As soon as the weather gets warm, you know you're ready to escape your kitchen and start cooking and grilling outdoors. But if the weather has put a damper on your plans, or you just don't have a place to cook outside, consider a cook-in -- or a night of indoor grilling almost as exciting as cooking over charcoal. These expert tips will help you make your indoor grilling taste as good as if you grilled it in the great outdoors.

The Equipment

Photo by Meredith

Brian Loiacon, executive chef at New York's Acme, recommends using a cast iron grill over an open flame when cooking over charcoal or wood-burning fire won't cut it. Of course, you won't have all the smoky flavors that wood or coal "bless your food with," as Loiacon said, but you'll get close.

The Heat

"Your most important tool for indoor grilling is the same as it is for outdoor grilling: Heat," said Loiacon. "There are many different temperatures and levels of grill heat other than 'not hot enough' and 'on fire'. Use them!" Don't throw your ingredients in a cold pan! "The biggest mistake people make with grilling is not creating a balanced heat source," Loiacon said.

In other words, heat your grill pan to a steady, hot temperature before you use it.

The Technique

When you're grilling indoors, especially on a cast iron grill, you're not going to get the same grill marks as you would on an outdoor grill, but a grill mark is no guarantee of greatness. Beware of over grilling or even burning your food to get that charred appearance.

Photo by Nicolette

Recipe pictured: Sesame Grilled Salmon

"Grill marks do not have to be black to be proper grill marks," Loiacon said. "Take a thick piece of salmon for example. A lovely dark golden brown grill mark will be fine, then you can finish it in the oven, which will give you a much better flavor, rather than finishing the whole fish on the grill, which will yield an extremely scorched and dry fish." Put that cast iron grill pan in an oven at 400 degrees F for just a few minutes to finish it off.

The Ingredients

"If I grill in my apartment, I try to make something that has a fast cooking time to avoid needing to use the oven," Loaicon said. He recommends shrimp, calamari, and "any meats that aren't a lot of work" like thinly sliced short ribs for your indoor grill. You can also successfully grill vegetables (or fruit, like grilled avocado!) and thinner cuts of steak indoors, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers, of course.

To add some flavor, Loaicon recommends marinating any seafood in basil, mint, and olive oil, and adding pinch of spicy chili -- Calabrian chilies are his favorite. For red meat, he suggests just seasoning the meat with salt and pepper and finishing with beef jus or Hoisen sauce, you can also mix the two for even more flavor.

The timing

When you're grilling at medium-high heat, you'll want to carefully watch your timing. Loaicon's perfect cook times for his preferred indoor proteins:

  • Shrimp:1 to 1.5 minutes and let rest to cook through.
  • Calamari: 45 seconds or until it achieves a medium/golden brown grill mark.
  • Grilled short rib (thin slices) : 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through and caramelizing.

Recipes to Try

Photo by lutzflcat
Photo by Nicolette
Photo by Nanda

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