If you’re a fan of that nice char that you get on the outside of grilled foods, but you’re confused about the difference between blackened vs grilled food, you’re not alone.
You might think there’s not much of a difference, but there is, in fact, a difference between blackened and grilled food in more than one aspect.
If you’re wondering what that is, scroll down to get a closer look and dig deeper.
What is Blackened Food Really?
Blackened food is the end result of a cooking technique that involves heavily charring or searing the surface of a food.
You’ll usually find this method being used when it comes to cooking fish or poultry, however, it can sometimes also be used for certain veggies too- I actually experimented it with some corn on the cob, and ended up with a nice blackened corn recipe.
Blackened food is typically coated in a blend of spices which includes paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and some other seasonings.
It is then cooked in a hot cast-iron skillet or pan on high heat. This causes rapid caramelization of the spices and creates a dark, smoky crust on the outside of the food.
It is important to note that blackened food is not burnt or overcooked, but has a distinct, flavorful char that is meant to enhance the taste of the food.
Moreover, this process also helps to seal in the juices, which makes the meat moist and tender from the inside. It is no surprise blackened salmon tastes so insanely delicious.
And while the method of cooking any blackened food is quite simple and straightforward, you’ll need to be careful to ensure that the food is evenly cooked and has that nice char you’re looking for, but doesn’t end up overly charred.
In the end, you’re looking for a dish that has a complex flavor profile with its smoky, spicy flavors, and still doesn’t look and taste burnt.
Can I Use a Skillet to Blacken Food?
A good quality, heavy duty cast iron skillet is actually the best choice of equipment you can use to blacken your food.
If you don’t have one, you can use a regular skillet too- but you’ll need to make sure it is oven safe.
Remember that you’ll be using high heat to blacken food, which is why it is best to use a durable, reliable piece of equipment.
What is Blackening Seasoning Made of?
Blackening seasoning mix is actually a unique blend of herbs and spices that, when subjected to high temperatures, develops that delicious charred and crispy crust.
If you’ve ever enjoyed some blackened chicken or blackened fish, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The flavors are distinctly different from that of any grilled meat you’ll have ever tasted.
That said, there’s no standard recipe to make the blackened seasoning. The seasoning typically packs in spices and herbs like paprika, oregano, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, basil, thyme and parsley. You might also find some dried citrus zest mixed in for some extra flavor.
These spices are usually ground into a fine powder to get the delicious blackened seasoning that is incredibly versatile and can be used to add a kick of flavor to a variety of foods.
Does Blackened Food Taste Burnt?
Blackened food may, at times, appear burnt, but its flavors are far from it.
Blackened meat or fish packs in the delicious flavor of grilled food, and then takes it to the next level.
Food that is blackened usually has a crispier texture than grilled food, and the crust on the outside is usually full of that smoky, charred flavor from all the delicious spices.
Blackened dishes don’t taste burnt, but rather, have that wicked and elegant flavor to them.
Is Blackening the Same as Burning?
Blackening and burning are similar in some ways but they are not the same. The simple difference between these two lies in the end result.
When you eat blackened chicken, you’ll get that beautiful, charred flavor with a bit of crispiness on the outside and juicy smoked chicken on the inside.
Burnt chicken, on the other hand, is tough, hard and lacks moisture. It also appears much more black, and looks and tastes unappetizing.
Also Read: Grilled Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
Blackened cooking is also quite different from that of unintentionally burning food.
When you’re making blackened food, you’ll need to be careful to maintain a very controlled, charred look on the outside of the food.
Burnt food is well, burnt by the heat of the fire.
Blackened vs Grilled - What are the Similarities?
Grilled and blackened food have quite a few similarities.
Each of the two cooking methods use high heat- they might use different kitchen equipment, but the process of cooking food on high heat still remains the same.
Apart from the cooking methods, you’ll also notice a slightly similar flavor profile between both these foods. They’ll both have a smoky and charred flavor, but of course, grilled food will have a less intense flavor as opposed to that of blackened food.
As opposed to traditionally cooked meats, both these techniques can get your food ready pretty quickly. They’re fast cooking methods, and aim to retain the tenderness on the inside of meats while still creating a nice crispiness on the outside.
Blackened vs Grilled - What is the Difference?
The key difference between grilled and blackened food lies in the seasoning mix.
For grilled foods, you can use pretty much any seasoning of your choice- even just a simple salt and pepper seasoning would work. I used a delicious tandoori seasoning for my grilled tandoori corn, and the flavors turned out spectacular.
In contrast, blackening is a cooking technique that requires you to use a specific seasoning made using a blend of spices and herbs to get the perfect aroma and flavor.
Another one of the differences between the two cooking methods is when they’re implemented.
Foods like grilled chicken and grilled fish are usually made and served at summer BBQs and get-togethers, or enjoyed as a nice dinner. The flavors in grilled foods are much less intense, while flavors of blackened meat are quite heavy and smoky. .
Is Blackened Food Healthy?
Both blackened and grilled cooking methods use high temperatures to cook food.
This causes the Maillard reaction, creating a charred exterior, which, as per certain preliminary findings, is harmful to health.
Blackened food contains certain compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer.
That said, these findings are preliminary, and there’s still a lack of evidence to directly link the consumption of blackened or grilled meat to any major health conditions. .
Blackened or Grilled- Which is Healthier?
Now that you know you've figured out the whole blackened vs grilled food scenario, comes the next big question.
Whether you’ve got some salmon fillets or a nice cut of steak, you may be debating which cooking method you should opt for based on the health benefits that it has to offer.
Well, in general, cooking food over an open flame aka grilling it is much healthier as opposed to blackened food.
In addition, to get that blackened crust, you’ll ideally need to make sure your food is dipped in melted butter and then coated in the seasoning mix. This will help it get that perfect blackened exterior. This in turn, translates into more fat content in food.
What’s more, unlike blackened meat, grilled meat has a much lower content of compounds like HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PaHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that are potentially carcinogenic in nature.
That said, it is best to consider eating grilled or blackened food occasionally and choose leaner cuts of meats and more veggies as opposed to red meat.