Grilling is a form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, commonly from above, below or from the side. Grilling usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat, and tends to be used for cooking meat and vegetables quickly. Food to be grilled is cooked on a grill (an open wire grid such as a gridiron with a heat source above or below), using a cast iron/frying pan, or a grill pan (similar to a frying pan, but with raised ridges to mimic the wires of an open grill).
Studies have shown that cooking beef, pork, poultry, and fish at high temperatures can lead to the formation of heterocyclic amines, benzopyrenes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogens. Marination may reduce the formation of these compounds. Grilling is often presented as a healthy alternative to cooking with oils, although the fat and juices lost by grilling can contribute to drier food.
In Germany, the most prominent outdoor form of grilling is using the gridiron over a bed of burning charcoal. Care is taken that the charcoal does not produce flames. Often beer is sprinkled over the sausages or meat and used to suppress flames. The meat is usually marinated before grilling. Besides charcoal, sometimes gas and electric heat sources are used. Other methods are used less frequently.
In electric ovens, grilling may be accomplished by placing the food near the upper heating element, with the lower heating element off and the oven door partially open. Grilling in an electric oven may create a large amount of smoke and cause splattering in the oven. Both gas and electric ovens often have a separate compartment for grilling, such as a drawer below the flame or one of the stove top heating elements.
However it is possible to significantly reduce carcinogens when grilling meat, or mitigate their effect. Garlic, rosemary, olive oil, cherries, and vitamin E have been shown to reduce formation of both HCAs and PAHs. V-profiled grill elements placed at an angle may help drain much of the meat juices and dripping fat, and transport them away from the heat source. Heat sources on the top (as in many electrical or gas ovens), or on the side (vertical grilling) avoid completely the burning of fat dripping from the meat, and the meat's contact with the flames. Another method is precooking the meat in the microwave, which can reduce HCA formation by reducing the time that meat must be in contact with high heat to finish cooking.
Charcoal kettle-grilling refers to the process of grilling over a charcoal fire in a kettle, to the point that the edges are charred, or charred grill marks are visible. Some restaurants seek to re-create the charcoal-grilled experience via the use of ceramic lava rocks or infrared heat sources, offering meats that are cooked in this manner as "charcoal-cooked" or "charcoal-grilled".
Many restaurants incorporate an indoor grill as part of their cooking apparatus. These grills resemble outdoor grills, in that they are made up of a grid suspended over a heat source. However, indoor grills are more likely to use electric or gas-based heating elements. Some manufacturers of residential cooking appliances now offer indoor grills for home use, either incorporated into a stove top or as a standalone electric device.
A flattop grill is a cooking appliance that resembles a griddle but performs differently because the heating element is circular rather than straight (side to side). This heating technology creates an extremely hot and even cooking surface, as heat spreads in a radial fashion over the surface.