the appetizer:

The Food Stylist's Handbook by Denise Vivaldo includes excerpts like Basic Food Stylist's Kit; Bacon; Getting Good Grill Marks; and Pizza Cheese.

Cookbook Profile

Getting Good Grill Marks

by Denise Vivaldo


There are numerous ways to add grill marks to food. The obvious way is to cook food on a grill, but usually this option isn't available in studio kitchens. Also, grilling doesn't allow you as much control as the options below.

grill marks


Grill Pan

A cast-iron grill pan is a useful addition to your kit. It is the easiest way to put grill marks on ground meat, steaks, chicken, chops, fish, vegetables, or even fruit. Your grill lines will be evenly spaced and can be touched up with a charcoal starter or a heated metal skewer; or they can be painted in with a tiny brush dipped in straight Kitchen Bouquet or drawn in with dark brown or black eyeliner pencil. We keep an inexpensive Lodge cast-iron grill pan in our kit. Yes, it is heavy, but it is also indestructible.


1. Heat the grill pan over high heat. Blot the meat dry with paper towels. Decide which side is the better-looking side. Spray the hot grill pan with cooking oil spray and carefully place the meat in the skillet, best side down.

2. Let the meat cook without shifting it until the desired grill marks are achieved.

3. Thicker cuts of meat can be turned and cooked on the other side. Thinner cuts of meat and most fish can get overcooked this way. Instead of turning it to make the second side look cooked, add a tablespoon or two of water to the hot pan, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the meat sit until steam causes the surface of the meat to look cooked.

4. Use a kitchen torch to touch up any places on the meat that don't look cooked enough.

To further enhance grill marks, see "Charcoal Starter" or "Metal Skewer" below.


Charcoal Starter

Grill marks can also be added or enhanced with an electric charcoal starter. This handy tool consists of a plastic handle and thick metal rod bent into a loop. This device gets extremely hot, so unplug it as soon as you are done using it to avoid accidental burns.


1. Place the product on a foil-lined baking sheet. Plug in the charcoal starter in a secure and nonflammable area. We like to have a heavy-duty, upside-down sheet pan to rest it on to protect the surface underneath. Charcoal starters get super hot; just because they are on a sheet pan doesn't mean the surface under the sheet pan is heat-proof. You could still damage it.

2. Using the marks from the grill pan as your guide, press the charcoal starter into the product, rocking it slightly to mark the ends. Remember that any natural dips or dents in the meat will be more lightly marked than bits that stick out, which should have a darker grill mark.

3. If necessary. darken with coloring spray for poultry or meat.

4. Spray with cooking oil spray to keep it looking moist and to prevent oxidation.


Metal Skewer

If an outlet isn't available, you'll need an alternative to the charcoal starter. We always carry metal skewers in our kits for just such occasions. You will need a portable burner, kitchen torch or other flame source.


1. Heat a metal skewer over a flame until it's very hot. You might need to hold the skewer with a potholder while it heats up.

2. Press the hot skewer into the meat to make dark marks.

3. Repeat until the desired look is reached. It may take several applications to make one grill mark, as the skewer cools down quickly.


Buy The Food Stylist's Handbook


The Food Stylist's Handbook


Also check out Food Styling by Delores Custer


This page created October 2010