Grilling mangals and kebabs
Hamburgers being grilled

Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above or below.

Grilling usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat, and tends to be used for cooking meat quickly and meat that has already been cut into slices (or other pieces). Food to be grilled is cooked on a grill (an open wire grid with a heat source above or below), a grill pan (similar to a frying pan, but with raised ridges to mimic the wires of an open grill), or griddle (a flat plate heated from below).[1] Heat transfer to the food when using a grill is primarily via thermal radiation. Heat transfer when using a grill pan or griddle is by direct conduction. In the United States and Canada, when the heat source for grilling comes from above, grilling is termed broiling.[2] In this case, the pan that holds the food is called a broiler pan, and heat transfer is by thermal convection.

Direct heat grilling can expose food to temperatures often in excess of 260 °C (500 °F). Grilled meat acquires a distinctive roast aroma from a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction only occurs when foods reach temperatures in excess of 155 °C (310 °F).[3]

Studies have shown that cooking beef, pork, poultry, and fish at high temperatures can lead to the formation of heterocyclic amines, benzopyrenes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogens.[4][5][6] However, proper marination may reduce the formation of these compounds.[7] Grilling is often presented as a healthy alternative to cooking with oil, although the fat and juices lost by grilling can contribute to drier food.


Regional variations

In the US

Grilled bratwurst
Yakitori being grilled
Japanese traditional portable charcoal grill "Shichirin"

In the United States, use of the word grill refers to cooking food directly over a source of dry heat,[8] typically with the food sitting on a metal grate that leaves "grill marks." Grilling is usually done outdoors on charcoal grills or gas grills, a recent trend is the concept of infrared grilling. Grilling may also be performed using stove-top "grill pans" which have raised metal ridges for the food to sit on, or using an indoor electric grill.

A skewer or brochette, or a rotisserie may be used to cook small pieces of food. The resulting food product is often called a "kabob" or "kebab" which means "to grill" in Persian, which is short for "shish kebab" (shish = skewer)(similar to a "satay" in Asian cuisine, or "alambre" in Mexican-Yucatan cuisine). Shish kebabs have a Persian origin, but are now commonplace in American cuisine.

Mesquite or hickory wood chips (damp) may be added on top of the coals to allow a smoldering effect that provides additional flavor to the food. Other hardwoods such as pecan, apple, maple and oak may also be used.

UK and Ireland

In the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries (except Canada), and Ireland, grilling generally refers to cooking food directly under a source of direct, dry heat. The "grill" is usually a separate part of an oven where the food is inserted just under the element.[9] This practice is referred to as "broiling" in North America. In electric ovens, grilling may be accomplished by placing the food near the upper heating element, with the lower heating element off and the oven door partially open. Grilling in an electric oven may create much smoke and cause splattering in the oven.[10] Gas ovens often have a separate compartment for grilling, as a drawer below the flame.

Japan and other Asia

In Japanese cities, a yakitori cart, restaurant, or shop with charcoal-fired grills and marinated grilled meat on a stick can often be found. Yakiniku, is a type of food where meat and/or vegetables are grilled directly over small charcoal or gas grills at high temperatures (this style of cooking has become widely popular throughout Asia). In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand, a popular food item from food vendors is satay, marinated meat on a bamboo skewer grilled over a charcoal fire and served with peanut (sate) sauce.


In Germany, the most prominent outdoor form of grilling is by using charcoal in a kettle. Besides charcoal, sometimes gas and electric heat sources are used, too. Other methods are used less frequently.

Health effects

Dangers of grilling

When meat is grilled at high temperatures, it becomes contaminated with carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals.[11][12] (This is not specific to grilling, but also true of high-temperature frying and very high-temperature baking.[11]) The mechanism is two-fold:

  • heterocyclic amines - "HCAs are formed when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars, and creatine (a substance found in muscle) react at high temperatures."[11]
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - "PAHs are formed when fat and juices from meat grilled directly over an open fire drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that then adhere to the surface of the meat. PAHs can also be formed during other food preparation processes, such as smoking of meats."[11]

However it is possible to significantly reduce carcinogens when grilling meat, or mitigate their effect. For example:

  • garlic, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, olive oil, cherries, and vitamin E have been shown to reduce formation of both HCAs and PCAs[12]
  • pre-cooking in the microwave, then draining meat juices so they do not fall onto flames, preventing release of PCAs[12]
  • side dishes and drinks rich in antioxidants, such as tea, can neutralize the toxins by mixing in one's stomach[12]

Benefits of grilling

  • Grilled foods can be lower in saturated fat, if fat is allowed to drip out after it liquifies.



Food cooking on a charcoal grill
Preparation of Barbecue grill
Grilling chicken in a hinged gridiron

Gridironing is the cooking of meats or other foods using a grill suspended above a heat source. Grilling is often performed outdoors, using charcoal (real wood or preformed briquettes), wood, or propane gas. Food is cooked using direct radiant heat. Some outdoor grills include a cover so they can be used as smokers or for grill-roasting/barbecue. The suspended metal grate is often referred to as a gridiron.

Outdoor grilling on a gridiron may be referred to as "barbecue", though in US usage, the term barbecue referred to the cooking of meat by indirect heat and smoke (see below). Barbecue has several meanings and may also be used to refer to the grilled food itself, to a distinct type of cooked meat called Southern barbecue, to the grilling device used to cook the food (a barbecue grill), or to the social event of cooking and eating such food (which may also be called a cook-out or braai).

Charcoal kettle-grilling

Charcoal kettle-grilling refers to the process of grilling over a charcoal fire in a kettle,[13][14][15] to the point that the edges are charred, or charred grill marks are visible.[16] Some restaurants seek to re-create the charcoal-grilled experience via the use of ceramic lava rocks or infrared heat sources,[17] offering meats that are cooked in this manner as "charcoal-cooked" or "charcoal-grilled".


The term "barbecue" was traditionally applied to a cooking method where low, indirect heat and smoking wood (or hot coals of charcoal) were used to slow cook basted pork or beef, in a process similar to earth oven or masonry oven cooking.[18][19]

Using indirect heat, one places the food item so that it is not directly over flames or coals. This is done by having the fire or coals on only one section of the grill and placing the food item on a part of the cooking grill opposite the flames or coals - for example, having the burners going on the right side of a gas grill but off on the left side or placing the coals on the right side of the grill and no coals on the left side. In a charcoal grill, when indirect grilling, it is best to place a foil pan of water under the food to keep it from drying out. Using the indirect grilling method is best for large cuts of meat or bone-in poultry. It allows the food to slowly cook all the way through without burning or charring on the outside of the meat. Traditional American barbecue is cooked using a grill-roast or grill-bake method, combining two techniques simultaneously.

In addition, by using a baking sheet pan placed above the grill surface, as well as a drip pan below the surface, it is possible to combine grilling and baking to cook meats that are stuffed or coated with breadcrumbs or batter, as well as to cook breads and even casseroles and desserts.[20] When cooking stuffed or coated meats, the foods can be baked first on the sheet pan, and then placed directly on the grilling surface for char marks, effectively cooking twice; the drip pan will be used to capture any crumbs that fall off from the coating or stuffing.


It is possible to braise meats and vegetables in a pot on top of a grill. A gas or electric grill would be the best choices for what is known as "barbecue-braising" or "grill-braising", or combining grilling directly on the surface and braising in a pot. To braise on a grill, put a pot on top of the grill, cover it, and let it simmer for a few hours. There are two advantages to barbecue-braising: the first is that this method now allows for browning the meat directly on the grill before the braising, and the second is that it also allows for glazing the meat with sauce and finishing it directly over the fire after the braising, effectively cooking the meat three times, which results in a soft textured product that falls right off the bone.[21] This method of cooking is slower than regular grilling but faster than pit-smoking, starting out fast, slowing down, and then speeding up again to finish; if a pressure cooker is used, the cooking time will be much faster.

Indoor grilling

Many restaurants incorporate an indoor grill as part of their cooking apparatus. These grills resemble outdoor grills, in that they are made up of a grid suspended over a heat source. Indoor grills are more likely to use electric or gas-based heating elements, however. Some manufacturers of residential cooking appliances now offer indoor grills for home use, either incorporated into a stovetop or as standalone electric devices.[22]

Sear grilling

Sear-grill and gear grilling is a process of searing meat or food items with an infrared grill. In sear grilling, propane or natural gas is used to heat a ceramic plate, which then radiates heat at temperatures over 480 °C (900 °F).

Sear-grilling instantly sears the outside of meat to make the food more flavorful. Commonly, grilling heats the surrounding air to cook food. Instead, the infrared grill directly heats the food, not the air.

Stove-top pan grilling

A grill pan

Stove-top pan grilling is an indoor cooking process that uses a grill pan - a cooking pan similar to a frying pan but with raised ridges to emulate the function or look of a gridiron. In pan grilling, heat is applied directly to the food by the raised ridges, and also indirectly by heat radiating off the lower pan surface via the stove-top flame. Stove-top grill pans can also be used to put sear marks on meat before it is finished via overhead radiant heat. When cooking leaner meats, oil is often applied to the pan ridges to aid in food release.[23]

Some griddles designed for stove-top use also incorporate raised ridges in addition to a flat cooking area. These are either on half of the cooking surface, or, in the case of reversible two-sided griddles, on one side with the flat surface on the other.

Flattop grilling

Cooks at the Northern Lights Dining Room, Seattle, Washington, 1952. A flattop grill being used is located on the right.

Foods termed "grilled" may actually be prepared on a hot griddle, or flat pan. The griddle or pan may be prepared with oil (or butter), and the food is cooked quickly over a high heat. Griddle-grilling is best for relatively greasy foods such as sausages. Some griddle-grilled foods may have grill marks applied to them during the cooking process with a branding plate, to mimic the appearance of charbroil-cooked food.

A flattop grill is a cooking appliance that resembles a griddle but performs differently because the heating element is circular rather than straight (side to side). This heating technology creates an extremely hot and even cooking surface, as heat spreads in a radial fashion over the surface.

The first flattop grills originated in Spain and are known as planchas or la plancha. Food that is cooked a la plancha means grilled on a metal plate. Plancha griddles or flat tops are chrome plated which prevents reaction with the food. Some base metal griddles will impart a subtle flavor to the food being cooked. Also, with a plancha if you use a low even heat and a drop of oil you can toast the food and caramelize some of the natural sugars in the food. For example, "Filetes a la plancha" translates to grilled beef fillets. La plancha recipes are found in Latin American (South American countries like: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, & Paraguay) and Cuban cuisine.

The flattop grill is a versatile platform for many cooking techniques such as sautéing, toasting, steaming, stir frying, grilling, baking, braising, and roasting, and can also be used in flambéing. In addition, pots and pans can be placed directly on the cooking surface for even more cooking flexibility. In most cases, the steel cooking surface is seasoned like cast iron cookware, providing a natural non-stick surface.


Charbroiling, or chargrilling outside North America, refers to grilling on a surface with wide raised ridges, to the point of having the food slightly charred in texture. The phrase "put it in the broiler" is translated as "put it over/under the grill."

Overhead grilling

In the United States, oven pan broiling refers to a method of cooking on a broil pan with raised ridges, inside an oven, when the heat can be applied from either above or below. In gas and electric ovens, this is accomplished with a heating element and a broil pan. Sometimes, the food is placed near the upper heating element to intensify the heat. The lower heating element may or may not be left off and the oven door is sometimes opened partially. Gas ovens often have a separate compartment for broiling, sometimes a drawer below the bottom flame.


Old electric grill with top heat (salamander)

A salamander is a culinary broiler characterized by very high temperature overhead infrared heating elements which may be powered by either electricity or gas. It is used primarily in professional kitchens for overhead grilling (US: broiling). It is also used for toasting, as well as browning of gratin dishes, melting cheeses onto sandwiches, and caramelising desserts such as crème brûlée.

Salamanders are generally similar to an oven without a front door, with the heating elements at the top. They are more compact: typically only half the height and depth of a conventional oven. They are often wall mounted at eye level enabling easy access and close control of the cooking process. Many salamanders can be fitted with a cast iron "branding" plate which are used to make grill marks on the surface of meat. Some grills can also be fitted with a rotisserie accessory for roasting meats.

Overhead heat has the advantage of allowing foods containing fats, such as steaks, chops and other cuts of meat, to be grilled without the risk of flare-ups caused by the rendered fat dripping into the heat source. The salamander's facility for extremely high temperature also takes less cooking time than other grilling techniques, reducing preparation times, which is a benefit in professional kitchens during a busy meal service.

Modern electric or gas salamanders take their name from the earlier salamander, an iron disc on a handle which is heated and placed over a dish to brown it, which in turn is named after the legendary salamander, an amphibian that was mythically believed to be immune to fire.[24]. In the 18th century, a salamander was the tool of choice for toasting the top of a dish. It consisted of a thick plate of iron attached to the end of a long handle with 2 feet, or rests, arranged near the end (where the iron plate is) for propping the plate over the food to be browned. [25]

Two-sided grilling

Some commercial devices permit the simultaneous grilling of both sides of the meat at the same time.

The flame-grilling machine at Burger King, Carl's Jr./Hardee's, and other restaurants is called a 'broiler'. It works by moving meat patties along a chain conveyor belt between top and bottom burners, grilling both sides of the meat patty at the same time. This concept was invented in 1898, when the Bridge and Beach Co. of St. Louis, Missouri, started manufacturing a vertical cast iron stove. These stoves were designed to allow the meat to be flame-broiled (flame-grilled) on both sides at the same time. Custom hinged steel wire gridirons were built for use in the vertical broilers. The hinged gridirons were slid in and out of the stoves holding the meat while it cooked evenly on both sides, like modern day oven racks. These stoves took up a small amount of counter space. They were used in lunch spots to feed factory workers.[26] One famous example of a vertical grill still in use is the purported inventor of the hamburger, Louis' Lunch[citation needed], in New Haven, CT.

During the 1990s, double-sided grilling was popular in the USA using consumer electrical grills (e.g., the popular George Foreman Grill). US marketers of electric double-sided grilling appliances opted for the global term 'grilling' rather than the geographically isolated term "broiler." Hinged double-sided grills are generically known as contact grills.

Stone grills

Sometimes a stone is used to grill foods. Stones in these cases can store temperatures up to 450 °C (842 °F). Foods grilled on stone involve no fats or oil and are considered a healthier alternative[citation needed].


Glowing filaments of a modern 4-slice toaster

A toaster is typically a small electric kitchen appliance designed to grill diverse types of bread products to make toast. A typical modern two-slice toaster draws anywhere between 600 and 1200 W and makes toast in 1 to 3 minutes. There are also non-electric toasters that can be used to toast bread products over an open fire or flame.

See also


  1. ^ definition
  2. ^ definition
  3. ^ Google Books, Food quality and consumer value, Monika J. A. Schröder, Springer, 2003 ISBN 3540439145
  4. ^ Sugimura T, Wakabayashi K, Nakagama H, Nagao M (2004). "Heterocyclic amines: Mutagens/carcinogens produced during cooking of meat and fish". Cancer Sci. 95 (4): 290–9. doi:10.1111/j.1349-7006.2004.tb03205.x. PMID 15072585. 
  5. ^ Scorecard: ranking 9/10
  6. ^ National Cancer Institute
  7. ^ Marinating 'may cut cancer risk': BBC
  8. ^ "License to Grill", Schlesinger and Willoughby, William Morrow and Co. 1997
  9. ^ See wikibooks:Cookbook:Grilling.
  10. ^ Howstuffworks. "In a kitchen oven, what is the difference between the bake setting and the broil setting?" Last accessed April 15, 2007.
  11. ^ a b c d
  12. ^ a b c d
  13. ^ Charbroiling from Webster's dictionary
  14. ^ Char grilling from the Free Dictionary
  15. ^ Culture of Char-Grilling Spreads Across Australia
  16. ^ Char Grilling or Broiling Meat from Dr. Gourmet
  17. ^ Short Order Buyers Guide - Char broilers
  18. ^ The Little Black Book of Barbecue Mike Heneberry, Peter Pauper Press, Inc., 2004 ISBN 0880884894
  19. ^ Welcome to
  20. ^ How to Bake Bread on Your Grill
  21. ^ A New Way to Grill: Barbecue-Braising - Fine Cooking Article
  22. ^ Indoor Grilling
  23. ^ Grilling from
  24. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. 'salamander'
  25. ^ Feeding America (
  26. ^ Free Patents Online


  • Elliott, Richard Smith (1883). Notes Taken In Sixty Years. R. P. Studley & Co.. 
  • Riccio, Anthony V. (2006). The Italian Experience In New Haven : Images And Oral Histories. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-791-46773-2. 
  • Romaine, Lawrence B. (1990). A Guide To American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-26475-0. 

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