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40 Grilling & Smoking Terms to Know for This Summer

A platter loaded with various grilled items.
Natalia Lisovskaya/Shutterstock

Cooking outdoors is one of the best parts about warm weather, but every so often you’ll come across a recipe term that you are unfamiliar with. We’ve collected a list of 40 terms that will help you out on your summertime grilling (and smoking) endeavors.

  • Afterheat: Once a piece of meat is removed from the heat source, for resting time, the core temperature will continue to increase. (Also referred to as carryover heat.)
  • Barbeque Sauce: Typically, a tomato- or ketchup-based sauce that complements the flavor of meat, usually added towards the end of the cooking process.
  • Basting: The process in which a flavored liquid, fat, or meat juice is spooned or brushed over meat during cooking.
  • Basting Brush: A brush made with either silicone or natural bristles used to baste flavored liquids (like barbecue sauce) over the meat during the cooking process.
  • Brine: A salt-based water solution used to tenderize and add moisture to meat to help the meat retain moisture during the cooking process.
  • Burnt Ends: Small crispy cubes or pieces of meat that come from the fattier end of the beef brisket.
  • Carving: Cutting and disjointing portions of meat, to create the maximum pieces of meat, using a carving knife and carving board.
  • Casing: A cover or sheath used to hold stuffed sausage meat to create sausage.
  • Charcoal: A type of fuel source usually sold as lumpwood or briquette used to fuel a grill.
  • Charcoal Grill: A grill that uses charcoal briquettes or lumpwood charcoal as a fuel source.
Heating up charcoal.
  • Cold Smoking: The process in which smoke is used to flavor food at low temperatures, without cooking it.
  • Conduction: The process of cooking with direct heat transfer.
  • Convection: The process by which air, water, or oil acts as the carrier of heat transfer to food that is cooking.
  • Direct Heat: To cook food directly over the heat source (including charcoal, gas, or wood).
  • Electric Grill: A grilling appliance or unit which uses an electric element to supply constant heat to cook food.
  • Fire Box: The compartment in a smoker where the fire is sited.
  • Gas Grill: A grill that uses natural gas or propane gas as the source of fuel for heat and fire.
  • Grilling: The process of applying direct heat from the bottom, usually done on higher temperatures with the lid up.
  • Indirect Cooking: Cooking foods adjacent to the heat source.
  • Internal Temperature: The temperature of food measured using a thermometer. Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, casseroles, eggs, and leftovers each have specific safe internal temperatures to ensure secure food handling and consumption. Learn more about using an instant-read thermometer to check safe internal temperatures here.
  • Kamado Grill: A circular grill made entirely out of ceramic, which helps retain and circulate heat better than other types of grills.
  • Kebab: Cubes of veggies, meat or seafood threaded, and cooked on a skewer (also spelled as kabab.)
  • Live-Fire Grilling: The process of cooking foods directly over a fire, and the most commonly practiced method of grilling.
  • Low and Slow: To cook foods for an extended period at a low temperature, creating very tender meat.
  • Maillard Reaction: A chemical reaction that occurs when reducing sugars and amino acids combine, causing the meat to brown, which creates a distinctive flavor.
  • Marinade: A liquid (made from scratch or store-bought) used to tenderize and flavor meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables.
  • Offset Smoker: A type of smoker with a large cylindrical food chamber, with a heat source set off to the side.
  • Pellet Grill: An electric-powered grill that uses wood pellets to heat the cooking chamber.
  • Pittsburgh Rare: A steak that is cooked at a very high temperature quickly to char the outside and keep it rare on the inside. (Also referred to as “black & blue.”)
  • Plank: Usually made of cedarwood, and used for cooking foods indirectly (especially fish).
Salmon and asparagus on a grilling plank.
Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock
  • Radiation: The process of cooking using the method of heat transfer.
  • Resting: Removing meat from the heat source and allowing it to sit for a period, which helps the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
  • Skewers: A long piece of metal or wood used to hold meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables together during the grilling process.
  • Smoker: A cooking device used to cook meats, fish, and seafood at a low temperature using a controlled smokey setting, giving your food a naturally smokey flavor.
  • Smoking: The process of preservation and adding flavor using the addition of smoke over food.
  • Touch Test: Using your hands to compare the way meat feels by poking the fleshy section of your palm as you lightly press different fingers together. Learn more about the touch test here.
  • Two-Zone Grilling: Using both direct and indirect heat while grilling.
  • USDA Grades: United States Department of Agriculture grades or rankings of meat used to symbolize the quality of the meat.
  • Water Smoker: A smoker with a water bath placed between the heat and food to help control temperature and provide moisture.
  • Zest: The outer peel of citrus fruit, often used in cooking seafood and making marinades.

Your experience with the grill, combined with a little firsthand knowledge, will make you a grilling pro just in time for the cookout season.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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