Whether you’re new to grilling of you’ve been at it for years, there are important terms you should know. That’s why I’ve put together this comprehensive list, so that you can speak the lingo with ease.
Grilling Has its Own Terms and Phrases?
Yes, it does! And consummate grillers are very familiar with the terminology. Some of these are basic, but a few might be unfamiliar to you.
It shouldn’t surprise you that grilling, like most cooking genres, has a language all its own. Direct heat, indirect heat, basting, reverse sear. . .these are just a few of the phrases you’ll need to know.
You don’t have to be a pitmaster to speak this language like a pro. And in this post you’re going to learn some of the most popular grilling terms out there.
Popular Grilling Terms
Here are some common grilling terms:
1. Grilling: Grilling is a very popular cooking method which involves cooking food over an open flame or heat source. This cooking technique is very versatile and can be used for a wide selection of foods, from meats to vegetables, seafood to poultry, even fruits and desserts. Grilling is a method of cooking that stands apart from other methods like baking, roasting, boiling & frying. It relies on the application of heat (whether direct – like a gas grill, or indirect – like a smoker) to the food’s surface.
2. Direct Heat: Grilling food directly over the heat source, like on a gas or charcoal grill. This method is typically used for searing and/or cooking thinner cuts of meat but can also be used to cook many different items.
3. Indirect Heat: Grilling food away from the heat source, like on a pellet smoker. This method is often used for slow-cooking thicker cuts of meat but can be used on pretty much anything.
4. Flare-up: A sudden burst of flames caused by fats or oils dripping down onto the grill’s heat source. This can cause the food to char or burn.
5. Sear: Cooking the outer surface of meat quickly and at high heat. This method helps to lock in juices and creates a flavorful crust.
6. Barbecue (BBQ): The cooking method involving slow-cooking meat over low and indirect heat, often using pellets or wood smoke for flavor. It also refers to gatherings and events where BBQ is served.
7. Marinade: A seasoned, liquid mixture used to soak meat in prior to grilling it, which adds flavor and keeps the meat tender.
8. Rub: A mixture of herbs and spices which is applied to meat prior to grilling, adding flavor. It also creates a crust on the meat.
9. Grill Marks: Dark, seared lines on the food, which are created by contact with the grill grates during the grilling process.
10. Resting: Allowing food to sit for a few minutes after grilling, which redistributes the juices and makes the meat tender and juicy.
11. Smoke Flavor: The distinct smoky flavor infused into the food when it’s grilled over wood, pellets or charcoal.
12. Charcoal Grill: A type of grill that uses charcoal briquettes as the primary heat source. It is known for giving food a smoky flavor.
13. Gas Grill: A type of grill that uses propane or natural gas as the fuel source to heat the food. This type of grill offers quick and convenient heating, but typically without the smoky flavor.
14. Smoker (or pellet grill): A specialized grill that is designed for slow-cooking and smoking food. It often uses wood chips or wood pellets to infuse a smoky flavor into the food.
15. Wood Chips/Chunks/Pellets: These are added to a smoker or grill to produce smoke and infuse the food with a smoky flavor. Different types of pellets and wood create very distinct flavors.
16. Basting: Brushing or drizzling oils, sauces or marinades onto food during the cooking process, in order to add flavor and keep the food moist.
17. Pitmaster: An expert in the art of smoking and grilling meats and other foods; A term often used to refer to the person in charge of a barbecue pit or smoker during an event.
18. Grill Basket: A wire (or perforated) metal basket that is used to grill small, more delicate items like vegetables or seafood, which prevents them from falling through the grill grates.
19. Probe Thermometer (or meat thermometer): A thermometer used to monitor the internal temperature of meat during the cooking process, ensuring it is cooked to the desired level of doneness.
20. Drip Pan: A large pan, which is placed under the grill grates to catch drippings and prevent flare-ups.
21. Grilling Plank: A wooden plank (often made of cedar or maple), used to infuse a smoky flavor into food during cooking, especially fish.
22. Flipping: Turning food over during the grilling process to ensure even cooking on both sides.
23. Charcoal Chimney: A device used to too quickly and evenly light charcoal briquettes on a charcoal grill.
24. Grill Lid: The hood or cover of the grill, which can be closed in order to trap heat and smoke for certain grilling techniques.
25. Lid On vs. Lid Off: This refers to whether you should grill with the cover open or closed, depending on the type of food and grilling method.
26. Open Flame or Heat Source: The cooking process which involves placing food directly over an open flame, such as over a wood fire or on a charcoal or gas grill, or by positioning it near a heat source, like the electric heating element on an electric grill. The heat source is the key element that cooks the food in this method.
27. Cooking Grate: The metal grates on which food is placed for grilling; these can be adjustable in height.
28. Dwell Time: The period of time during which food is allowed to rest on the grill without moving it. This time is essential for achieving grill marks and proper sear.
29. Flame Kissed: This term refers to food that has been briefly exposed to an open flame, which creates a charred and/or caramelized exterior.
30. Grill Griddle: A flat, metal surface on a grill, which can be used for cooking foods like pancakes, eggs, or other delicate items.
31. Grill Rack: A raised platform on a grill, used to elevate food away from direct heat for indirect grilling.
32. Reverse Sear: A technique that requires slow-cooking meat on low heat first and then searing it at the end, creating a perfect crust.
33. Smoke Ring: The pink or reddish-colored ring visible just under the surface of smoked meat, which is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen in the wood smoke and the meat’s myoglobin.
34. Bark: The caramelized and flavorful outer crust that forms on grilled or smoked meat, usually due to extended cooking times.
35. Rotisserie: A grilling method that involves evenly cooking food by rotating large cuts of meat, poultry, or other items on a spit using a rotisserie kit.
36. Hibachi Grill: A small, portable grill commonly used for cooking small, quick meals, often fueled by charcoal or gas.
37. Drip Tray: A container or tray placed under the grill grates to catch drippings and prevent flare-ups.
38. Grill-Mark Crosshatch: Grill marks in a crisscross pattern, which are often created by rotating food 90 degrees during the grilling process for an attractive presentation.
39. Flavor Enhancement: Grilling enhances the flavor of food as the proteins and sugars in the food interact with high heat. This interaction creates a range of complex and delicious flavors and aromas. In addition, grilling over an open flame or using specific types of pellets or wood chips can impart a smoky flavor to the food, which enriches its taste even more.
40. Fuel Source: The material (such as gas, charcoal or wood) used to generate heat in a grill0
41. Drippings: The fats and juices that fall from the food as it cooks on the grill.
42. Two-Zone Cooking: The creation of different heat zones on a grill, typically with one side being used for direct heat and the other for indirect heat.
43. Cold Smoking: A smoking method which allows for smoking without cooking because the heat source is separate from the smoking chamber.
44. Charcoal Grate: The bottom grate that holds the charcoal and provides airflow in a charcoal grill.
45. Hot Spot: An area on the grill grates that is hotter than the surrounding cooking surface.
46. Warming Rack: An elevated rack, which is used to keep cooked food warm on the grill without further cooking it.
47. Foil Packet: A sealed packet made out of aluminum foil, which is used to cook delicate items on the grill (like vegetables), often with added seasonings.
48. Grill Daddy: This affectionate term is sometimes used for the person in charge of grilling at a barbecue or cookout.
49. Brisket Stall: While smoking a brisket , this is the point when the internal temperature plateaus, which is often right before it continues to rise.
50. Searing Zone: A section of the grill with high heat where food can be seared before moving it to a lower-heat zone for final cooking.
51. Reverse Flow Smoker: A type of smoker that is designed to have heat and smoke flow across the meat twice for even cooking.
52. Seasoned Wood: Wood that has been dried or aged to enhance its flavor before being used for smoking.
53. Spit Roasting: A cooking method involving rotating meat on a horizontal skewer over a flame.
54. Smoke Chamber: The main part of a smoker or pellet grill where the food is placed so it can be exposed to the smoke and heat.
55. Briquettes vs. Lump Charcoal: The choice between compressed charcoal briquettes and natural lump charcoal, each with its own benefits and characteristics for grilling.
These grilling terms and phrases further enhance your understanding of the techniques and practices involved in the world of grilling and smoking meat.
Meet the Man Behind the Grill
Zach Morrow was born and raised in Texas and has always had a passion for great barbecue. He’s at home behind the grill and loves to feed his friends and family home-cooked favorites as often as he can. He especially loves trying new things and is excited to share knowledge like this for Backyard Texas Grill.