Blackened vs Grilled Meats

A Guide to How These Cooking Methods Affect Foods’ Nutrition

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: September 6, 2023

It’s always barbeque season at my house because there’s nothing quite like the smoky, charred flavor of grilled food to make your mouth water. But have you ever heard of blackened food?

Many people use the terms “grilled” and “blackened” interchangeably, but there are some key differences between the two cooking techniques. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between blackened vs grilled food and help you decide which technique is best for your next cookout.

Get ready to fire up the grill and discover a whole new world of flavors!

Blackened vs Grilled

Blackened vs Grilled Difference

Blackening and grilling are two popular cooking methods often used to add that desirable smoky taste to your food. However, the two techniques are different in some ways.

Blackening involves coating the food in a mixture of oil and spices and then searing it in a hot cast-iron skillet until the spices create a blackened crust. This method is ideal for creating a spicier, more intense flavor.

On the other hand, grilling involves cooking food over an open flame until the food is slightly charred on the outside. This technique usually uses less oil and seasoning but brings out the natural flavors of the food with a smoky taste.

It’s worth noting that blackened meat has a distinct black coating on the outside, while grilled meat may not have a black coating or may only have some areas of black char, depending on how well done it is.

Both techniques are great for adding flavor and can be used depending on your preference. If you want a spicier, intense taste, go for blackening. If you want to savor the natural flavors of the food with a smoky taste, go for grilling.

Blackened vs Grilled Chicken

This image shows an example of a blackened chicken breast where the seasoning creates a batter-like coating on the surface.

Common Blackened vs Grilled Foods

While similar cooking methods, blackening and grilling are not always used on the same types of food. Blackening is typically reserved for chicken or fish, particularly salmon. Meanwhile, the most commonly grilled foods include hamburgers, steak, chicken, and vegetables.

Blackened Foods

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Shrimp

Grilled Foods

  • Hamburgers
  • Hotdogs / Brats
  • Steak
  • Chicken
  • Vegetables

Blackened Seasoning

Ready-to-use blackened or “blackening” seasoning is available at most grocery stores with popular brands like Zatarain’s, Old Bay, and Emeril. These seasonings give foods a savory flavor with a kick of spiciness.

Blackening seasoning is typically a blend of spices and herbs similar to Cajun or Creole seasoning. The most common ingredients include paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and salt.

To make a homemade blackening seasoning, try blending the following herbs and spices:

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)

To prepare the seasoning, mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Store the seasoning in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until ready to use. 

When ready to use the seasoning, generously coat your meat or seafood in oil or butter. Then dredge it in the spice blend before cooking in a hot skillet until the outside is blackened and the inside is cooked through.

Blackened vs Grilled Salmon

This image shows an example of a blackened salmon filet.

It’s important to note that grilled meats are often dry-rubbed, marinated, or coated with oil and seasonings. However, the seasoning is not typically caked on and seared to the surface like it is with blackened meats.

Blackened vs Grilled Nutrition

When comparing blackened and grilled foods from a nutritional standpoint, there are a few things to consider. 

Firstly, the oil or butter used to coat the meat for blackening can significantly increase the fat content. Also, cooking in a skillet doesn’t allow as much fat to drain away, and more stays with the meat.

Comparatively, grilling allows the fat to drip away from the meat through the grates, resulting in less fat overall and a lower calorie count. However, if you marinate the food in a high-fat sauce before grilling it, the calorie count will increase significantly.

Finally, the type of food being cooked also affects how healthy the final meal will be. For example, grilled hot dogs generally won’t be as nutritious as blackened chicken because they are lower in protein and essential minerals.

In summary, while grilling may be a healthier cooking option, it’s important to pay attention to the overall nutritional content of the food and the ingredients used in the cooking process.

Blackened vs Grilled Nutrition

In this image of grilled chicken, you can see how the charring typically only forms on the grill marks.

Blackened vs Grilled FAQ

Next, I will answer some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding blackened and grilled foods.

Why is blackened seasoning black?

The term “blackened” refers to the dark coating on the outside of food due to the burning of butter and seasoning after searing.

Is blackened seasoning the same as Cajun?

Cajun seasoning and blackening seasoning are often confused with each other, as they contain similar ingredients like paprika, dried thyme, dried oregano, onion and garlic powders, and cayenne pepper for some heat.

Both seasonings originated in Louisiana, but Cajun seasoning is generally hotter than blackening seasoning, although this can vary depending on the recipe and the amount of cayenne pepper used.

Can you grill blackened meat?

When it comes to cooking blackened meats, a cast iron skillet is often used to ensure a uniform surface for searing. However, you can also blacken meat on the grill by creating dual temperature zones.

To do this, start by searing the meat for a short time over high heat. Then, move the meat away from the hot spot to a lower heat area on the grill for the remainder of the cooking time.

Alternatively, you can sear meats in a pan before transferring them to the grill for final cooking. This method produces the delicious blackened seasoning while adding extra smoky flavor.

Is blackened meat bad for you?

Some believe that consuming grilled or blackened foods can lead to an increased risk of cancer. This is because when meat is heated, it produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to cancer in animal studies.

However, research studies conducted on humans have not provided enough evidence that HCAs cause cancer1. Still, experts suggest limiting exposure to excessively charred foods until further research is conducted on the matter.

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More Food Comparisons

By now, you should be well informed about the differences between blackened and grilled meats. I hope this information has been useful for you, and that you now have a better idea of which cooking method to use for your next big meal.

If you found this article helpful, I’m sure you’ll be interested in these other food comparisons as well!

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By |September 6, 2023|Nutrition|Comments Off on Nutrition Differences Between Blackened vs Grilled Meats
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