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Let’s Talk Heat: Radiant

Posted by on 9/24/2015

Previously, we discussed convection and conduction methods of heat transfer. Radiant heat is emitted in waves, not direct contact. Waves from the heat source heat whatever object it hits. This is why a fire warms you without you having to touch the flames directly. In ovens, about fifty percent of the cooking is done via radiant heat. Some is through convection with moving hot air, and some through the heat of the pan or surface which is conduction .  If a pan is darker, it will absorb the radiant heat a lot more quickly, whereas a lighter or shinier pan will reflect the heat waves.

The primary way radiant heat is used in the kitchen is by broiling. Broiling can also be referred to as grilling because of the radiant heat coming from the hot coals. Tougher meats such as beef or pork are harder to soften via broiling because of the fibers. Softer meats such as poultry or fish are much easier to soften and maintain juicy flavors when broiling. Most ovens have an option to broil, but if not, you would need to turn on the top heating element and crack open the oven door either way. A lot of chefs tend to prefer gas broilers because it provides a high temperature by way of the flames. This also creates “flame broiled” foods which are enjoyed because of their unique flavor. All three types of heat transfer work together to cook the food. Some methods use more of one kind and the types of heat can be tweaked to gain a difference effect.

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