Grilling is a form of cooking that involves direct heat. Devices that grill are called grills. The definition varies widely by region and culture.
Similar to a grill/broiler is a "salamander", which is most frequently used in a professional kitchen. It is smaller than a standard grill/broiler, and is used to finish off dishes, such as caramelizing the sugar on a Crème brûlée.
The flame-grilling machine at Burger King restaurants is called a 'Broiler' in the US. It works by moving meat patties along a chain conveyor belt between top and bottom burners, 'grilling' from both sides.
In 1898, the Bridge & Beach Manufacturing Co., St. Louis, MO., started manufacturing a vertical cast iron stove. These stoves were designed so that the meat could be flame broiled quickly from both sides of the stove at the same time. Hinged steel wire gridirons were designed for use in the vertical broilers to hold the meat in place while it cooked. The gridirons were slid in and out of the stoves like modern day oven racks and the stoves took up a small amount of counter space. These stoves were used in lunch wagons to feed factory workers.
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.
What gives grilled meat the taste is a chemical process called the Maillard reaction. This process is the term for the browning of meat. The Maillard reaction, along with the flavors imparted by a wood or charcoal fire, is what sets grilling apart from other methods of cooking meat.
Barbecue and barbecuing are a way of cooking meat using the indirect heat and smoke from a wood or charcoal fire in a barbecue pit or smoker. Barbecuing is the slow smoking of tough cuts of meat. Grilling is a method of cooking more tender meats using the direct heat of a fire with the meat over the fire.
For example, a beef brisket is a meat cut often hot smoked or barbecued at 240-270F for 8 to 12 hours. A brisket is not a cut of beef that lends itself to being grilled.
Two of the largest manufacturers of backyard grills in North America call their products 'grills' and not barbecues. See www.charbroil.com or www.weber.com.
Infrared grilling is a new method among grilling enthusiasts, using direct heat from propane or natural gas it heats the food directly at temperatures over 900F. Also called Sear-Grilling. With extreme temperatures the food is instantly seared to lock-in juices, making the food more flavorful.
In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries (except Canada), 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. 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. Gas ovens often have a separate compartment for grilling, as a drawer below the flame.
There are two methods to grill food over a gas, wood, charcoal, or infrared - direct or indirect cooking. For the devices used to grill see Grill (cooking). Using the direct heat method, the food item is placed directly over the flame or coals. This method exposes the food item to very hot temperatures, often in excess of 500F or 900F for infrared grills. This is the fastest way to cook food items on a grill. The food items are cooked by the flames and radiant heat coming from the heat source of the grill. The direct heat method is used for grilling steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, pork chops and skewers. The food items must be carefully monitored so as to not burn them.
Using indirect heat, you place 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 cook all the way through without burning or charring on the outside of the meat.
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 depart a subtle flavor to the food you're cooking. Also, with a planch if you use a low even heat and a drop of oil you can toast the food and carmelize some of the natural sugars in the food. For example, Filetes a la plancha translates to Grilled Beef Fillets. You will also find many la plancha recipes in Cuisine of Chile and Cuban cuisine.
The flattop grill is a versatile platform for many cooking techniques such as sautéing, toasting, steaming, stir frying, grilling, flambé and roasting. In addition, pots and pans can be placed directly on the cook surface, giving more cooking flexibility. In most cases, the steel cooksurface seasons like cast iron cookware, providing a natural non-stick surface.