What Is Charbroiling?

by James Holloway
Charbroiled meat has characteristic dark stripes or patches.

Charbroiled meat has characteristic dark stripes or patches.

Charbroiling involves cooking meat at very high temperatures on a metal grate over a heat source. This quick method of cooking produces food with patches of dark branding corresponding to the ridges or bars of the grate. Outside the United States, charbroiling is usually called chargrilling; 'broiling' generally refers only to oven broiling.

You Look Radiant

Food that is broiled is cooked by exposure to radiant heat from a heat source. Charbroiling, however, uses radiant heat from the burner, as well as conduction heat from the metal grate or grill. Like oven broiling, charbroiling takes place at very high temperature; a typical grill, however, might reach 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and charbroiling takes place at between 550 F and 700 F. Larger professional charbroilers can reach even higher temperatures.

Divided By a Common Language

The term "charbroil" has a long history, originating in the 1950s as a combination of the words "charcoal" and "broil." For most people, however, "broiling" refers to oven broiling; this is particularly true outside the U.S. and Canada.

Why Charbroil?

Charbroiling has a lot to recommend it as a cooking method. Its high temperatures mean that food cooks quickly; a chargrilled steak will take no more than a few minutes to reach perfection. The variation in cooking temperatures on the grill means that steaks can be charred directly over high heat, and then moved to a lower-heat area to finish cooking. Charbroiling isn't only for red meat, though -- charbroiled vegetables are a great addition to a salad or side dish.

Potential Health Risks

Charbroiled meats can contain high levels of certain chemicals known to cause cancer in animals. These chemicals form when chemicals within the meat itself react to very high temperatures or when fat from the meat falls into the heat source, creating flames. Attempts to determine whether there is a significant cancer risk for humans are ongoing. There is some evidence to suggest that marinades such as red wine or beer may slightly reduce the risk.

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