The real difference between grilled meat and blackened meat

Cooking meat over fire is a tale that goes back millennia, as the Food Network reports. The domestication of fire occurred some 500,000 years ago, but the grilling that everyone knows and loves today first started on its path to stardom around the 1940s. The Food Network details, however, that it wasn't until the 1950s, after World War II, that grilling really took off within the United States. Since then, the love affair that Americans have for grilling food has blossomed. Statista reports that around $1.36 billion was spent on grills and barbecues alone within the United States in 2019. 

Why so much? People reportedly love the flavor that meat has once it's been grilled. The natural charring along the edges was something that people soon began to crave (and the reported main reason for buying a grill). The charring effect is said to be the inspiration behind Chef Paul Prudhomme's recipe for blackened meat (via For Your Grill).

How grilled meat and blackened meat differ

Although the blackened meat effect was said to be inspired by the charring that occurs on grilled meat, the two have very distinct methods of being achieved, Our Everyday Life explains. Grilling requires heating food between 300 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit to allow for the Maillard reaction to occur (this is the browning effect that everyone loves about grilled food). The enhanced flavor profile is attributed to this chemical reaction that happens when meat is being cooked.

Because of this, Louisiana's Chef Prudhomme was said to have invented his famous blackened meat seasoning in order to mimic this same effect in the kitchen. Prudhomme would go on to use a very distinct two-step technique to achieve this. According to Our Everyday Life, the process included coating the meat with butter and a special seasoning — which included ingredients like paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, thyme, and oregano — and then cooking it on a cast-iron pan at an extremely high heat. Unlike when grilling meat, blackened meat needs to be cut into thin slices to ensure that it cooks properly.