Indoor Grilling – When Outside Just Isn’t an Option

Before I even start, you can’t use your outdoor grill inside, even in your garage. Charcoal and gas grills produce large amounts of carbon monoxide and even small amounts can kill you. I know this might seem obvious to you, but every year a dozen people are killed using an outdoor grill inside. Indoor grilling must be done on a grill or grill pan designed for indoor grilling.

Myths: Having said that, and feeling better about myself, it’s time to dispel some of the myths about indoor grills and indoor grilling. Refer to this blog for more details about indoor grills.

First of all, unless you are using a gas powered (and vented) indoor grill you can not even get close to the flavor of outdoor grilling in an indoor appliance. I don’t care what anyone has told you, it’s just not possible. Second, indoor grills don’t produce safer and healthier foods. While outdoor grills can produce cancer-causing substances if you are not careful, so can indoor grills. Any burning of fat causes these substances to form, so take care no matter how you grill. The last myth that needs to die once and for all is the whole notion that these indoor grilling machines make significant reductions in the amount of fat in foods.

Fat Reducing?: I know that I’ve just made about 50 million people mad but hear me out before you click on that back button. Going straight for the head of the nail let’s look at the claims of the Salton Company’s George Foreman Grill. These contact grills have the words “lean, mean fat reducing” printed right on the top of them.

The disclaimer from Salton says that the grill reduces fat 4 percent more than pan frying. Say we pan fried a hamburger patty that was 20 percent fat. If pan frying reduced the fat by 50 percent then the Foreman Grill would reduce the fat by 52 percent or 4 percent more. Not a big change. When Consumer Reports looked into the situation they found “no significant” difference between pan frying and the Foreman Grill.

If you think about the fact that pan frying is one of the least healthy ways to cook, then you really need to take these claims for what they are, a great way to become one of the biggest selling appliances in the last ten years.

Types of Indoor Grills: Climbing down from the soapbox let’s take a quick look at the types of indoor grills on the market. There are basically two types, the open grill, and the folding contact grill. The open grill is similar in cooking style to an outdoor grill. These electric appliances have a heating element and a grill like cooking surface. While you have to flip foods to cook evenly the experience of grilling is much more authentic and the flavor is closer to the real thing. A good example of this type of grill is the Zojirushi EB-CC15 Indoor Electric Grill. On the other hand, the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4 is basically a panini press which is the origin of all the folding contact grills like the popular Foreman Grill. These have been popular in Europe for decades and are great for making sandwiches. Of course, they are really using the term grill, as in grilled cheese sandwich. Not something you’d make on a full-sized gas grill, but these appliances are versatile.

The advantage of a contact grill is that they cook on both sides simultaneously and require less attention from the cook.

Grill Pans: Relatively inexpensive and readily available, the grill pan is a great option for indoor grilling. The trick is to find one that has a lot of mass to it so that it can sear better and has high ridges. Many grill pans are lightweight and have ridges that fail to lift food away from collecting grease. I strongly recommend the Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan.This is heavy, has high and wide ridges, and will last for years if it is properly cared for.

Indoor Grilling: Now that we have the equipment straightened out let’s look at the actual grilling. Just like outdoor grilling, indoor grilling requires attention from the cook. Don’t walk away from the grill. Remember you are indoors now; all the smoke made from a fire or burning food isn’t going to get carried away on the wind.

To reduce fat and to reduce the smoke generated by your indoor grill trim excess fats from meats. The less fat the less burning, smoke, and of course, the less fat in the meal. Some open grills can let fat drippings get to heating elements. This can cause a fire though the risk is very small. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. I don’t say that because indoor grilling is dangerous. I say that because you should have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen anyway. It is also a good idea to use indoor grills near a kitchen vent or window.

What to Grill: So what can you grill on your indoor grill? Most anything you would outside. Indoor grills don’t have the ability to drain liquids as well as outdoor grills and you don’t want marinades running over your counter, so when grilling marinated meats allow them to drain first on a cooking rack. While you can baste on an indoor grill you need to do so sparingly. Lightly brush basting solutions on foods, careful not to spill. Other than that you really can cook most anything that will fit on your grill so good luck to you and enjoy.