I feel like as I write this post I should be sitting outside (which really I should be - it's a beautiful day, but the mosquitos in Virginia love to attack me despite how much bug repellent I use) sipping a yummy IPA and taking large bites out of a delicious burger between writing paragraphs. Alas, I am sitting at my dining room table with the smell of cookies in the air, thinking about how I should only have one...like that's really going to happen...
On to our cooking methods!
Grilling and griddling seems like it should be staightforward, correct? I think so, as well, but over the last 50 years or so there has been a "grill pan" released by almost every cookware company out there, thus giving the illusion that you can grill on your burners at home. Let's clear the fog away and look at what actually defines both methods!
What is Grilling?
Grilling is cooking with dry-heat over an open air grate that is heated by use of charcoal, gas, or an electric element. Due to the way the heat is transferred to the grate, when you are grilling you often have to do battle with uneven temperatures. Depending on where you place your item, one end of it may be significantly hotter than the other end, causing one to burn before the other. To win the battle with uneven temperatures, make sure you flip, turn, and rotate your item regularly so all sides of it get done; or switch the location with another item to make sure everything (steaks, for example) get done at the same time. One of the benefits of having to flip and rotate your items is that it leaves behind the distinct grill markings that ensures to the enjoyer of the meal that you did, indeed, grill the item. Grilling creates a unique flavor based on the heating method chosen, and the bulk of the flavor come from charring the fats on the food you are cooking - so if you are making grilled asparagus, for example, make sure to toss it in a little olive oil first.
Speaking of fats, I'm sure you already know this, but just a quick reminder: when you are grilling, try to resist (I know it is difficult - I still fight this urge) to smash and press what you are making against the grate - it pushes out the juices and fats before they are ready, which leaves you with a dry and less-tasty finished product. Having something cook quicker isn't worth the sacrifice of deliciousness.
Grilling and Griddling and Cookware
"Now, Mackenzie, what about indoor grilling?", you ask. Remember when I said that grilling and griddling are often confused? Here's why. In order for grilling to be grilling, it has to be done over an open air grate - that means that there should be air exposure to all sides and the flames (assuming you are doing gas or charcoal) can actually come through the grate and kiss your food. Without the open air grate, you are actually griddling with a grooved griddle that has raised ridges that resembles a grill even though it does not impart the same flavor. With enough heat, it can leave behind grill marks (sort of) but the benefit of this is usually that it can be done inside and that it creates less smoke.
What is Griddling?
Griddling is cooking using dry-heat over a solid cooking surface that may or may not require a small amount of fat. For most home cooks a griddle will come in one of two forms, either an electric griddle that you plug in, or a cast iron griddle that goes over your burners. Let's elaborate on the need for fat...we'll use the example of pancakes. If you are using an electric griddle, the surface will most likely need fat to keep your pancakes from sticking because it does not have a surface (most likely stainless steel or nonstick) that soaks up the fat. However, if you are using a well seasoned cast iron griddle you may not need that fat because the pan itself provides the fat. Always test your cast iron first with a small amount of food to make sure you can forgo the fat.
Do you have a special grilling or griddling tip or trick that you love? Let me know! I'm always looking for handy new tricks!