In culinary applications, quadrillage refers to the creation of a grid design on the surface of a prepared food or dish. Most often, quadrillage refers to the square or rectangular marks that are left on the surface of meat when it is prepared on a grill. The term is based on quadrille, a French word that is translated as being marked with squares or rectangles.
When cooking on an open grill, burn marks are left on the surface of the food where the wire cooking surface touches the food. Unlike preparing food in a pan, the cooking surface on a grill is usually a perforated design that allows the heat to envelope the meat during the cooking process. The slightly higher temperature that is captured by the cooking surface causes the creation of burn or char marks on the meat. Far from being considered unattractive, these charred marks are often considered very desirable for grilled food.
Depending on the arrangement of the perforations in the grill’s cooking surface, the creation of quadrillage may be a simple or complex task. If the perforations are arranged in a grid pattern that is more or less a series of squares or rectangles, all that must be done is to rest the meat on the surface and turn once to achieve a uniform appearance of quadrillage on each side.
However, if the cooking surface is a series of straight lines with perforations in between the lines, the process of creating quadrillage will be slightly more complicated. In this instance, the cook must take care to turn the meat at ninety degree angles. This action must take place at least twice for the bottom and top of the meat in order to create the desired pattern of rectangles or squares.
While the appearance of quadrillage on grilled meats is considered desirable, it is important to remember that a deeper burn is not the best way to achieve the effect. Allowing the meat to remain on the grill too long will simply dry out the juices within the meat, and leave the food tough and less tasty. Ideally, the appearance of the quadrillage will be a brown hue that is only slightly darker than the rest of the surface of the meat. If the meat is allowed to remain on the grill until the quadrillage is almost black, there is a good chance the meat is overcooked.