I love cooking because the different heat and cooking time introduces new flavors that allow me to experiment with flavors. So how is blackened and grilled different from each other?
Well, for one, I think we all know what grilled is, and it is where the food is cooked by using direct flames or direct heat to give the food a sear and slight char on the surface.
Blackened, however, is something that is a relatively new term. Not only does it use heat, but it also utilizes seasonings to create both the iconic black color and a delicious taste.
While these two cooking methods are different, there are similarities between them. They both use relatively high temperatures for cooking your food.
Grilling and blackening also utilize heat and some seasonings to infuse different flavors into the food you are cooking to create a crispy crust and juicy interior, especially with meat.
However, these comparisons is just a way of looking at these two cooking methods. So let us dig deeper and see how grilled, and blackened food differ.
What Is Blackening?
Blackening food is a relatively new method of cooking introduced in the 1980s by Chef Paul Prudhoe and is a method that involves two parts – seasoning and quickly cooking the food.
When blackening food, the first focus is to coat the food with seasoning composed mostly of spices and herbs (we’ll get into that in a bit).
It relies on these spices and herbs to develop or infuse a rich flavor into the food. The food is seared over extremely high heat but also ensures that it does not necessarily burn.
To do this, the food, commonly meat, is coated with butter and seasonings. In grilling, you do not necessarily rely on the seasoning and coating for flavors.
Since butter has a lower burning point than oil, it helps sear the surface of the meat and then blacken the spices and herbs to incorporate the flavors into the meat.
Just like grilling, you can blacken any food you want. You do not have to stick with meat if you have a vegan diet, you can try this with veggies too.
What Is The Difference Between Grilling And Blackening?
The main difference between grilling and blackening is that blackening utilizes seasonings to add flavors to the food while grilling focuses on the heat and control of temperature.
You can grill food with seasonings as simple as salt and pepper, while you will need a specific combination of spices and herbs when you blacken food.
Using butter is also not popular with grilling. Again, it has a low burning point which will likely just burn off when you grill it over direct flames.
Grilling also uses direct or open heat when cooking food, while blackening food usually uses a cast-iron pan and extremely high but not open flames.
When cooking with the blackening method, you also risk burning the surface of the food while leaving the interior raw, so there is also a standard thickness of meat when blackening it.
Grilling, on the other hand, is a cooking method where you have the most control over the temperature. You can get lined chars on the food while also cooking the interior.
Blackening meat usually requires the thickness of the meat to be half an inch or 3/4-inch thick while grilling can be done with thicker cuts of meat – up to 2 inches thick.
When you grill any food, you can add that smoky flavor using a smoker box, while blackened food relies on spices and seasonings to incorporate flavor into the meat.
- Grilling uses open flames, while blackening uses cast-iron pan and extremely high surface heat.
- Grilling can add flavors to the food through smoke, while blackening uses seasonings.
- Blackening uses butter, spices, and herbs, while grilling can be done with minimal seasoning – or even none.
- Grilling can use a marinade, braising, soaking/sous vide, rubs, and other flavor-enhancing methods, while blackening must follow a specific recipe for the seasonings.
What Is The Black Seasoning Made With?
The most popular black seasoning ingredients are those that bring a bit of spice. Cayenne, pepper, and paprika are the main spices for blackening seasoning.
If you compare blackened seasoning with cajun seasoning, cajun seasoning gives off a bit more heat, so blackened seasoning is still great with people who do not take spicy food that well.
The hints of herbs and earthy flavors come from seasonings like onion powder, basil, garlic powder, and more.
If you wish to make black seasoning at home, make sure to select easily accessible spices and herbs and also make sure to use fresh ingredients.
Here are the ingredients you need for making blackened seasoning:
- 2 tablespoons of Paprika
- 1 tablespoon of Cayenne
- 1 tablespoon of Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of Salt (kosher if available)
- 1 tablespoon of Onion powder
- 1 tablespoon of Garlic powder
- Half a teaspoon of Basil
- Half a teaspoon of Thyme
- Half a teaspoon of Oregano
What Does Blackened Seasoning Taste Like?
Blackened seasoning is associated with Cajun cuisine, so it has a little bit of kick to it, and it does have a buttery-spicy flavor.
The hot flavor comes from spices like paprika, cayenne, and pepper. Blackened seasoning also gives off this earthy flavor that blends well with meat and fish.
Even if you do not like spicy food, I still think you can handle the blackened seasoning. It has herbs that mellow down the spices with a little sweetness.
The blackened seasoning has ingredients like onion powder and basil that ensure the flavors are not overpowered by the spicy taste of the cayenne and paprika.
The herbs also counter the bitter flavor you would expect when you see the black color. It is more like a deep earthy flavor with hints of sweet and spicy flavors instead of a burnt bitter taste.
That is why combining blackened seasoning with fish and pork chops is really pleasant. You can also experiment with the ingredients and add more spice or vice versa.
How Do You Blacken Meat?
Blackening meat is a really simple cooking technique. All you need to do is cover the meat with butter and the blackening seasoning, then cook in a pan over extremely high heat.
Since most of the seasoning ingredients contain sugar, the caramelization process is much faster and thus, allowing the spices and herbs to blacken.
Here are the simple steps to do to blacken meat:
- Prepare your pan by heating it up on the stove over high heat until the surface reaches 600-700 F. You can use a saucepan or use a cast-iron skillet to get a better sear.
- Pour your blackening seasoning on a separate plate and then melt a block of butter in the microwave while waiting for the skillet to heat up.
- Pat dry the meat to ensure the butter and seasoning stick better.
- You can brush the meat with the butter, but I prefer dipping it into the butter to ensure no dry spots on the meat.
- From the butter, dip the meat into the seasoning and then make sure to coat it generously on all sides as well.
- Once the skillet is super hot, carefully place the seasoned meat on it by laying it away from you so you do not burn yourself.
- Cook the meat in the center of the skillet for 3-4 minutes until the bark turns dark brown. Flip it over and cook the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
- Once the surface of the meat is blackened, you can remove the meat from the skillet and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes to ensure it is juicy and tender when served.
- Serve and enjoy!
Blackened Vs Charred
Blackened meat and charred meat are pretty similar. This is not surprising since they both play around with the thin line between food being burnt and cooking the meat simultaneously.
They are also similar in developing a nice dark and crispy crust on the food. However, you can differentiate the two just by tasting them.
Blackened food relies heavily on seasonings with spices and herbs to develop both the meat’s flavor and the crust’s black color.
Charred meat, on the other hand, gives that dark crust to the food through heat alone. When you bite into charred meat, there is also no spice or kick, the signature of blackened meat.
Blackened Vs Seared
The main difference between searing and blackening food is that seared food is cooked at a much lower temperature than blackened food.
Searing temperatures usually stay at medium-high heat, while blackening food can go up to 600 or 700 degrees Fahrenheit, an extremely hot temperature.
While both methods help develop a crust on cuts of meat, blackening uses more spices and herbs, while searing meat usually only involves a drizzle of oil.
Even when searing meat on a skillet, you will need a little oil, while blackening does not need extra oil since it utilizes the butter in the seasoning.
Blackened Vs Burnt
Burnt is something that you do not want when you are cooking. Although burnt and blackened food have similar colors, the texture and flavors are entirely different,
For instance, burnt food tends to be dry and bitter, while blackened food has a succulent, juicy, tender texture with spicy and buttery flavors from the seasoning.
The difference between burnt and blackened food also comes from the fact that blackened food is cooked over high heat to develop a nice crust full of savory flavors.
Burnt food, on the other hand, has a black color on the crust but is just a bitter and dry layer that has been sitting too long on high heat.
Although blackened meat looks burnt, it does have a savory, spicy, earthy, and buttery flavor on the crust so with one bite alone, you can taste the difference between burnt and blackened.
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