Browing vs. Burning
These things determine whether food browns or burns.
Pick Your Position: Use the top 2 rack positions (3 to 5 inches from the heating element) to brown gratins and cook thin cuts of meat. If you choose the top rack, keep an eagle eye on the food—it can go from browned to scorched in seconds. Middle rack positions are for items like bone-in chicken or thick steaks.
Know Your Temperatures: On high broil, food cooks at 550° on the top rack. The temperature drops about 50° to 75° on each rack level, down to 325° at the bottom position in our Test Kitchen ovens. Your oven may be different, hence the appeal of an instant-read thermometer (see next slide).
Door: Open or Closed? Consult your oven's users' manual. Some manufacturers call for leaving the oven door open a few inches while broiling (set at the "broiler stop") so the heating element remains on and the stove can vent smoke. Others won't even operate with the door open.
Not Cooking with Gas? Gas broilers run a little hotter than electric, cranking up to about 600° (that temperature is the industry standard for gas). But don't fret: The slightly cooler electric broiler distributes its heat more evenly.
Timing is critical: When you set food under the broiler's intense direct heat, timing is critical—a point illustrated here with garlic bread toasted 5 inches from the heating element. (See our Broiler Garlic Bread recipe.)