Grilling season arouses jealousy in anyone living in a condo or apartment. Without outdoor space for a grill, what's a city dweller to do on those perfect warm summer nights that beg for a barbecue?
Fortunately, it is possible to make delicious grilled dishes indoors. One of the greatest grill masters around—Bobby Flay, whose newest cookbook, Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction, is available now—says you can get the taste (if not the scenery) of a genuine backyard cookout right in your kitchen. Just follow his expert advice on the best equipment, utensils, and methods to grill without an actual grill, then invite your friends over for a sweat- and bug-free BBQ.
1. Go for a grill pan
Choose a cast-iron grill pan rather than a Panini press-style or other indoor grill. "Cast iron holds heat extremely well and the ridges give your food great-looking grill marks," Flay says.
2. Invest in the essentials
"My list of grilling utensils is relatively short—you really only need a few items to grill well," Flay says. His must-haves include:
Tongs: to flip steaks, chicken, shellfish, and vegetables
Heavy-duty spatula: to flip burgers and delicate fish fillets
Pastry brushes: to brush oil, glazes, and barbecue sauces
Heavy-duty grill brush: to keep your grill clean
Canola or vegetable oil: These neutral oils are best for grilling since they don't add flavor and have a high smoking point.
3. Prepare properly
The first thing to do before you grill indoors is to pre-season your grill pan if it's not already pre-seasoned. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, rub some canola or vegetable oil liberally over the pan using a clean cloth or paper towel, then place it in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the pan sit in the oven until completely cool.
Whenever you use your indoor grill, oil only your food, not the grill pan. Simply heat the pan over high heat until it begins to smoke; brush your meats, fish, or vegetables with oil and seasonings and then grill according to the recipe.
4. Create professional grill marks
Those cool, restaurant-style crosshatches on grilled meats and veggies are easy to pull off: Place food on the grill pan at a 45-degree angle to the ridges for about 2 to 3 minutes, then pick up each piece, rotate 90 degrees, and place the same side down on the grill pan so the ridges now run at a 45-degree angle in the opposite direction. Continue grilling for another 2 to 3 minutes. When it's time to turn the food, simply flip it over—there's no need to create the marks on the other side since it will be facedown on the plate.
5. Where there's smoke…
To keep smoke levels down, try not to over-oil or over-sauce your food. "Also be sure you do not press down on foods and squeeze juices out. Not only will that dry out your food, but that can also cause foods to burn and produce more smoke," Flay says.
6. Don't play with your food
"One of the biggest mistakes that novice grillers make is trying to turn or flip the food before it's ready, which can cause it to fall apart and cook unevenly," Flay says. And beware of marinating foods for too long. Marinades typically contain an acidic ingredient (vinegar, wine, or citrus juice), which will begin to break down the flesh and make it tough. Be careful not to marinate leaner cuts of meat (such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloin) for more than 2 hours, and marinate fish fillets for only 20 minutes.
7. Fake it ‘til you make it
Flay admits that it can be hard to get that sought-after woodsy, smoky flavor from an indoor grill pan. "Although the most genuine grilling flavor comes from using hardwood charcoal in an outdoor grill, you can buy or make smoky-flavored barbecue sauces, glazes, or spice rubs to add additional flavors that a grill pan can't add," he says.
8. Pick the right fare to grill indoors
The best foods for inside barbecuing are burgers, hot dogs, boneless chicken breasts, steaks, fish fillets, and shrimp. "I'd avoid larger cuts of meats that would need to be covered, like pork shoulders, prime ribs, whole turkeys, or whole chicken," Flay says. Also avoid very fatty meats such as duck breast that can splatter and cause extra smoke.
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9. Take the temperature
The best way to tell when meat is done is to use an inexpensive instant-read thermometer to accurately check the internal temperature, Flay says. The USDA recommends between 150 degrees from medium-rare steaks and lamb chops to 170 degrees for medium-well chicken and turkey breasts.
10. Give it a rest
Flay suggests removing meat from the grill pan when it is about 5 degrees below the desired internal temperature, then loosely tenting it with foil and letting it rest for 5 to 15 minutes before slicing. "This resting period will increase the temperature by about 5 degrees and allow the juices to redistribute, giving you a juicy and moist piece of meat or fish," he explains.