Why (and How) You Should Use the Broiler

If you don’t know how to use the broiler, you are not alone. Most modern cooks have completely forgotten about this cooking method. But here’s the thing: it’s fast, it’s easy, it’s simple. So why aren’t you using the broiler?

First Thing’s First: What Is the Broiler?

The broiler is a heating element in your oven that cooks food by exposing it to very high heat. Think of it as a grill in reverse (actually, in most restaurants, the chefs call the grill the “broil station”).

On a grill, the food sits on top of the direct heat provided by the lit charcoals or gas. When broiling, the food also cooks via direct heat except it cooks directly underneath the heat source. On older ovens, the broiler drawer is on the bottom of the oven. In most new ovens, the broiler element is inside the oven door on the very top of the oven.

Okay…So Why Exactly Should I Use the Broiler?

The greatest part about the broiler is how easy it is to use. Most oven broilers have two broil settings: ON and OFF. It’s as simple as that! While more modern ovens have a HI and LOW setting, you really don’t need to worry about the temperature when you’re broiling. It’s hot, and it will cook your food quickly.

So you turn it on, adjust the oven rack so your food is sitting about three- or four-inches underneath that heating element, and let it preheat. Five to ten minutes is all you need to preheat the broiler. While I wait, I like to slide my cooking pan underneath the element so it preheats, too.

Great! Um…What Should I Cook With the Broiler?

Broiling is most commonly used to melt cheese on top of casserole dishes to achieve that golden brown look, but it can also be used to cook whole fish and sear steak. Really, you can cook anything in the broiler that you would cook on the grill. Okay, well, maybe not anything – I don’t think a whole chicken would fare very well! So, as a rule, let’s stick to relatively thin ingredients that you wouldn’t cook over indirect heat on a grill.

Really, you can cook anything in the broiler that you would cook on the grill. Okay, well, maybe not anything – I don’t think a whole chicken would fare very well! So, as a rule, let’s stick to relatively thin ingredients that you wouldn’t cook over indirect heat on a grill.

From pork chops to the perfect steak, the broiler can handle it as well as the grill. Just keep a close eye on the cooking time to prevent your food from burning. My favorite thing to broil is a roasted vegetables. The high heat gives the vegetables a nice char without overcooking them.

Sounds Easy! So What Kind of Pans Should I Use?

#carribeanrocklobster tail for supper tonite. These things are ugly raw #foodprep #broilerpan

A post shared by Ryan. (@fredmillwright) on

There are special broiling pans that feature a slotted sheet which fits into a bottom tray. These pans work great at circulating heat and catching any drippings, but you can use just about any type of pan so long as it’s not glass (not even Pyrex). The high temperature can cause these pans to shatter. Nonstick cookware is also known to release dangerous chemicals when exposed to temperatures above 500 degrees F, so those should be avoided, too.

Cast iron pans work really well in the broiler for searing meat, and metal baking sheets lined with aluminum foil are great for vegetables. When cooking fish, I find it’s best to use those special broiler pans for heat circulation.

I’m Sold. Where Should I Get Started?

Get started with your favorite foods! Start easy by browning the top of this delicious Mediterranean Frittata. If you’re ready for next level, try out these Broiled Gulf Oysters in a Garlic Butter Herb Gratin or this Thai Marinated Flank Steak

No matter what you choose, the cooking will be easy and the cleanup will be a breeze. So what do you have to lose? Let’s fire up the broiler and check it out!

Watch: How to Make Buffalo Chicken French Breads (With the Broiler!)