Frying vs Grilling

Cooking can modify food’s nutritional value; in some cases, it enhances food digestion, but it can also destroy healthy nutrients like vitamins.  Frying and grilling are two of the most popular cooking methods around the world. Completely different cooking appliances are being used to make grilled food and fried food. They both have advantages, disadvantages but which one is better?

Man grilling vegetables, meat and sausages on outside barbecue
Frying French fries in deep fryer

What is the difference between frying and grilling?

Characteristics of fryingCharacteristics of grilling
Cooking categoryDry-heat with liquid fat immersionDry-heat with, no fat, direct heat
Calorie countIncrease food calorieDecrease fatty food calorie
Effects of cooking on fatFat absorption: cooked meat high in fatFat dripping: lean cooked meat
Health issues related to cooking meatMay contain trans-fats favoring obesity. Regular consumption of fried foods may also increase the occurrence of heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.Grilling meat can create carcinogens PAHs and HCAs. The first one appears when dripping fat on the heat source. The second carcinogen is produced when an animal fresh is exposed to direct high heat.
Place and locationIndoorBoth outdoor and indoor
Some of the best food for the cooking methodFrench fries, eggs, chicken legs, shrimp, garfish, tilapia, fried dough, potatoes chips, fried spring roll, fried pickles.Grilled steak, red meats, salmon, tuna, sea bream, vegetables, chicken thighs, chicken breasts.
InconvenienceCrusty oil residue and persistent deep-frying smell in a closed house without a good kitchen hood.Flare-ups and fumes. Crusty oil residue on the grill and the bottom.
Food texture and colorMost meats turn brown, golden-brown, grey, yellow light, and any other colors induce by herbs and spices like paprika, curry, etc. Fried foods have a greasy surface and are better when eating warm. Most meats turn brown-grey due to the myoglobin they contain. Colors may vary depending on what is added to the marinade. The foods have specific gridlines printed on the surface, the nice char marks.
Main appliances and toolsDeep fryer, resistant stainless steel kitchen utensil set, fry pan, skillet, stove & kitchen range, fryer cleaning tools, kitchen gloves.Grilling gloves, spatula, grilling fork, long handle cutlery set, grilling pan, grilling turner, barbecue grill, grill Brushes, Scrapers & Cleaners, grill thermometer, barbecue grilling basket, best Meat Claws, plancha grill
Table of comparison between frying and grilling

Grilling food techniques and appliances

Grilling food usually consists of exposing meat or vegetables to direct dry heat on one side. In the beginning, people were placing a grill on four stones or four sticks above a fire lit up on the ground to grill meat, seafood, ground provision, and vegetables.

As grilling food is probably the oldest cooking method, people have developed a lot of techniques and grilling appliances to fit all needs and situations. There are commercial bbq grills but also various homemade charcoal grills. For example, West indies charcoal stoves are made with pretty much any fireproof container you can imagine. Here are a few examples of how grilled foods are made in the USA and elsewhere:

  • charcoal barbecue grills for outdoor
  • homemade barbecue grill: propane tanks bbq grill, DIY Backyard BBQ Grill, block BBQ Pit
  • propane gas grills for both outdoor and indoor
  • electric grills
  • ovens

Frying food techniques and appliances

While frying the food is generally placed in some oil and cooked over high heat. Frying is not reserved for meat and seafood. Many vegetables and grains like quinoa or rice are fried.

Deep-fried foods like French fries are completely immersed in a considerable amount of heated oil. It requires the use of a strainer, a deep-frying pan, or a deep fryer.

Other ways to frying food like sautéing and shallow frying use only a small amount of fat. A frying pan, a skillet, a spatula are some useful utensils to prepare tasty fried foods like the sautéed shrimp and the garlic butter pan-fried chicken breast.

New kitchen appliances like air fryers offer innovative ways to cook food. Since Philips launched the first air fryer device in 2010 a debate has been going on to determine which cooking method is the best between air frying and grilling.

Air frying vs grilling

Air frying uses convection and a fan that circulates heated air (up to 400 °F) around the food to produced look-alike deep-fried foods. Before cooking, the food is dipped in a fat mixture (for example flour, salt, oil, spices to make crispy chicken legs) or lightly coated using oil.

Air frying usually takes less time than most other cooking methods. Although the preheating time can be similar for air frying and grilling, air frying food is quicker than grilling food. It is because the cooking occurs in a small closed chamber with rapid circulating air: decrease heat loss and allow to reach high temperature quickly.

Both grilling and air frying require some grueling tasks such as cleaning after cooking. We need to remove the drawer and the basket to clean them properly and the inside of the air fryer. Cleaning the grill and all the tools used to make our perfect barbecue also require some time, especially for outdoor charcoal bbq. Using warm soap water helps to dissolve the grease and ease the cleaning process.

Now, it is hard to say which one is healthier. Air fryers can use 75% less oil than conventional deep fryers. Air fried foods using healthy ingredients for the coating are significantly better for your health than deep-fried foods. Unfortunately, air fried foods still contain more nonhealthy fat than grilled foods.

Most air fryers are quite noisy and do not allow to cook foods in huge quantity. Grilling food during a barbecue party is more suitable for a big family or to invite friends and relatives.

Grilling preparation time vs frying preparation time

The time allocated for marinating the food is quite the same for both cooking methods. But we need around 30 minutes to prepare a charcoal barbecue whereas 6 to 10 minutes to preheat oil for frying.

However, the preparation time for grilling with a gas barbecue, an electric barbecue, and an oven is pretty much the same as frying preparation time: up to 10 minutes depending on what to cook. Except for outdoor charcoal bbq, there is no significant difference in the preparation times.

Grilling cooking time vs Frying cooking time

grilling cooking time and frying cooking time vary widely depending on other factors such as the time of food, the quantity, the thickness, the heat temperature. Not to forget that people have different tastes when it comes to food tenderness and food crispness. Which means various cooking times for the same food.

The cooking time depends on the desire end results: in general on factors like cooked food color,

  • food inner temperature before stopping the cooking process
  • cooked food color
  • juicy or drier

For the same piece of meat, cooking gradation (doneness) and food inner temperature are the keys that will determine the heat intensity and the cooking time. For example, by monitoring the temperature, it is possible to get some medium-rare pork chops using frying or grilling. In this case, it will take about 8 minutes to cook the pork chops, and according to the USDA, the inner temperature must reach 145 °F.

Pan fry or grill burgers

Pan fry or grill burgers

Pan-frying uses a fairly small amount of fat and the food is not totally immersed in oil: in between deep-frying and sautéing. Both pan-frying and grilling are suitable to cook ground beef.

Many people argue that a traditional burger is made with a good grilled steak but others praise the pan fry burger. Pan fry does not mean adding extra fat provided that we use a nonstick pan. The medium-rare steak is really praised in the US but personally, I prefer a good burger with a medium steak and some veggies.

Choosing between pan fry or grill burgers is more a matter of taste or convenience. For example, during the cold season, it is easier to use a pan or an oven to prepare burgers than an outdoor bbq.

To make a good burger, we need ground beef from the USA that contain are 80% lean and 20% fat:


  • ground beef or ground beef burger patties
  • whole wheat burger buns
  • American cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sour gherkin
  • lettuce
  • ketchup


  • preheat the grill or the pan-fry over medium-high heat
  • model the patties or use cold ground beef burger patties
  • add the salt and the pepper on both sides
  • dimple the patties on one side
  • put the patties on the grill or on the frying pan
  • let them cook for 4 to 5 minutes
  • flip the patties and let them cook for 5 to 7 minutes
  • put the cheese on the burgers and let them cook for half a minute
  • let the meat rest for 1 minute while toasting the buns
  • take the burns, and add very little ketchup, a leaf of lettuce, the burger with the cheese.

Now, grilled burgers have these nice char marks and sometimes a subtle taste due to the use of coal or wood. Burges prepared with a nonstick pan are not too fatty because most of the fat stays in the pan. Both methods will give an excellent result if you can control the heat and the time.

Grilled food calories vs Fried food calories

How does grilling reduce food caloriesHow does frying increase food calories
Medium-high direct heat tends to burn fat contained in meat and fatty food. We all know about these annoying grilling flare-ups that occur when grilling chicken and fatty foods.
It happens when excess fat burns and drips off a piece of meat. Therefore, grilled foods are low in animal-derived fat and healthier.
A grilled piece of chicken loses around 1 quarter of its original size. Because fat and liquids containing in raw food have low melting points grilling gives us a dryer and leaner cooked meat.
Fat is the macronutrient that contains the most calories, 884 calories per 100g. Fat absorption during frying depends on food density, cooking temperature, and dipping duration.
Fat represents 5 to 11 percent of calories for a skinless raw chicken breast. But a serving of McDonald’s Spicy Fried Chicken contains 273 calories with 151 calories from fat, which means fat represents 55% of the total calorie count.
Fried foods can easily contain 50% more calories than the same grilled foods.
Why fried foods contain more calories than grilled foods

Is grilled or fried chicken better?

Grilling 100g of skinless chicken breast will provide at the end around 220 calories with hardly any fat. But grilling the same 100g of skinless chicken breast will provide at the end around 358 calories with a good amount of unhealthy fat.

It is safe to say that a grilled lemon garlic chicken scallops and a fried crispy garlic breadcrumb chicken are two delicious meals full of flavor. In addition to the extra fat, we should also worry about the excessive amount of potassium in junk fried food. It is safer to eat homemade fried chicken.

Fried chicken vs grilled chicken

Why does fried food taste so good? | Why does grilled food taste so good?

The body naturally craves fat because it is the most nutritious macronutrient. Both grilled food and fried food melt fat during the cooking process. Which releases odorous chemicals that indicate the presence of a nutritious meal. This is a primal behavior to prevent starvation.

Frying and grilling act like a flavor enhancer for many vegetables and extra spices adding to the food. Many deep-fried pastries like the fried-dough and the fried rosettes are served with sugar sprinkles on top of them. Very few fried food and grilled food are neutral taste foods because they often come with extra salt, spices, or sugar.

Grilling also generates food caramelization. The process occurs when a portion of food is exposed to dry heat. The degree of the browning reaction depends on the heat intensity and the quantity of sugar present in the raw food. Some foods like plantain banana may contain a relatively high amount of sugar and the caramelization process is quick and flavorful. While adding sugar to meat marinade is a common practice, too much sugar can lead to excessive browning or the creation of unhealthy food by-products.

Frying foods have an appealing golden-brown color. They can be crispy like the crispy fried noodles or the crunchy fried shrimp. A special frying technique such as sautéing is used to make raw edible vegetables even tender and tastier: for example, the sautéed garlic butter mushrooms and sautéed spicy cabbage.

Fried food and grilled food taste so good because of their pleasant texture, the flavor transformation, the good smells, and extra ingredients like sugar, salt, spices.


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