Your Secret Element: The Broiler
Here are our best tips and recipes to help you make the most of your broiler.
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.)
Mark the Time
Your first defense against burning is a watchful eye. Your backup is a precise timer. There are many options, but digital is better than mechanical when seconds count.
Price: $20, Oxo
Buy: Bed Bath & Beyond
With food just 5 inches from a red-hot element, and timing critical, it's easy to get burned. Don't use a damp towel; don't use a thin or too-short mitt. The Oxo Good Grips Silicone Oven Mitt boasts silicone on the outside and breathable fabric inside, with protection up to 600°. At 13 inches long, it guards your wrists and forearms.
Most oven thermometers measure the ambient temperature. What matters with broiling is the surface temperature. Get rid of guesswork with an instant-read thermometer, which takes the surface temperature anywhere—even the bubbling top of a gratin. We loved the MicroTemp MT-PRO Digital Infrared Thermometer. (It's also fun to check the temperature of pretty much anything in the house!)
Broiler pans catch liquid that drips from the slotted top into the pan below, which also helps prevent smoke and flares. The stick-free Range Kleen Porcelain Broiler Pan with Porcelain Grill makes cleanup easy.
Some baking dishes crack at broiler temps, but the durable clay Emile Henry 13 × 10 Lasagna Baker is good for casseroles, steaks, fish fillets, or chicken breasts.
Buy: Emile Henry
Yeild: 4 Servings
Calories: 118; Fat: 4.1g (sat 2.4g); Sodium: 243mg