Few Americans can resist a perfectly seared steak or veggie shish kabob fresh off the grill. From the smoky flavor to the delicate char marks, there aren't many cooking methods that can compare to the deliciousness that comes from grilling. However, cooking on a grill can take more effort and planning than you're always available for. Plus, a grill is a huge investment that not everyone is prepared to make.
You don't need to be a grillmaster to enjoy all the smoky flavor that comes from a perfectly grilled filet or vegetable. In fact, you don't even need to own a grill. If you don't own a grill or don't feel like breaking yours out for the year, there are other options to taste that perfect crispy goodness that don't involve having a full cookout in your yard. For the BBQ lovers craving that distinctive grilled flavor, here are 6 ways to "grill" without a grill.
Use a Well-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
One of the simplest ways to achieve the smoky flavor of a grill without using one is to have a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Cast iron pans are ideal for char marks and caramelizing food, providing a distinct texture and flavor that your average skillet can't compare to.
The best cast irons to use when trying to imitate the flavor of a grill are well seasoned ones rather than new ones. If your skillet has a good layer of seasoning, it can offer the depth and flavor that a grill does without the effort or cost of a grill.
Plus, cast iron pans are ideal for cooking with a perfectly even temperature. Once hot, a cast iron skillet retains its heat consistently and evenly, which helps you to make perfectly "grilled" hot dogs, sausages, steak and veggies. To add extra smoky flavor, use liquid smoke or smoked olive oil.
Take Advantage of Your Broiler
Few people realized that there's essentially a grill built into your oven. If you think about it, a broiler is essentially an upside-down grill, with heat being generated from the top rather than the bottom. Since the broiler reaches extremely high temperatures, up to around 550 degrees F, it can take the place of a grill by searing and charring your dish to perfection.
To use the broiler as a grill, set the rack 4 to 8 inches away from the heat source, depending on the recipe. If you're replicating high heat on the grill, keep the rack 4-6 inches away, but if you're making a recipe that involves a low slow cooking method, place the rack more like 8 inches from the heat.
Place your food on a broiler pan and line the pan with foil to make clean-up easier. Keep the oven door slightly open to avoid burning your food and make sure to check on it periodically, since the high temperature of the broiler makes it easy to burn your dish. Use your broiler to grill meat, veggies, fish or whatever other grilled food you're craving, resulting in a tender interior and perfectly crispy outside.
Invest in a Grill Pan
Another option for grilling from the ease and comfort of your kitchen is a grill pan, which has ridges that imitate the cooking grates on a grill. Like a broiler, a grill pan can provide the crispiness of a grilled dish without the effort of actually going outside and grilling it.
This inexpensive alternative works well for quick recipes that require high temperatures and short cook times, but it isn't a good option for low and slow grill recipes like brisket and ribs. Although a grill pan doesn't offer the smokiness that a pellet grill might, it's a great option for when you're craving BBQ but don't have the time or energy for a true cook-out.
Make a DIY Smoker
We're the first to admit that smoking isn't grilling, but it's a close cousin in the BBQ world. If you're craving that dense smoky flavor that comes from smoking meat, you can make your own smoker with a few basic household supplies.
To make one, line a wok or pan with aluminum foil, then place a pile of wood chips on top. Cover the chips with another layer of aluminum foil, and then place a rack across the pan or wok. Cover the rack with foil and poke holes through the top.
Place your DIY smoker on a stovetop burner and set it to high heat. Once you see smoke, place the food you're planning on smoking atop the rack and place another layer of aluminum foil on top, folding the edges tightly around the ridges of the wok or pan. Smoke your food for about a minute, and then remove it from the smoker and cook it normally, on a pan, grill pan or broiler. The smoky flavor will transport you right to a summer cookout.
Use Smoky Seasonings
If none of these options are available to you or you feel like using an easier alternative, you can simply use seasonings that have the smoky flavor you'd get from grilling or smoking. Sprinkle hickory smoked sea salt, smoked paprika, chili powder blended with cocoa powder or other smoky seasonings on your dish. You can also drizzle on smoked olive oil or liquid smoke for extra flavor.
Get a Culinary Torch
If you're a fan of making creme brulee or lemon meringue pie, you may have a torch that you use to get the flavor and texture that makes these desserts so tasty. That same torch is a great way to char your meat or veggies. Cook your dish as normal, and at the end, use your culinary torch to char the top of your food, resulting in a crispy deliciousness that you'd normally only experience at a BBQ.