Title:
Grill rack and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Food products are characterized by grill markings, wherein the grill markings are generated by a simulated grilling process. The simulated grilling process includes maintaining a food item on a grill rack, the grill rack including a plurality of substantially solid rods, each of the plurality of rods being substantially parallel to, and laterally spaced from, an adjacent rod to define a plurality of spaces between the plurality of rods. The plurality of rods each define a substantially flat top surface and include a non-stick coating over the substantially flat top surfaces. The process also includes disposing the food product as maintained on the plurality of rods in a convection oven. The oven is convectively heated at or above about 400 degrees F such that the plurality of rods impart the grill markings on the food product, the grill markings being substantially darker than surrounding portions of the food item.



Inventors:
Elwell, Eric S. (Shepherdsville, KY, US)
Lian Ang, Esther Chui (Louisville, KY, US)
Barron, Lonita (New Albany, IN, US)
Edwards, Mauriee E. (Louisville, KY, US)
Harlamert, Michael E. (Louisville, KY, US)
Murray, John C. (Louisville, KY, US)
Shuter, Paul (Louisville, KY, US)
Application Number:
11/366061
Publication Date:
09/06/2007
Filing Date:
03/02/2006
Assignee:
KFC CORPORATION
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24C15/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SAVANI, AVINASH A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STITES & HARBISON, PLLC (400 W MARKET ST SUITE 1800, LOUISVILLE, KY, 40202-3352, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A grill comprising: a border defining a bottom surface and forming an outer perimeter and an interior; a plurality of cross members secured to the border, each of the plurality of cross members: being solid, substantially parallel, and laterally spaced from an adjacent cross member, defining a bottom surface and a substantially planar top surface, protruding above the border, and spanning the interior of the border in a first direction; and a plurality of support members secured to the border, each of the plurality of support members: being solid, substantially parallel, and laterally spaced from an adjacent support member, defining a bottom surface and a top surface, and spanning the interior of the border in a second direction to intersect with at least one of the plurality of cross members; wherein the grill is formed substantially continuously, as a single piece, of a substantially thermally conductive material, and such that the bottom surface of the border, the bottom surface of the plurality of cross members, and the bottom surface of the plurality of support members are substantially coplanar.

2. The grill of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of cross members defines a quadrilateral shape in transverse cross section.

3. The grill of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of cross members tapers in width from the bottom surface of each of the plurality of cross members to the top surface of each of the plurality of cross members.

4. The grill of claim 1, wherein the border, the plurality of cross members, and the plurality of support members are formed of aluminum alloy.

5. The grill of claim 1 further comprising: a coating formed over the top surface of each of the plurality of cross members, the coating including a fluoropolymer-based coating.

6. The grill of claim 1, wherein the border comprises: a first side member; a second side member extending substantially parallel to and opposed to the first side member; a first end member extending orthogonally to and between the first and second side members; and a second end member extending substantially parallel to and opposed to the first end member; wherein the first direction at which the plurality of cross members span the interior of the border is disposed at an angle of about 45 degrees relative to each of the first and second side members.

7. The grill of claim 6, wherein each of the plurality of cross members extends orthogonally relative to each of the plurality of support members.

8. A method of simulated grilling in an oven comprising: supporting a food item on a rack including a plurality of bars, each of the plurality of bars extending substantially parallel to, and laterally spaced from, an adjacent bar and defining a substantially flat top surface, wherein the food item is supported on the top surfaces of the plurality of bars; disposing the rack and the food item in a convection oven; and convectively heating the oven at or above about 400 degrees F. to impart darkened grill markings on the food item with the rack, wherein the darkened grill markings are imparted free of actual grilling and substantially correspond to lines of contact between the plurality of bars and the food item.

9. The method of claim 8, further comprising: removing the food item from the rack after convectively heating the rack with the rack being substantially free of portions of the food item sticking to the rack.

10. The method of claim 8, wherein the food item comprises meat including muscle fiber, and skin covering the muscle fiber, and further wherein the method further comprises: imparting the darkened grill markings into the skin and the muscle fiber.

11. The method of claim 8, wherein the food item includes lipids and the method further comprises: releasing the lipids from the food item; and substantially preventing the released lipids from collecting on the top surfaces of the plurality of bars.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising: engendering a smoke flavor in the food item by generating smoke from the released lipids.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein engendering a smoke flavor in the food item is generated entirely by the released lipids such that the method is characterized by the absence of chemical or artificially introduced smoke flavoring.

14. The method of claim 8, wherein imparting the darkened grill markings is characterized by the absence of frying the food item.

15. The method of claim 8, including convectively heating the rack to a temperature where protein charring is initiated.

16. The method of claim 8, wherein imparting the darkened grill markings is characterized by the food item being free of artificially introduced coloring agents.

17. A food product characterized by grill markings, wherein the grill markings are generated by a simulated grilling process including: maintaining a food product on a grill rack including a plurality of substantially solid rods, each of the plurality of rods being substantially parallel and laterally spaced from an adjacent rod and defining a substantially flat top surface, wherein each of the rods includes a non-stick coating over the top surfaces of the rods; disposing the food product as maintained on the plurality of rods in a convection oven; convectively heating the oven at or above about 400 degrees F such that the plurality of rods impart the grill markings on the food product, the grill markings being substantially darker than surrounding portions of the food product.

18. The food item of claim 17, wherein the food item is chicken.

19. A grill comprising: a frame defining a bottom surface and forming a substantially rectangular outer perimeter and an interior, the frame including a first side member, a second side member opposing the first side member, a first end member, and a second end member opposing the first end member; a plurality of rods secured to the frame, each of the plurality of rods: being solid, substantially parallel, and laterally spaced from an adjacent rod, defining a bottom surface and a substantially planar top surface, protruding above the border, and spanning the interior of the border; and a first support member and a second member, each of the support members: being solid, substantially parallel, and laterally spaced from an adjacent support member, defining a bottom surface and a top surface, residing below the top surfaces of the plurality of rods, intersecting with at least one of the plurality of rods, wherein the first support member extends from the first end member of the frame to the first side member of the frame across the interior of the border and the second support member extends from the second side member of the frame to the second end member of the frame across the interior of the border; wherein the grill is formed substantially continuously, as a single piece, of a substantially thermally conductive material.

20. The grill of claim 19, wherein each of the plurality of rods includes a protective, non-stick coating disposed over the top surfaces of each of the plurality of rods.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

People around the world are familiar with the taste of flame-grilled foods. The smokey flavor, the texture, and the grill markings, among other attributes, contribute to a person's perception that food has been grilled on an open flame or charcoal. For example, meat products like chicken or steak are often associated with grilled preparation. However, at times it can be less desirable to actually grill on an open flame or charcoal. Alternative cooking methods, such as convective baking, for example, are often selected over open-flame or charcoal grilling as easier, less expensive, safer, or for other reasons.

To accomplish the appearance, taste, and/or texture of grilling, various chemical coloring agents and/or chemical smoke additives have been used in combination with baking processes in an effort to reproduce the attributes of grilled foods. Unfortunately, the taste, texture, and/or appearance achieved with such techniques are readily discernible from those otherwise associated with grilled foods.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention relates to food products characterized by grill markings, wherein the grill markings are generated by a simulated grilling process. The simulated grilling process includes maintaining a food item on a grill rack, the grill rack including a plurality of substantially solid rods, each of the plurality of rods being substantially parallel and laterally spaced from an adjacent rod to define a plurality of spaces between the plurality of rods. The plurality of rods each defines a substantially flat top surface with a non-stick coating over the top surfaces. The process also includes disposing the food product as maintained on the plurality of rods in a convection oven. The oven is convectively heated at or above about 400 degrees F. such that the plurality of rods impart the grill markings on the food product, the grill markings being substantially darker than surrounding portions of the food item.

While some aspects of the invention have been described above, other related products and methods are also disclosed and provide additional advantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the invention will be described with respect to the figures, in which like reference numerals denote like elements, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a grill, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a top view of the grill of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the grill of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged cross-sectional view along line 4-4 of FIG. 2, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged cross-sectional view along line 5-5 of FIG. 2, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged cross-sectional view along line 6-6 of FIG. 2, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a side view of the grill of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a front view of the grill of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a diagram of a method using the grill of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 10-12 are illustrative of a method of baking, according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 13 is a top view of a grilled food item, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. In this regard, directional terminology, such as “top,” “bottom,” “front,” “back,” “leading,” “trailing,” etc., is used with reference to the orientation of the Figure(s) being described. Because components of embodiments of the present invention can be positioned in a number of different orientations, the directional terminology is used for purposes of illustration and is in no way limiting. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural or logical changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

For reference, actual grilling, or natural grilling, is a dry-heat cooking method whereby heat is radiated from below and transferred to a metal grid supporting food to be grilled. Actual grilling is often accomplished over an open flame and/or charcoal heat source and at a relatively high temperature, with food in relatively close proximity to the heat source. Embodiments of the present invention generally address methods of simulated grilling using convection-type ovens as opposed to the traditional radiant heat cooking associated with open flame and/or charcoal heating, for example.

FIG. 1 shows a grill 20, which is otherwise described as a rack, a grill rack, a cooking utensil, or a baking framework, for example. Generally speaking, the grill 20 includes a border 22, also described as a frame, a racking portion 24, a backing portion 26, and a plurality of legs 28. As will be described in greater detail below, the grill 20 is generally used in a baking operation, or baking process, to simulate open-flame grilling.

FIG. 2 illustrates the grill 20 from a top view. With reference to FIG. 2, the border 22 includes a plurality of frame members, for example a first side member 30, a second side member 32, a first end member 34, and a second end member 36. The border 22 defines an interior 38 centrally located relative to the first and second side members 30, 32, and the first and second end members 34, 36. The border 22 also defines an inner surface 40 (FIG. 3) proximate the interior 38, a top surface 42, a bottom surface 44 (FIG. 3), and a thickness between the top and bottom surfaces 42, 44.

The first and second side members 30, 32 are optionally substantially parallel and laterally opposed to one another. In turn, the first and second end members 34, 36 are also optionally substantially parallel and laterally opposed to one another. The first and second side members 30, 32 extend orthogonally to the first and second end members 34, 36, such that the border 22 defines a substantially rectangular outer profile, if desired. However, it should be noted that other outer profiles are also contemplated, for example circular outer profiles. The border 22 is optionally formed substantially continuously as a single piece. However, separate, connected components are also contemplated. The outer profile of the border 22 defines a width of about 29.5 cm and a length of about 41 cm, for example. In particular, the border 22 is optionally sized and shaped to fit into an industry-standard half-size sheet pan or other pan.

The racking portion 24 includes a plurality of cross members 50, also described as bars, rods, or lattice members. Each of the plurality of cross members 50 is substantially solid and continuously formed with the border 22. The plurality of cross members 50 extend in a first direction D1 to span the interior 38 of the border 22 with each of the plurality of cross members 50 optionally laterally spaced and substantially parallel to an adjacent cross member. Each of the plurality of cross members 50 spans the interior 38 of the border 22 at about 45 degrees, although other angles are contemplated.

FIG. 4 illustrates a portion of a cross-section of the grill 20 along line 4-4 shown in FIG. 2. With reference to FIG. 4, each of the plurality of cross members 50 projects vertically above top surface 42, and is substantially coplanar with the bottom surface 44 of the border 22. For reference, individual features of each of the plurality of cross-members 50 are described in greater detail below with reference to a cross member 50a of the plurality of cross members 50, as each of the plurality of cross members 50 optionally includes substantially similar features to those described in association with the cross member 50a.

For example, the cross member 50a defines a top surface 54 and a bottom surface 56. In turn, all of the plurality of cross members 50 define top surfaces 54 and bottom surfaces 56 substantially similar to the top surface 54 and the bottom surface 56 of the cross member 50a. With such similarity in mind, the cross member 50a also defines a width at the top surface 54, a width at the bottom surface 56, a projection height HP relative to the border 22, and an overall height HO. The cross member 50a also defines a centerline C1, and optionally has rounded top corners 58, 60. In transverse cross-section, the cross member 50a is substantially trapezoidal, tapering in width from the bottom surface 56 to the top surface 54 at a taper angle α.

Use of such tapering optionally enhances convective heat transfer to the cross member 50a by increasing surface area at the bottom surface 56 while heat transfer from the cross member 50a is directed to, and ultimately from, a smaller surface area at the top surface 54. For example, a smaller surface area at the top surface 54 facilitates simulated grilling by reducing frying effects from trapped lipids or other fats, greases or oils at the top surface 54 and by directing heat to a smaller surface of a food item to be “grilled.” Such frying effects result in markings on the food item that are lighter or otherwise discolored, rather than darker marks traditionally associated with grilling. It is also contemplated that the cross member 50a defines other transverse cross-sections including, for example, square or triangular cross-sections. Additionally, both of the top surface 54 and the bottom surface 56 are substantially planar, though other surface shapes are contemplated, for example pointed or rounded.

Referring again to FIGS. 2 and 3, the backing portion 26 includes a first support member 70 and a second support member 72. The first and second support members 70, 72 are substantially solid and project from the inner surface 40 of the border 22 across the interior 38 of the border 22. Each of the first and second support members 70, 72 is optionally substantially parallel to the other. Additionally, the first and second support members 70, 72 are also laterally spaced from the other. While the plurality of cross members 50 extend in the first direction D1, the first and second support members 70, 72 optionally extend in a second direction D2 across the interior 38 relative to the first direction D1.

The first and second directions D1, D2 are optionally substantially orthogonal, such that the first and second support members 70, 72 extend orthogonally relative to the plurality of cross members 50. However, it is contemplated that the first and second support members 70, 72 and the plurality of cross members 50 define a variety of other angles. By disposing the first and second support members at an angle to the plurality of cross members 50, the grill 20 is provided additional structural support without otherwise using a solid backing. This, in turn, reduces weight as well as a thermal mass of the grill 20 allowing for easier handling, faster heating, and/or faster cooling of the grill 20.

FIG. 5 illustrates a portion of a cross-section of the grill 20 along line 5-5 shown in FIG. 2. In particular, with reference to FIG. 5, a cross-section of the first support member 70 is shown in greater detail. For reference, individual features of each of the first and second support members 70, 72 are described with reference to the first support member 70, as each of the first and second support members 70, 72 optionally include substantially similar features.

In particular, the first support member 70 defines a top surface 76 and a bottom surface 78, a centerline C2, a width WTS at the top surface 76, a width at the bottom surface 78, and an overall height HOC at the centerline C2. The first support member 70 is substantially trapezoidal in transverse cross section, tapering in width from the bottom surface 78 to the top surface 76 at a taper angle β. Use of such tapering optionally enhances overall structural integrity of the grill 20 while reducing overall weight. For example, the bottom surface 78 is sufficiently wide to reduce bending of the grill 20, but tapers to the top surface 76 to reduce a volume of the first support member 70, and therefore overall weight. The top surface 76 is optionally substantially flat, rounded, or angled, for example. By including a non-flat top surface 76, the first support member 70 optionally reduces frying effects such as those referenced above by reducing pooling of greases or other lipids on the top surface 76.

With reference to FIGS. 2, 3, and 5, the first and second support members 70, 72, the plurality of cross members 50, and the border 22 are optionally substantially continuously formed as a single piece. However, separate, connected components are also contemplated. Regardless, the plurality of cross members 50, the support members 70, 72, and the border 22 intersect to define a plurality of spaces 86 through the grill 20. Each of the plurality of spaces 86 defines a length, with lengths of each space varying from space to space. Each of the plurality of spaces 86 defines a width, for example the same width as the other spaces. As shown more clearly in FIG. 3, each of the plurality of spaces 86 optionally has rounded ends 88.

With reference to FIGS. 3 and 5, the bottom surface 78 of the first support member 70 is coplanar with the bottom surface 56 of the cross member 50a. Additionally, the bottom surface 44 of the border 22 is coplanar with the bottom surface 78 of the first support member 70, as well as the bottom surface 56 of the cross member 50a. The second support member 72 and a remainder of the plurality of cross-members 50 also define coplanar bottom surfaces with the bottom surface 44 of the border 22. In this manner, the racking portion 24 and the backing portion 26 are optionally substantially coplanar with the bottom surface 44 of the border 22. In turn, the plurality of cross-members 50 of the racking portion 24 optionally protrude above the border 22 and the backing portion 26, with the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members defining a greater height than the border portion 22 and the backing portion 26.

FIG. 6 shows several intersections between the plurality of cross members 50 and the first support member 70 along the centerline C2 of the first support member 70. In particular, FIG. 6 illustrates a portion of a cross-section of the grill 20 along line 6-6 shown in FIG. 2. With reference to FIG. 6, the cross member 50a and the first support member 70 are optionally fluidly formed, smoothly transitioning into one another. With reference to FIG. 4, the border 22 and the plurality of cross-members 50 are also optionally fluidly formed together, smoothly transitioning into one another. In particular, various intersections between the first and second support members 70, 72, the plurality of cross members 50, and the border 22 include fillets or are otherwise rounded.

With reference to FIG. 3, the plurality of legs 28a-28d are shown. In general terms, each of the plurality legs 28 projects from bottom surface 44 of the border 22. Each of the plurality of legs 28 is substantially continuously formed with the border 22 as a single piece. However, separate, connected pieces are also contemplated. Additionally, each of the plurality of legs 28 is optionally spaced, or inset from the outer perimeter defined by the border potion 22.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate the grill 20 from side and front views, respectively. With reference to FIGS. 7 and 8, the plurality of legs 28, including legs 28a-28d, are optionally substantially similar to the leg 28a, and are described cumulatively in association with the leg 28a. Generally, the leg 28a defines a centerline M, a top end 90 and a bottom end 92. More specifically, when viewed in side profile as shown in FIG. 7, the leg 28a is optionally bell-shaped, with the top end 90 being substantially flat and the bottom end 92 being substantially rounded from the side profile. The leg 28a also defines a height which is optionally selected to support a food item being grilled a desired height above a surface on which the grill 20 is resting. For example, the grill 20 is optionally resting on a pan (not shown), such as an industry-standard half-size sheet pan, for catching lipids or other greases, fats, or oils (sometimes described as renderings) dripping from food items. The height is optionally selected to ensure sufficient heat transfer to the grill 20, or otherwise allow hot air to flow under the grill 20 (and over any optional pan) as desired.

Additionally, where oils, greases, or other lipids collect or otherwise drop onto the surface on which the grill 20 is resting, for example the pan, the height of the leg 28a is optionally selected to reduce or prevent splattering of such substances onto the food item being grilled to reduce discoloration or other undesirable effects. The height of the leg 28a is about 3 cm, for example, with the food item supported at about 3.8 cm above the surface on which the grill 20 is resting, although other dimensions are contemplated. Additionally, in side profile, the top end 90 defines a maximum width of about 3.43 cm, curves toward the bottom end 92 at a radius of about 4.5 cm, and is rounded at the bottom end 92 at a radius of about 0.7 cm. However, other dimensions are also contemplated.

The grill 20 is optionally substantially continuously formed as a single piece, including the border 22, the racking portion 24, the backing portion 26, and the legs 28. The grill 20 is optionally formed of metal, and in particular aluminum, including aluminum alloys such as those amenable to high pressure casting manufacturing techniques. While materials for the grill 20 are selected as desired and in light of a particular application, metals such as aluminum alloys, having a relatively high thermal conductivity, are well-suited for some simulated grilling operations with the grill 20, as will be described in greater detail below.

The grill 20, or portions thereof, optionally includes a non-stick and/or protective coating (not shown). Acceptable coatings include non-stick, oilophobic, and hydrophobic coatings suitable for temperature ranges for simulated grilling, such as fluoropolymer-based coatings. The coating is optionally formed over the plurality of cross members 50 or over a portion of each of the plurality of cross members 50, for example the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members 50 as desired. However, the coating is also optionally formed over an entirety of the grill 20, for example to promote cleanability of the grill 20 and to provide a more uniform coating surface.

With reference to FIG. 9, a method 200 of baking a food item 300 (FIG. 10), also described as a food product, or a plurality of food items 302 (FIG. 10), in a simulated grilling system 350 including an oven 400 (FIG. 12) and a grill 20, is described below. The method 200 optionally includes a food item preparation step 220, a baking step 230, and a post-processing step 240.

By way of background, the food item 300 and/or the plurality of food items 302 optionally includes a variety of different foods. For example, the plurality of food items 302 are optionally protein-based or meats. In particular, each of the plurality of food items 302 is optionally chicken including a skin (not shown) and muscle fiber (not shown) covered by the skin. The plurality of food items 302 optionally include natural lipids, such as fats or oils. Where the plurality of food items 302 are chicken, for example, each of the plurality of food items 302 optionally defines a bone side, or a back side, and a skin side, or a front side.

The food item preparation step 220 includes arranging the plurality of food items 302 on a rack 20a.With reference to FIG. 10, the plurality of food items 302 are brought to a table or other suitable surface and placed on a rack 20a. The rack 20a is optionally substantially similar to the grill 20, but it is also contemplated that other types of grills, trays, and/or other implements are used during the food item preparation step 220. Excess fat, skin, or other identified portions of the plurality of food items 302 are optionally trimmed and/or removed as desired. Where the food item 300 or the plurality of food items 302 includes skin, the skin is optionally smoothed. Such smoothing helps prevent the plurality of food items 302 from drying out during baking and also covers the muscle tissue to enhance visibility and/or impartation of grill markings on the food items 302.

The plurality of food items 302 are spaced out and arranged as desired on the rack 20a with the skin side facing up. Seasoning mix (not shown) is applied over the plurality of food items 302 with any excess seasoning optionally dropping through the rack 20a.

With reference to FIG. 11, the plurality of food items 302 are flipped individually or together. For example, the plurality of food items 302 are optionally flipped by sandwiching the plurality of food items 302 between the grill 20 and the rack 20a and flipping both the grill 20 and the rack 20a. In particular, the grill 20 is optionally placed onto the plurality of food items 302, for example over the meat side 306, to sandwich the plurality of food items 302 between the rack 20a and the grill 20. Rather than the grill 20, another rack, tray, or other implement is optionally used if desired. Regardless, with a sandwiched configuration, the operator grasps the rack 20a and the grill 20 and flips the rack 20a and the grill 20 over so that the plurality of food items 302 are supported on the grill 20, for example on the top surfaces 54 with the skin side down.

The rack 20a is optionally removed from the bone side of the plurality of food items 302 before the seasoning mix (not shown) is optionally applied over the plurality of food items 302 with any excess seasoning dropping through the grill 20, for example through the plurality of spaces 86. While one manner of seasoning is described above, the plurality of food items 302 are seasoned on separate and/or different types of racks, trays, or in other manners as desired.

Following seasoning, the plurality of food items 302 are optionally stored on the grill 20, or otherwise. For example, the plurality of food items 302 are placed in a cooler, covered to prevent drying, and marked with a discard time if desired. The plurality of food items 302 need not be stored and optionally proceed directly to the baking step 230.

With reference to FIG. 12, the baking step 230 includes preparing an oven 400, loading the oven 400 with the plurality of food items 302, baking the plurality of food items 302, and removing the plurality of food items 302 from the oven 400. The oven 400 is optionally a forced convection oven adapted to convectively heat an interior 402 of the oven 400. Use of an oven, such as the oven 400, for simulated grilling is advantageous in many respects. For example, the high thermal conductivity and/or low thermal mass of an embodiment of the grill 20 allow the simulated grilling process to be optionally batch continuous. In other words, grills and food items are optionally added to those already baking in the oven 400 at any time without stopping the baking process. Such batch continuity is advantageous from the standpoint of labor savings. Additionally, by departing from conventional grilling and moving to a simulated grilling process in an oven, environmental impact in restaurant or other cooking area is improved and a more controlled process is facilitated.

Preparing the oven 400 includes bringing the oven to a desired temperature. For example, the temperature is optionally at or above about 400 degrees F. or other appropriate temperature where for example a protein charring process will begin for a particular type of food item. However, it should be understood that other temperatures are also acceptable in embodiments of the method, including embodiments addressing simulated grilling of non-meat food items.

The plurality of food items 302 are optionally taken to the oven 400 on the grill 20 for loading. A plurality of grills maintaining food items are optionally loaded into the oven 400, if desired. Although the plurality of food items 302 are shown supported on top of the grill 20, it should also be understood that the grill 20 is optionally placed on top of the plurality of food items 302 to impart the grill markings, or that the grill 20 is placed below the plurality of food items 302 with a second grill on top of the plurality of food items 302 to impart grill markings on both sides of the plurality of food items 302.

Regardless, the plurality of grills are optionally substantially similar to the grill 20 and a desired number, for example between one and five, or another number, are loaded into the oven 400. In particular, each of the plurality of grills is optionally supported on a pan (not shown) for catching lipids or other greases, oils, or fats dripping from the plurality of food items 302. If desired, a baking sheet liner appropriate for a selected baking temperature is optionally placed in each of the pans to facilitate cleaning of the pans following the baking process. Where the plurality of food items 302 include chicken, for example, the oven 400 is optionally loaded grill-by-grill from top-down. Following loading, the oven 400 is closed and a timer or other alarm is optionally set to alert the operator or others when a baking cycle has ended.

The oven 400 is set to heat the interior 402 of the oven to a temperature at or above about 400 degrees F., at or above about 425 degrees F., at or above about 450 degrees F., at or above about 475 degrees F. or at any range or temperature implied by those specifically identified above, for example between about 425 degrees F. and about 475 degrees F. Each of the plurality of food items 302 is optionally heated through to at least about 165 degrees F. or higher during baking, although other temperatures are also contemplated, to meet food safety or other regulations. Additionally the plurality of food items 302 are baked for between about 20 to about 30 minutes and at or above about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or other appropriate temperature, for example to begin a charring process with the plurality of food items 302. It should also be understood that other times and temperatures are also contemplated.

Baking the plurality of food items 302 includes convectively heating the grill 20 and/or the plurality of food items 302. The border 22, the backing portion 26, and/or the racking portion 24 are convectively heated. For example, the border 22, the backing portion 26, and/or the racking portion 24 are convectively heated to a temperature at or above about 400 degrees F., at or above about 425 degrees F., at or above about 450 degrees F., at or above about 475 degrees F. or at any range or temperature implied by those specifically identified above, for example between about 425 degrees F. and about 475 degrees F.

Heat is also conductively translated from the border 22 and/or the backing portion 26 to the racking portion 24, and in particular the plurality of cross members 50 where the grill 20 is formed of a substantially thermally conductive material, such as an aluminum alloy, for example. Where the plurality cross members 50 of the grill 20 define tapered shapes in transverse cross section, heat is also directed to the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members 50 as the plurality of food items 302 are baked in the oven 400. In particular, the plurality of cross members 50 are optionally tapered such that the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of members 50 define a relatively smaller surface area than the bottom surfaces 56 of the plurality of cross members 50. In this manner, the bottom surfaces 56 are able to draw convective heat from the oven across a wider surface area, while the top surfaces 54 have a smaller surface area, or lines of contact with the plurality of food items 302, allowing the top surfaces 54 to effectively form realistic looking grill markings 310 in the plurality of food items 302.

During the baking step 230, convective heating or baking of the grill 20 results in simulated grilling. For example, with reference to FIG. 13, the food item 300 is characterized by grill markings 310. The grill markings 310, also described as grill lines, correspond to lines of contact between the food item 300 and the plurality of cross members 50. Regardless, the grill markings 310 are imparted across the food item 300 with light areas 320 interspersed between the grill markings 310.

During simulated grilling, the plurality of food items 302 optionally release lipids, including fats, waxes, and/or oils otherwise associated with the plurality of food items 302. For example, with chicken, fat, oils, and “juices” of the chicken liquefy and/or drip from the chicken. As lipids associated with the plurality of food items 302 become liquefied and/or are released from the plurality of food items 302, the lipids drip from the plurality of food items 302 between the plurality of cross members 50, through the plurality of spaces 86, and through the grill 20.

The grill 20 is optionally adapted such that the lipids do not collect or otherwise pool on portions of the grill 20. For example, the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members 50 are optionally substantially flat to prevent pooling of the lipids. In turn, the plurality of spaces 86 also allow the lipids to pass through the grill 20. Additionally, the tapered top surfaces of the first and second support member 70, 72 also facilitate prevention of lipid pooling. As a result, rather than the plurality of food items 302 being fried in their own greases, or otherwise fried with their own lipids, the plurality of food items 302 are instead “grilled” on the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members 50 to impart the grill markings 310.

For example, where the plurality of food items 302 are otherwise fried with lipids on the top surfaces of the plurality of cross members 50, lines of contact between the plurality of cross members 50 and the plurality of food items 302 are substantially lighter, rather than darker, than remaining portions of the plurality of food items 302. If the plurality of food items 302 are fried, rather than grilled, on the plurality of cross members 50, an opposite effect to that desired sometimes results, with lighter, rather than darker markings imparted on the plurality of food items 302.

As the lipids drip over and through the grill 20, they optionally drop onto heating elements of the oven 400, other hot surfaces in the oven 400, over hot surfaces of the grill 20, and/or are carried or otherwise distributed by air currents to other hot surfaces. If the lipids contact sufficiently hot surfaces they are vaporized, or flashed, upon reaching a smoke point, for example, of the lipids. This, in turn, creates smoke, which optionally engenders a smoke flavor in the plurality of food items 302. It should also be noted that the oven 400 is optionally vented to reduce or otherwise control smoke in the oven 400 if desired. As referenced above, the grill 20 is optionally placed on a sheet pan or other pan (not shown) or surface for collecting lipids dripping from the plurality of food items 302, for example.

From the above, it should be understood that the simulated grilling effect is optionally accomplished with or without any artificial coloring agents, such as cocoa butter dextrose paste, for example, and optionally accomplished with or without chemical smoke flavoring or external smoking devices, such as devices known by those of ordinary skill in the art. By removing the use of artificial smoking and/or coloring agents or devices, a more realistic grilled taste and appearance are realized, for example.

The post-processing step 240 includes removing the plurality of food items 302 from the oven, storing the plurality of food items 302, and/or presenting the plurality of food items 302 to a consumer. The operator optionally removes the grill 20 or plurality of grills with associated pans (not shown) from the oven 400. If desired, the operator also uses a rack handle 410 to grasp and remove the grill 20 or plurality of grills, as well as any associated pans, from the oven 400.

Although the plurality of food items 302 are then optionally flipped onto a separate rack, it should also be understood that other methods, including leaving the plurality of food items on the grill 20 until holding, packaging, or distributing the plurality of food items 302 to a consumer, for example, are also contemplated. Regardless, the non-stick coating optionally operates to allow removal of the plurality of food items 302 without sticking and allows relatively easy clean up following simulated grilling, even at relatively high temperatures, for example at or above 400 degrees F. where the plurality of food items 302 or associated lipids might otherwise become securely adhered to the grill 20.

Where flipped, an empty rack (not shown) is placed on top of the plurality of food items 302 to sandwich them between the grill 20 and the rack after removal from the oven 400. The rack is optionally substantially similar to the rack 20a, the grill 20, or another baking implement as desired. The operator flips the plurality of food items 302 onto the rack. Where the grill 20 includes the coating having non-stick properties, the plurality of food items 302 are flipped and release from the grill 20 without substantial portions of the plurality of food items sticking, or remaining adhered to the grill 20.

The grill 20 is then allowed to cool, used again in another the food item preparation step 220, and/or used again in another baking step 230 as desired. If any of the plurality of food items 302 has moved, the operator rearranges the plurality of food items 302 on the rack as desired, using tongs (not shown), for example. The plurality of food items 302 are optionally put into a storage area, for example a moist upright cabinet (not shown), and held for a period of time before packaging or serving to a consumer. The grill 20 is then optionally cleaned. For example, where the grill 20 includes the optional protective and/or non-stick coating, cleaning the grill 20 is facilitated by the coating.

In light of the above, the grill 20, the simulated grilling system, and/or the method of simulated grilling optionally achieve many advantages. For example, frying, as opposed to grilling the food item 300 is possible. In particular, the grill 20 is adapted to prevent pooling of lipids, sometimes termed renderings, on the food item 300, which may otherwise interfere with more realistic grill markings 310 and create a greasy product. Additionally, the food item 300 is removable from the grill 20, for example by flipping the grill 20 or otherwise removing the food item 300 from the grill, without the food item 300 sticking to the grill 20. Coplanar back surfaces of the grill 20 increase surface area for forced-convection heating.

The highly thermally conductive and unitary structure of the grill 20 also facilitates the top surfaces 54 of the plurality of cross members 50 being at a high enough temperature to impart the grill marking on the food item 300. Additionally, the grill 20 allows lipids to be flashed to create smoke in the oven 400 to create a smoke flavor in the food item 300. In particular, the grill markings 310 and smoke flavoring are realizable in the absence of artificially introduced flavoring or coloring agents or devices. As another example, by placing the plurality of cross members 50 at about a 45 degree angle to the border 22 the plurality of food items 302 are optionally placed on the grill 20 in a variety of configurations while still imparting an otherwise random, realistic orientation of the grill markings 310 on the food item 300.

Although the invention has been described with respect to particular embodiments, such embodiments are for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed to limit the invention. Various alternatives and changes will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. For example, although disclosed above as being formed in a particular shape or of a particular size, other suitable shapes and sizes are also contemplated. Other modifications within the scope of the invention and its various embodiments will be apparent to those of ordinary skill.