Firing up the grill is a great way to prepare healthy food and to add that smoky taste that only an open flame can provide. It's also a great way to entertain, with backyard barbecues being a three-season staple in the United States. Guests crack open a cold one and hang out around the grill, the aromas wafting through the air making the neighbors drool. Those are good times for sure, but what about the apartment dwellers of the world? Some apartment complexes may have a community area and grill, but good luck getting flame time on a nice summer evening. And many city dwellers don't have access at all. In this case, the only option may be the indoor grill. While it's no replacement for the real thing, it provides a decent alternative. Here are five tips for grilling indoors.
One of the things you'll miss most of all when you move your grilled meal indoors is that great smoky flavor you get from an open flame. You can't completely replace that taste, but using liquid smoke is a great way to trick your senses into thinking that your steak was cooked over natural wood coals. You can find liquid smoke alongside the other marinades and barbecue sauces in the grocery store. The great thing about liquid smoke is that it's actually manufactured from the burning of popular barbecuing woods like mesquite and apple wood. Add just a small amount of liquid smoke to any marinade to provide the outdoor barbecue flavor you love.
Most indoor grills have nonstick surfaces just like your stovetop pots and pans. And just as with your stovetop cookware, the surface of your indoor grill should be protected and treated the same way. Proper care of a nonstick surface usually includes not using harsh abrasive scrub sponges to clean it or soaking it in water for any extended period of time. It's also not a good idea to put your nonstick grill surface in a dishwasher. While these things will help protect the surface, it can all be undone if you use metal utensils when cooking. Using a metal spatula, even to simply turn a piece of chicken, will chip away your nonstick surface quickly. The same goes for tongs or grilling forks. Use only nonmetal utensils, ideally wood, although there are all kinds of high-heat plastic utensils available for use on your indoor grill.
One of the tricks to learning how to get the most out of your indoor grill is to expand your menu. You can always cook steaks, chicken and other grilled meats, but your indoor grill has the advantage of being able to cook hot pressed sandwiches as well. A hot Italian cheese panini is really just a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. A skilled chef may attempt to cook one over the open flame of an outdoor barbecue, but chances are, you'd end up with a big cheesy mess. The indoor grill is perfect for making these popular restaurant sandwiches for a fraction of the cost. Using thick flatbreads, some light olive oil spray and lean meats is a good option for making a healthy grilled panini.
Indoor grilling provides the home chef with an opportunity to drain off a great deal of the fat that you'd get by sautéing or pan frying your meats. Most indoor grills have a surface that's set at an angle. This design allows the fats from your grilled beef and chicken to run off and away from the meat into a drip pan. Make sure that during cleanup you always empty and wash the drip pan. And if you want to waste not, save the flavorful fat drippings to add to a homemade soup stocks for an extra punch of taste.
Grilling vegetables on your indoor unit is a great way to up the health factor of your grilled dishes. Grilled veggies on outdoor grills are common, but the high heats of the open flame can make it difficult to control your temperature, and tender vegetables like asparagus can char and overcook easily. The advantage of an indoor grill when cooking vegetables is that the heat is much easier to control, so you don't have variables like hot spots or tall flames that can ruin your dish. The end result is a nice, even cooking job, complete with the grill marks that prove it wasn't steamed or sautéed. You can even use some liquid smoke (see number five) to get the most flavor out of your indoor grilled veggies.
Barbecue season is upon us in all its mouth-watering glory. What's your BBQ IQ? Find out with this quiz.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Indoor Grill vs. Outdoor Grill." howstuffworks.com, 2009. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/fresh-ideas/easy-dinner-ideas/grilling-tips6.htm
- Magee, Elaine. "Indoor Grilling: Tips and Recipes." webmd.com, 2009. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/indoor-grilling-tips-and-recipes
- "The Pros and Cons of Indoor Grilling." firepit-and-grilling-guru.com, 2009. http://www.firepit-and-grilling-guru.com/indoor-grilling.html
- "What is Liquid Smoke?" wisegeek.com, 2009. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-liquid-smoke.htm