How to Get That Outdoor Flavor From Your Indoor Grill
It's grilling season, but you live in an apartment, lack an outdoor grill, or are stuck indoors staring at the rain. Nothing but a thick, smoked hunk of tender, succulent meat will sate your desires. Your primal cravings for that delicious sear and smoky flavor are taking over. So, what's a grillmaster to do? You can still get that big grill taste indoors by following our sneaky tips — no need suffer just because you can't fire up the grill.
Get the Right Tools for Indoor Grilling
While you don't need all these appliances, having one or two helps grease the wheels of your indoor grilling.
A Stovetop Smoker: A stovetop smoker will make your stove into a barbecue station, producing succulent ribs, chicken, fish and pork in under an hour. Try one like Cameron's Stovetop Smoker, an easy-to-use option consisting of a roasting pan, rack, and lid.
A Cast-Iron Grill Pan or Griddle: If you're grilling cuts of meat like steaks or pork chops or fish steaks indoors, it's that flavor-locking sear you need. Invest in a cast-iron or other heavy grill pan and you'll be ready to brown until you get appetizing-looking sear marks. A large griddle that fits over two stovetop burners is ideal for cooking a number of steaks or chops at once, or grilling veggies or other foods alongside your mains.
An Electric Grill: Neat, convenient, indoor electric grills are extremely handy and can produce excellent results for many favorite grilled foods like burgers, steaks, fish, veggies and more. Are you looking to grill small cuts of meat Japanese or Korean-style, like microbrisket, pork belly, or bulgogi? Try placing a nonstick grill pan on a small indoor grill like the one by Zojirushi; this can allow perfect control of your marinated meat so you don't burn anything.
A Grill Basket: Several grilling accessories can give you the ability to char veggies and other items over an open stovetop flame. Try placing your food on a mesh grill mat on top of a metal stovetop grilling rack or inside a grill basket.
Source The Perfect Ingredients for Smoky Flavor
The flavor of grilled foods comes from more than the gas or charcoal's infusion of smoky scents. In fact, you can replicate or enhance the flavor of grilled, smoked, or charred foods quite easily with a few ingredients you may have on hand right now.
Wood chips are going to be your best friend for creating big grilling flavors if you're using a roasting pan and rack combo or a stovetop smoker. The type of wood chips you use makes a huge difference in taste, too — they determine the flavor of the smoke.
Consider the strength of the wood, as well as how it burns. Mesquite is a strong flavor, perhaps too strong for indoor smoking. Oak and hickory are too strong for chicken, but great for red meat and pork. Applewood is also too strong for chicken but perfect for pork.
Use a mild-flavored wood like citrus, maple, cherry, cedar, or alder for salmon, which should be cooked low and slow. Veggies should also be smoked with milder woods. Experiment with hickory chips for your ham, bacon, and chicken. Try mesquite wood for your steak, ribs, and brisket.
Soak your wood chips in water for several hours before smoking with them, and remember to open your windows and turn on your exhaust fan unless you want your house to smell hickory-smoked for a week. (Perhaps that's not the worst smell.)
Marinades and Rubs
Your prep is all-important when it comes to getting that outdoor flavor on your indoor grill. Liquid smoke, which is created by the vapors from smoking, is a simple ingredient to add to your meat or veggie protein. Use it as an ingredient in your marinade for foods from burgers to pork chops.
Dry rubs are also essential, from an all-purpose Everything Pork Dry Rub to Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub — and what's wonderful about them is that they don't change the moisture or texture of your food, making it harder to sear. Ingredients like smoked paprika can lend a wonderful grilled essence to your food. But if it's super-moist you're going for, like pulled pork or ribs that fall off the bone, you may prefer a marinade or a wet rub.
If you're looking for that just-grilled flavor, finish your steak with a great sauce that brings back summers past. Whether it's a traditional A-1 steak sauce, a merlot-peppercorn sauce, a chimichurri, or any of our other great steak sauce recipes, the perfect finishing sauce makes you feel like you're really grilling. This finishing whiskey-pineapple glaze is also fantastic to paint your meat like a masterpiece and kick up your indoor grilling a notch.
The Process of Creating Flavor
Even with the best tools, the greatest indoor grill, and a mountain of smoky ingredients, you'll need to orchestrate everything for flavor perfection. That also happens to be quite easy and even a bit fun.
Always warm your pan or grill before placing meats on a surface. If you're smoking with a stovetop smoker or you're smoking in the oven, place the wood chips in the bottom of the roasting pan, place your food on the rack, and cover with an oven-safe lid or a tight seal of foil. Set the smoker on the stovetop over medium heat or in the oven at 225 degrees F to 275 degrees F (110 degrees C to 135 degrees F) and allow it to smoke for the recommended time, and voila! Your meat or veggies are done, and they're even moister than when you grill them outdoors.
You can even smoke cheese and nuts in the smoker, and you can also fill the smoker with water and use it as a steamer too. Or if you're feeling techy, you can grab the reasonably-priced Chefhut Portable Smoke Infuser and get your smoke flavor by infusing your food with smoke from authentic wood chips — but with less mess and no heat.
The most important thing we'll tell you about grilling indoors, other than creating that smoky flavor through various means, is not to overcook the food and always to preheat your grill. Have you seen how hot the grill is when you're having Korean or Japanese barbecue? Always, always heat your surface before you start grilling, and then grill quickly and efficiently.
For veggies like poblano peppers, learn from the best abuelas and char them over an open flame on your stovetop (watch our video here). If you're using an open flame, like on your stovetop, always follow safety precautions, have a smoke detector, turn on your hood exhaust, and open all windows.
You can char tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, corn, and more on a mesh grill mat on top of a metal stovetop grilling rack, or inside a grill basket over your stovetop flame. Getting that charred flavor indoors takes some knowledge and practice, but the flavor is worth it. If you'd prefer not to use your stove's open flame, look to the oft-neglected broiler for delicious veggies with a grilled flavor.