Grilling vs broiling - is there a difference or is it the same thing? Which is better?
First, let’s define grilling and broiling.
Grilling, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to cook or be cooked directly over or under a heat source.”
Broiling, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to cook or be cooked directly over or under a heat source.”
Did you catch that? It’s not a typo. It’s the same definition.
‘Broil’ is a US term and refers to cooking under a heat source - usually a gas flame or electric element in the oven. The US is one of very few countries, if not the only one, who uses the term broil.
Other countries refer to broiling as ‘grilling’; while in the US, we typically think of grilling as cooking food on parallel bars/grates over a heat source, such as charcoal or gas.
Other than grilling meaning cooking over a heat source and broiling meaning cooking under a heat source, what other similarities and differences are there?
- Uses intense heat to cook.
- Need to watch carefully so not to overcook your food.
- Can create a lot of smoke (depending on fat content and amount and type of oil used in marinades). (You may not notice the amount of smoke when grilling outside since it dissipates quicker.)
- Can be substituted for the other.
- Flare ups are possible. (Fire Safety: Always have a fire extinguisher or box of baking soda handy. NEVER throw water on a grease fire!)
- Temperature gauge maxes at 500 - 550°F. (Handy tip: Loosely roll up some aluminum foil into a tube like structure and use it in the oven door to keep the door ajar, which will keep the heating element from shutting off.)
- Appears to produce more smoke since it’s inside. (First time broilers: Have your windows open and a fan going.)
- Needs a broiler pan or skillet to hold the meat and catch the juices.
- Done inside, so can be done regardless of the weather.
- Provides that wonderful charcoal flavoring. (Some people don’t like that lovely flavor, so they may prefer broiling. Yes, it is true...some people surprisingly don’t like that grill flavor.)
- Grills can sear better due to higher heat possibilities (though you can pan sear your meat before or after broiling - more on that below).
- Grilling can provide both direct and indirect heat. Broiling only provides direct heat.
There are multiple broiling techniques, depending on your tastes and available equipment.
- Pan sear, then broil: This involved getting your skillet piping hot on the stove top, searing your meat first, then throwing it under the broiler. This is better for rare to medium cooked meat since the outside will cook faster than the center.
- Pan sear, then oven: This method is similar to the method above except instead of broiling, it goes in a preheated oven - usually around 400°F - after searing. This is better for medium-well to well-done.
- Broil only: You can use a broiler pan or skillet, but regardless, always preheat the pan/skillet under the broiler first. Some recipes suggest flipping the meat ½ way through, but others say just leave it alone since it’s on a preheated pan/skillet and both sides will cook.
- Oven, then pan sear: I know we’re talking about broiling, but another option is cooking your meat in the oven (usually around 400°F) and once close to your desired doneness, toss it in a piping hot skillet on the stove top to sear the meat, giving it that lovely crust.
Regardless of which method you decide to use, always preheat the oven and broiler pan/skillet fully, just as you would preheat your grill.
- First, the obvious - a broiler, which is in pretty much all traditional ovens and many toaster ovens.
- A broiler pan or skillet that can withstand high heat. Ovenproof usually means it can withstand up to 450°F. Broilers get in excess of 500°, so be sure it’s broiler-proof.
Actual broiler pans or cast iron skillets are great options. There are other options like copper or carbon steel (aka black steel), but do your due diligence. Some copper pans have a tin lining which won’t withstand broiling temps!
- Proper oven mitts. Standard cloth oven mitts won’t cut it. Look for kevlar or silicone oven mitts. Even silicone mitts may need an extra interior layer to protect against the high heat.
Proper oven mitts need to withstand at least 550°F.
And consider a pair of mitts/gloves that cover your forearm to protect from splattering grease. (You could even look at welder gloves!)
Helpful Tips / Safety When Broiling
- Have proper equipment - broiler pan/skillet and proper oven mitts!
- Cast iron - you can use either a flat bottom or raised bottom (grill marks!).
- Preheat the oven and broiler pan/skillet fully.
- Keep oven door ajar slightly to keep the heating element on.
- It may get smokey - open a (few) window and have a fan handy.
- Have baking soda handy. If a flare-up causes a fire, throw baking soda on it. Never use water on a grease fire!
- Shake pan - if meat moves on its own, it’s ready to flip.
- Baste in lots of butter at the end once you take it out of the oven.
- Let your meat rest 5 - 10 minutes.
- Doneness check: Cut into the middle of the meat to check doneness. I know...I know...you want to let it rest first, but if you’re not sure it’s done, it’s better to lose some juices than to overcook it!
- If your meat will cook in less than 20 minutes, you can use direct high heat (grilling or broiling). If more than 20 minutes, you’ll need indirect heat (which, again, you can’t get with the broiler).
Which is Better - Grilling vs Broiling?
While I’m prejudice to grilling outdoors, not everyone has the ability to do so.
If that happens to be you, broiling is definitely a reasonable option.
Or skip the grill or oven all together and just pan-sear like Gordon Ramsay.
Grilling vs Broiling - what has your experience been? Any additional tips? Which do you prefer?