even longer.

Then, you have a short window of optimal heat to grill your meat before the embers are too cold and you need to start all over again. Even though it is time-consuming, many prefer this method due to the primal sense of survival the fire gives us.

Fire and wood grilling also tend to be more popular while camping, due to that same primal survival instinct we all have deep down.


grilling fish on charcoal

Using charcoal eliminates the time-consuming burning of wood, while keeping the heat and feel of a fire.

There are two types of charcoal, lump charcoal and briquettes – read here for a detailed comparison and for help deciding which would be best for your needs.

The secret behind grilling with charcoal is using a thick condensed layer of charcoal. Many underestimate how much charcoal they need to generate enough heat, and therefore undercook their meat. 

According to statistics, 105.55 million Americans used charcoal in 2020, so it is quite popular among Americans. Using charcoal is not as popular as grilling with gas.

Read here to find more information about how much charcoal you should use in your grill. 


grilling meat on gas grill

Gas grills are by far the most popular form of outdoor cooking in the U.S., particularly during the summer months. This is mostly due to the convenience of simply turning the gas on and off.

These grills have a quick cook time, as the optimal heat temperature can be reached in a short period of time, and the heat can be sustained however long you wish.

There is no messy wood or charcoal involved and it’s also a lot safer for the environment. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association around 61% of Americans own a gas grill.

Read this article for recommendations on the best built-in gas grills.

Culture and Tradition

In the United States, it is quite popular to barbecue or grill your meat at home. Many people use this as a social event, and invite friends and family over to enjoy a meal, especially during the summer months when everyone can relax outdoors.

However, barbecuing and grilling are not exactly the same, even though many people use these terms interchangeably. 

When you close the lid of the unit, the hot air is circulating inside and the meat is cooked from all sides, this is called barbecuing. If you leave the lid open, with the only heat source coming from underneath the food, this is called grilling.

When grilling, it is your responsibility to turn the meat around to cook on the other side as well.

Some Americans prefer to grill their meat, and others prefer to barbecue. Either way, both forms of cooking bring neighbors, friends, and families together.

What Does Roasting Involve?

showing difference between grill and roast

Roasting is similar to grilling in the sense that it uses dry heat, but when roasting, hot air covers the food and cooks it evenly from all sides. Roasting does not require the high heat temperatures that grilling does.

Usually, 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius) or higher from an open flame or oven is adequate for roasting. It does not involve direct heat like grilling, it involves diffused heat. An oven is the best example of diffused heat for roasting.

The aim of roasting is to emphasize the flavor of the meat, not the stew or sauce it is served with.

Before ovens were invented, “roasting” would refer to the act of placing the meat in front of the fire and hoping enough heat reaches the meat to cook it on all sides.

Luckily, ovens were invented and roasting then switched to cooking food in an insulated oven at a specific temperature.

How to Roast Meat

grilling turkey in oven

Roasting is best suited for cooking a whole turkey, chicken, and lean cuts of lamb, pork, or beef. Basically, any large cuts of meat would be ideal for roasting.

If your meat is frozen, allow it to thaw to room temperature. Never pop frozen meat directly into the oven. The meat can be placed directly on the oven rack to promote heat distribution and even cooking.

If your meat comes with a string around it, don’t cut it! Roast it with the string intact. Cover the meat with oil and season with salt and pepper. Follow a recipe for the exact temperature and time.

How to Roast Vegetables

Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and brussel sprouts are perfect for roasting in the oven. Cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Remember, the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will roast.

Toss the vegetables in a bowl with two tablespoons of oil and a generous amount of salt. The oil and salt should lightly cover all your vegetables, as this promotes even roasting.

Spread your vegetables apart on a baking tray and pop them into the oven. Check after 15 minutes to see how they look. Vegetables should look “toasted” – with slight charging on the edges.

Taste test one of the vegetables before serving it with your meal.

Final Thoughts – Spot the Difference Between Grill and Roast

Our stomachs are rumbling and we’re ready to cook some food! Now you have all the information regarding the difference between grill and roast. We hope you found this information helpful, whichever method you prefer.

Are you new to barbecuing and want to educate yourself? Start at our detailed beginner’s guide to the perfect barbecue.