One of the most infrequently and improperly utilized functions of home cooking appliances is an oven’s broil feature. A broiler is very similar to a grill, except the heating mechanisms are on top instead of on the bottom. Use a broiler as an upside-down grill. It directly exposes your food to intense heat, which is ideal for quickly cooking thin cuts of meat, searing vegetables, and crisping up baked goods. Perfect for giving your food a delightful charred or glazed finish, broiling is often underutilized because it can simultaneously scorch and under cook food when employed by an inexperienced cook. When used correctly though, your broiler can become one of the most useful, go-to cooking tools in your kitchen.
How to Use a Broiler
Start by choosing which position your cooking rack will be in. You should generally use one of the top two rack positions, somewhere between three to five inches from the broiler heating element. If you decide to use the top rack, keep an eagle eye on the food, as it can go from browned to scorched in a matter of seconds. Middle rack positions are more optimal for items like bone-in chicken or thick steaks. Unlike your oven’s bake settings, most broilers only have two settings: on or off. Turn on your broiler for about five minutes before cooking to give the unit time to build up heat, much like starting a grill and lowering the lid. Gas broilers tend to run hotter than electric units, getting up to around 600°, which is the industry standard. Electric units run a bit cooler and distribute heat more evenly though. Most professional or experienced chefs prefer to use gas broilers though because exposing food to direct flames instead of electrical heat gives it a unique “burnt” flavor that many cooks try to achieve on purpose.
When you set food under the broiler’s intense direct heat, timing is critical. Most foods will be done in 5-10 minutes since you’re only cooking the outer surface of the food. Turn on the internal light inside your oven and keep a close watch on your food as it broils, flipping it over when necessary to cook both sides. If your food isn’t done cooking after about ten minutes, use your oven’s standard bake feature to finish it, or vice versa. You can cook food in the oven using the normal bake function and then run it under the broiler at the very end to give it a nice crust or sear on the outside.
Many people say to keep your oven’s door partially open or ajar while broiling to let out any excess heat or steam, but there’s a problem with this practice that most people outside of the appliance industry don’t know or understand. It is a good idea to partially open the oven door occasionally to let out the excess steam, but leaving it open the whole time can melt the knobs that control your stovetop or make them malfunction. Basically, you want to keep a sharp eye on your dishes when broiling so that they won’t get burnt, and to ensure the best possible results. So dust off that broil knob or button and give it a try for once. You may find it to be one of the most useful cooking tools you never knew about or considered using.