blackened vs grilled

Blackened vs Grilled – What’s the Difference?

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There is no shortage of ways to cook your meals. However, none are as intriguing and interesting as grilling and blackening. Both of these techniques add a specific flavor profile and texture to your food that is hard to find anywhere else. 

That said, a lot of people seem to have a hard time telling these methods apart. After all, they bear some striking similarities. Blackened vs grilled, which one is it?

For instance, they both utilize dry heat to cook and infuse your ingredients with flavor. If done correctly, your meat will always be crispy and smoky, yet incredibly juicy when using these methods. 

But what’s the difference between blackening and grilling? Blackening is different from grilling because it does not require an open flame and calls for a specific blend of species and herbs.

Blackened food will also have a charred outer layer created by these seasonings, while grilled food will usually be charred in stripes.

Of course, this simple explanation barely scratches the surface. There is a lot more that needs to be discussed if you hope to properly understand the difference between these two cooking methods.

This is especially important if you are an outdoor chef. So, be sure to keep reading as we do just that. 

What Does Blackened Mean?

Grilling is probably the first cooking method people have invented. Blackening, on the other hand, is a fairly new cooking method as it has only been around for a couple of decades.

Invented in the 1980s by renowned Chef Paul Prudhoe, blackening takes direct inspiration from the flavors of charred meat.

blackened vs grilled

However, instead of relying solely on the dry heat of the fire and the natural flavor that comes from smoke, blackened food relies on a specific blend of spices to get its desired taste.

As with grilling, you can blacken virtually any kind of food that you like. It is completely up to you how you wish to go about this task.

However, if were asked to recommend food that you should try blackened, then you must try the following:

  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Pork Belly
  • Pork Chops

Of course, aside from meat, more inventive and adventurous cooks have also tried their hand in blackening other types of food.

We highly recommend that you try blackened French fries, fried tofu, and vegetables. It is an experience that is unlike any other, as it gives you something familiar, yet entirely new.

What is the Blackening Seasoning Made Of?

This is the next question that needs to be addressed: What are the ingredients that make blackening seasoning?

Before we answer that, however, we must also take a closer look at what makes blackening seasoning so enticing in the first place.

Understanding the flavor profile of any spice mix is crucial if you want to better appreciate what it has to offer from a culinary standpoint. Knowing how and why something tastes the way it does will also make it easier for you to replicate it.

herbs and spices

By all accounts, the most popular kinds of blackening seasoning offer a touch of heat. At the same time, blackening seasoning is also known for its notes of herbaceous flavor.

So, based on this, blackening seasoning must have chili, herbs, and spices

We highly recommend that you stick with the simple and highly accessible herbs and spices and using the freshest ingredients possible.

This is the secret to achieving the best possible results. That said, a great blackening seasoning mix should have the following ingredients:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Basil

While you can buy blackening seasoning in the closest supermarket, it is always better to do things yourself.

So, if you want to follow the DIY route, then be sure to follow these steps closely: 

  • Lay Down the Spice Base – You will need to first set up the kick that will define your blackening spice rub. To do this, take 1 tablespoon each of smoked paprika, cayenne powder, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  • Mix the Herbs – Once you have mixed all your spicy ingredients, it is time to add the herbs. Make sure to add half a tablespoon each of basil, oregano, and thyme into the mix. Remember that if you are using dried herbs, then you will need to double this amount. This is a basic rule that you should never forget, as the flavor of dried herbs is notably more subdued and subtle than their fresher counterpart.
  • Season to Taste – Once the spices and herbs have gotten to know each other, you can then proceed to add salt and pepper to taste. While preferences may vary, most people note that a tablespoon of each should be enough.   

Of course, the steps above serve as a guide on how to make blackening seasoning. You can adjust it according to your preference or how much food you are planning to make.

For instance, if you want more heat, then you can increase the quantity of your spicy ingredients. You can even replace them with something that packs a bigger punch.

On the other hand, you can also increase the sweet herbal flavor by adding more basil into the mix.

The most important rule is to make sure that your ingredients are mixed well. Then, you can proceed to store it in an airtight container that can be placed in a cool and dry place. This should guarantee its longevity.

How Do You Blacken Food?

Aside from its distinctive seasoning rub, blackening also involves specific cooking techniques that you need to be familiar with so that you can better differentiate it from grilling and other cooking methods.

Here are the steps for blackening food:

  1. Prepare Your Ingredients – Dip your ingredients into a container of melted butter. Make sure that it is evenly coated and no dry spots are left. Then rub some of your blackening seasoning. Massage it and ensure that every crevice is covered with the rub.
  2. Pre-Heat Your Pan – Take a cast-iron pan and put it atop your burner. Make sure that the heat is set at the highest setting. Leave it for roughly 10 minutes or until your pan reaches a temperature of 500 to 600 Fahrenheit. Make sure that you do not put any oil on your pan.
  3. Cook Your Ingredients – If you are working with meat products, make sure that it has a thickness of 1/2 to 3/4 inches. Then carefully place it on the pan. Each side should take no longer than 2 minutes

Just remember that the process will inevitably lead to a lot of smoke that can easily overwhelm kitchen exhaust fans. So, you may want to do this outdoors.

Blackened vs Grilled

In simple terms, grilling is a cooking method that is done over an open fire, via charcoal, wood, or gas.

By cooking directly over a heat source with consistently high levels of temperature, you are helping your ingredients caramelize and build more complex flavors.

grilled chicken

At the same time, grilling also involves integrating the flavors of smoke into your ingredients. 

Blackening, on the other hand, doesn’t require direct exposure to fire. Instead, it utilizes the high levels of heat on the pan to char the butter and your seasonings.

As the butter cooks, it builds a crust that helps prevent your food from drying. 

Blackened vs Seared

This is another source of confusion among amateur chefs. After all, both methods are used to help form a crust on the topmost layer of your meat. So, most people seem to have it in their heads that the two methods are one and the same.

seared chicken

Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is because, while your objectives are the same when searing and blackening, the latter requires much higher temperatures to be done properly.

At the same time, searing typically uses a thin layer of oil on the pan that has been preheated to 375 degrees. Blackening doesn’t use any extra oil and requires heat up to 500 degrees.  

Blackened vs Burnt

As explained in the previous sections, blackening utilizes the high temperature of your pre-heated pan to create a crust made from butter and the seasonings used to make the spice rub.

By doing this, you are activating and elevating the flavors of your ingredients.

burnt vs blackened chicken

Burning, on the other hand, is the last thing you want to do when cooking. It entails turning your ingredients inedible by putting them in the fire for too long.

When you are blacking your food, you are subjecting it to high levels of heat for a short amount of time, resulting in a crust rather than an inedible and bitter skin that has been sitting on high heat for too long to retain its flavor.

There you have it. This guide took a closer look at the process of blackening and how you can do it at home. Ultimately, the processes of blackening and grilling are two distinct cooking methods worth mastering.

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