general how tos icon.General How Tos

Roasting and Baking on the Grill — Can it Be Done? What’s the Difference?

Can you roast and bake on your outdoor grills and smokers? Of course, you can! You can perfectly mimic your kitchen oven outdoors and cook anything on your grills and smokers you can in your oven with the proper technique. Here we look at exactly how.

Mark Jenner profile picture
Written by:

Last Updated: January 10, 2024

A sptachcock chicken being roasted on the grill.

Did you know that there is practically nothing you can’t cook, bake, roast or sear on an outdoor grill? In fact, after reading this post, you may find you will rarely cook in an indoor oven again!

Yes, you can bake on the grill, you can roast on the grill. You just need a little knowledge — and perhaps practice — to cook anything you desire on your outdoor cookers.

But what is the difference between all these terms? And how do you adjust and control the power of your outdoor grill to achieve one or the other?

In this post, we’ll explain the differences between roasting and baking, before giving you a quick, simple walk-through on how to set up your grill for cooking with each method.

What is Roasting?

beer can chicken on grill, with wood ch.

Roasting and baking are very similar cooking methods. The difference is mainly in what kind of foods you would cook with them.

Roasting is a perfect technique for bigger joints of meat or whole birds, and some vegetables.

When roasting, whole food items are typically coated with fat, or oil and cooked at a medium heat for a longer period than quick-grilled foods. You’re aiming for 350-375° F under the hood with the lid closed. You will get to that beautiful brown crust or skin, it’s just going to take longer because you are cooking over a lower heat.

I like to start with full power for a quick heat blitz, then after just a few minutes, turn a side burner or two off (or push coals to one side on a charcoal grill) and position the meat over the indirect heat to complete cooking slowly.

What is Baking?

 Home made, crispy looking bread loaf on a pizza stone inside a charcoal gr.

Baking is usually the term applied to foods that are mixed together before cooking, not “whole.” So this can be muffins and bread, pies or cookies. But it can also mean casserole dishes such as beef and vegetable stews, or lasagna.

With baking, some kind of pan or dish is often used to contain the mix of foods, and the cooking temperature will be lower than roasting.

As with roasting, indirect heat is used. And the addition of a pan, foil or cast iron dish further protects food from the heat and lets you cook meats in sauces and gravies, with vegetables, pasta, rice and more.

Cast iron is your best friend here. Indestructible and unburnable, if you’re baking in a dish over direct flames, reach for your Dutch oven first!

Can I Roast or Bake on My Grill?

rib crowns cooking indirect on a charcoal gr.

Of course! The secret is to set your grill up for indirect heat, so there’s no direct radiant heat hitting the food, only convection just like a traditional oven.

You have to either use a heat deflector, or set up your charcoal grill with all coals banked on one side so that none of them are directly under the food, or use only some of your gas grill burners so that only one end of the grill is giving radiant heat.

After this, the key is to see your grill as an extension of your indoor oven. After all, your indoor oven is just an insulated box of dry heat! Your grill can be that too with a setup of indirect heat.

If a recipe calls for cooking in a baking pan, or on a cookie sheet, even a pizza stone, you use the same equipment and can achieve the same results once you are set up for indirect heat cooking.

Make sure you use a good digital thermometer to monitor temps though, your outdoor grill will likely not be as consistent in temperature as your indoor oven, and external factors like the weather can mess with cooking temperatures and times too.

What about Roasting or Baking on My Smoker?

Various meats in an offset, barrel style smo.

Even better! It doesn’t come much better than a slow-smoked roast beef.

Again you need to simply set up so that you have indirect heat under the meat, then match your oven temperature. Break out thermometer…this could take a while.

Don’t forget you can always do a foil-wrap part way through cooking if you need to push faster through ‘the stall‘ in a slow roast.

Another thing to remember is a drip pan to prevent flare-ups and to catch all those delicious juices dripping from your slow-roasting meat. I like to add veggies and potatoes to the drip pan. They will roast beautifully in the meat juices and fat. Nothing like multitasking on the grill!

Check out this handy chart for times and temperatures to roast different meats on your smoker.

What about the Difference between Grilling and Roasting?

Grilling means direct heat, high heat, quick cook. It’s your go-to choice for smaller cuts such as individual steaks, chops or smaller chicken quarters, veggies and firm fish.

Grilling gives you those all-important sear marks. Grilling and searing meat gets dinner on the plate in under half an hour.

Roasting is a slower process, ideal for larger cuts of meat, which need indirect heat to cook the bigger piece all the way through.

Can I Broil on my Grill?

Ah, now you’re back to your indoor oven, and we don’t want to go there! Broiling is pretty much the same as grilling, but the high heat comes from above instead of from below. So you can get VERY similar results.

However, broiling in an indoor oven will not give you the same intense temperatures as grilling directly over flames and of course, no awesome grill marks.

So yeah, as we said, turn off that indoor oven!


The takeaway here is to think of your grill as a multitasker. It’s not just your “grill,” it’s your “roast” and your “bake” and can cook just about anything you can think of, given a chance.

Recently when some crazy control panel died on my oven, I took an apple pie to the grill, and do you know it not only turned out great, it was also the best crust I’d ever made.

Of course, every grill is different, and you will have to tinker with temperatures and times, burners on and off, etc., to find what works for you.

Which Foods are Best Roasted or Baked, and Which are Better Grilled?

Here’s a quick reference for different grill methods that will help get you started:

MethodGood for Cooking How to Set Up a Gas Grill
RoastLarger meats, whole birdsIndirect heat. Burners ON one side, OFF on the other side. Or coals pushed to one side. Temperature around 375 °F
BakeCasseroles, pasta or rice dishes, breads, muffins, cookies.Low indirect heat. Burners ON one side, OFF on the other side. Or coals pushed to one side. Temperature around 350 °F
GrillSteaks, chops, individual chicken quarters, fish High direct heat. All burners/coals on.
BarbecuePork butt, brisket, whole birdsVery low indirect heat. Burners ON one side, OFF on the other side. Coals pushed to one side. Temperature around 250–300 °F.
SearSteaks, thick fish like salmon or tuna, chops. Highest direct heat. All burners/coals on.

Roast a chicken on the grill or in your smoker, and you will never go back to that indoor oven!

Along with beautifully browned crispy skin, you’re going to have some good-looking grill marks, a little smokiness, and a more complex deeper flavor than you can achieve indoors. Oh, and did I mention a nice cool kitchen too?

Duck, turkey, and larger joints of meat such as pork butt, brisket, whole fish will all roast great on your grill with indirect heat.

But say you want some sweet gravy cooked right into that chicken? This is where you pull out your cast iron Dutch oven, and load it up with the bird, vegetables, maybe a slug of wine or juice, some herbs and then bake it over indirect heat on a medium grill, 350-375 °F just as you would in an oven.

Just don’t peek too much because you’re letting all that good heat out every time you raise the lid. Plug in your meat thermometer and trust your grill to take care of the rest.

And why stop at meat? Take your baked goods to the grill…bread, cookies, pies. Just keep the lid closed as much as you can, and you will find that your grill can bake just as well as an indoor oven.

Because you’re using indirect heat to bake, you will find the flavor will not get smoky. (Love my grill but draw the line at smoky cookies…)

Click here for a great cookies-on-the-grill recipe. Imagine what a hit this will be with the kids this summer!


Take it outside! Your grill is your powerhouse, there’s nothing it can’t do!

Baking or roasting, grilling or barbecuing. It’s all good, and now we hope you have a clearer idea of the subtle differences between them.

You may need to experiment a little with how much direct and indirect heat to use, whether to use a water pan for added moisture or not, how long to cook to achieve the crunchy bark we all love.

But hey, trying and tasting is all part of the fun.

And don’t forget to be adventurous. Try baking an apple pie or a pot roast. The sky’s the limit. And the indoor oven may well be history, at least for the summer!

Let us know what works for you? Did you try something entirely new on your grill? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Mark Jenner profile picture

Written By: Mark Jenner

I'm a BBQ fanatic and have been barbecuing and grilling since 2005. I founded FoodFireFriends in 2017 and have extensively written for the site since.

I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke whatever the weather, and I currently own over 30 grills and smokers of all varieties that I frequently cook on to produce epic food.

My goal with this site is to help as many people as possible enjoy and be good at doing the same.

Leave a Comment

Required fields are marked *


More From General How Tos

A porterhouse and ribeye steak on a cutting board, with vine tomatoes, greens, and salt.

Porterhouse vs Ribeye, What’s the Difference and Which is Best?

Porterhouse and ribeye are both epic prime cut steaks worthy of being on any menu. But which is best? Why and when would you choose one over the other? Which has more flavor? Which is the leanest or healthiest cut? We answer all this and more below.

Close up of dirty and rusted gas grill burners and flavorizer bars.
General How Tos

How To Clean Gas Grill Burners [With Video]

If your gas grill isn't heating as strongly or evenly as it once was, it could be due to clogged burner tubes. A common but easily solvable problem. Here's how to clean them to get the performance back where it should be, with a video to follow along to.

A diagram demonstrating cutting against the grain.
Prep & Serving

Cutting Against the Grain — What Does this Mean When Carving Meat?

Cutting against the grain gives an entirely different ‘mouthfeel’ to meat during eating. It can be the difference between the same cut of meat feeling tough or wonderfully tender. So learn how to cut against the grain in our guide to getting the best results from meats you cook.