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Grilling Indoors: How to Preheat a Pan

Grilling and the outdoors are strongly intertwined, and rightfully so. There’s nothing quite like firing up the range — or starting the coals — and enjoying cooking in the open air. Unfortunately, the circumstances don’t always cooperate. When grilling outside is off the table, some nice gear, the right technique, and a decent stove make it possible to replicate some of the grilling magic indoors.

When grilling indoors, cast-iron cookware is your best friend because the premise of indoor grilling is all in heat — you want to establish high enough temperatures to initiate the work of Maillard reactions, browning the exterior of foods just like on a hot grill. It can be difficult to achieve, with indoor grills radiating off much less heat than an outdoor apparatus.

As a result, you’ll need all the extra thermal help, so focus on the preheating stage. A few extra minutes of foresight pays off dividends in flavor. It ensures that mouthwatering sizzle when cooking starts, with a quick formation of the outer crust and grilling aroma. Plus, the food subsequently gets cooked evenly, with no cold spots to worry about.

Replicate the magic of grilling

close up of grilled fruit in pan

Cranking up the heat and waiting certainly aids in mimicking the grill, but it won’t quite replicate the outdoor method’s smokey, charred flavor — grilling’s quintessential character. This occurs when fat drips from the meat onto the flame. Indoors, flare-ups are out of the question, due to being a fire hazard, and cooking with such high heat indoors is bound to produce abundant smoke, which can lead to fire alarms.

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As a result, many turn to specialized smokeless indoor grills, or even the broiler. Whether you’re using a pan or one of these methods preheating is crucial. You’ll want to turn on an electric grill 15 minutes before throwing food on. For the broiler, place a pan in the oven for a few minutes to warm under the flame or heating element. If you’re going with a cast iron, you’ll need about 10 minutes of preheating.

Despite the limitations of indoor grilling, that’s not to say the technique isn’t delicious. In fact, preheating a cast iron skillet is a great way to mimic restaurant-caliber steaks. Just make sure to manage expectations when cooking indoors, and add other techniques to give your food a grill-like flair. Add a bit more fire-like essence into your sauce with liquid smoke, which you should always have in your pantry, and consider placing your vegetable sides directly on a gas flame to char. With such considerations, you’ll be able to imbue some of that grill-like magic.

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