Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire
Flame grilling gives brands a point of flavor differentiation as well as a healthful way to prepare meals.
Courtesy of QSR Magazine

If there’s one sure sign of summer, it’s the sight of smoke rising and smell of food cooking from backyard grills. Grilling, in its most basic form, is as old as humans’ taming of fire. The concept of having structures hold food above the flames came along later.

Today, flame grilling is a method used by a number of restaurant operators to provide a particular taste that differentiates them from their competitors.

“The taste of food that is grilled is unique,” says David Bruno, a chef and associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. “It has a charred, somewhat smoky flavor that is difficult to match.”

Although some backyard-cooking aficionados may refer to grilling as “barbecuing,” there are huge differences between the two. Grilling refers to using direct heat, usually from charcoal or gas under metal grates, to cook quickly. The smoky flavor can come from charcoal, wood chips, or the juices dripping from the food to the heating source below, causing flames to flare up. Barbecuing, on the other hand, typically refers to slow cooking through indirect heat, traditionally from burning wood, although charcoal or gas is used at times.

Some chefs and operators apply the term grilling to other high-heat cooking methods, including the use of griddle-type equipment such as flattops and grill plates, which are pans with raised ridges to mimic grilling’s hash marks. However, the resulting taste and aroma are quite different than open-flame grilling. Read More