Last summer my dad must have been feeling sorry for me, living in a tiny apartment in a big city with no patio or yard to accommodate a grill. I grew up in Mississippi, where warm nights are plentiful and weeknight grilling is a tradition.
As consolation, one day he mailed me an electric indoor grill, and I was surprised to find it a great substitute for the real thing (minus the mosquitoes, even). The trick to using indoor grilling tools is knowing what they cook well and what they don’t, so I grabbed our Test Kitchen cooks, Sandra Wu and Melissa Stewart, for some tips on bringing spring and summer fare inside.
“The most successful recipes to do indoors would be the ones that don’t cook that long,” says Sandra. “Think direct-heat, quick cooking, such as steaks, burgers, chicken breasts and veggies.”
“You wouldn’t be able to do any indirect grilling, like grill-roasting,” adds Melissa. “Thinner items like skirt or flank steak or chicken paillards are perfect.”
“You can get grill marks pretty nicely on an indoor grill, but you won’t get the smoky flavor,” says Sandra. “If you wanted the smoky flavor you could use a smoking gun after cooking the food, or smoked sea salt.”
“Or a little liquid smoke,” Melissa chimes in.
“Another option if people don’t want to use an indoor grill is to use a grill pan,” says Sandra. “Preheat it and make sure it gets hot before you put the food on. Also, make sure the pan is lightly greased and well seasoned. It helps if your protein or vegetables are lightly oiled so they don’t stick.”
Melissa adds, “Using a panini maker is great because it essentially is an indoor grill. We’ll cook the proteins on that, too, so you can close it. The cook times would change because you have heat coming from both sides.”
“From what we’ve tested for electric grills, those suckers let out some heat!” says Melissa. “It got hot in here, but you’re never going to get that same heat as you would on an outdoor grill. You have to be willing to walk away and give the food some time to cook.”
Plug it in or heat it up, and try out some great indoor grilling recipes:
- Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak
- Bone-in Rib-Eye Steaks
- Grilled Flat-Iron Steaks, Semolina Onion Rings & Creamy Truffled Spinach
- Grilled Chicken with Arugula Pesto
- Creamy Polenta with Grilled Vegetables
- Chicken Panini with Gruyere, Tarragon and Artichoke Spread
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.