Barbecue smokers and grills both cook meat or other foods using heat, but what makes them different is what kind of heat is used and how it is generated. Using a grill involves cooking on open flames, meaning the fire is directly underneath the foods being cooked. On the other hand, when foods are being smoked, the fire is located outside the appliance, or a very small fire burns inside the smoker to slowly cook the meat. Also, when smoking meat there is the option of hanging the meat rather than having it directly on the grates.
In short, grilling is much faster than smoking, but it causes you miss out on that unparalleled smoked-meat flavor.
Using a barbecue smoker can sometimes take days to result in your final product. For example, when making beef jerky, you have to keep a fire going inside the smoker for up to 36 hours and make sure that it never gets too big. If it does, the meat will burn and therefore become to tough. The idea is to dehydrate it with smoke, not cook it with fire. Naturally, you also have to prepare the meat and soak it in your favorite marinade for up to 48 hours. So, the process of smoking beef jerky can take up to a full work-week. A good time to make it is during the holidays, between Christmas and New Year’s.