Indoor Grilling 101

How-To, Learn, Primers

When the weather is cool or city living keeps you inside, indoor grilling can be a great substitute for the real, smoky thing. The secret? Knowing which foods are ideal for each method. Steaks, chops, fish fillets and thin cuts of meat cook best on a stovetop grill pan or indoor electric grill, while larger cuts and whole chickens taste best when grilled on an outdoor barbecue, where you can use indirect, ambient heat to cook the food evenly.


We asked our Test Kitchen cooks Sandra and Melissa for their best tips on bringing spring and summer fare inside. Read on and get inspired to grill — no matter where you do it.


Think fast. According to Sandra and Melissa, foods that cook quickly over direct-heat are best indoors, such as steaks, burgers, chicken breasts and veggies. Thin items like skirt or flank steak are perfect, too. Just save the indirect grilling (like grill-roasting) for your outdoor grill.


Create smoke. Although you can get nice grill marks on an indoor grill, you won’t get the smoky flav0r that a traditional grill lends foods. If it’s smoke you’re looking for, try using a smoking gun after cooking the food, or finish it with liquid smoke or a pinch of smoked sea salt. (Check out the video below to see how Top Chef‘s Richard Blais makes his Smoking Gun Burger using both liquid smoke and the smoking gun.)


Consider all options. If you don’t want to use an indoor electric grill, try a grill pan. Preheat it until it’s nice and hot before you add the food, and make sure it’s lightly greased and well seasoned. It helps if your protein or vegetables are lightly oiled, too, so they don’t stick. Using a panini maker can also work — it’s essentially an indoor grill. Melissa and Sandra like to cook the proteins on the machine because it can close, applying heat on both sides of the food. Just keep in mind that the cooking times will vary between methods.


Take your time. Though electric grills do give off a good amount of heat, you’re never going to get the heat you would on an outdoor grill. Be willing to walk away and give the food some time to cook.



Featured recipe: Quick Kabob Pita Sandwiches with Tzatziki


2 comments about “Indoor Grilling 101

  1. tabs

    can you comment on how, if at possible you can use liquid smoke to achieve smoky flavor. i am not sure when to add it maximize flavor without being over powering. thank you in advance.

  2. Olivia Ware

    Hi tabs, you can definitely use liquid smoke to achieve a smoky flavor! I’d recommend adding it to dips, spreads, cooking liquids (for proteins, beans, and soups) and marinades or sauces. Start with just a few drops, as it can be quite potent.


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