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Common Mistake: Using the Broiler Instead of the Oven

If you’ve been ignoring the broiler setting on your oven because it’s a little mysterious, we’re here to help you avoid any mistakes you could run into when you’re ready to learn, especially this major timing issue you should know to stay safe in the kitchen. Unlike the regular bake setting on your oven, the broiler is meant to be used in shorter bursts of 15 to 30 minutes at most. Broilers are very hot by design, so most broiled foods only need about 10 minutes to brown and cook through. Adding in some time for pre-heating, you shouldn’t need to keep the oven set to broil very long. 

A broiler works like an upside-down grill: It’s a powerful source of heat all coming from one direction. When you set the broiler to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, all that heat being generated comes directly from the broiling unit above the food, like an intense ray of sunshine. If your broiler operates with the door open, as many do, then the escaping heat causes the thermostat to keep the unit on full blast. The intense heat of your broiling element can not only overcook your food quickly, but also damage your oven and even start a fire when it’s on for too long.

Keep broil times short for safer cooking

broiled cheese toast

The closer your food is to the broiler unit, the faster it will cook. That’s great for thin foods that won’t do well when turned over while cooking. The intensity of the broiler turns the cheese on frozen pizza into melty, bubbling perfection and cooks the dough through at the same time. It’s also perfect for crisping up potato skins, melting cheese on nachos, or getting some brown, caramelized edges to finish off roasted veggies. These types of broiled foods take mere minutes to finish and should always be watched closely to prevent burning. Thicker items can be moved lower in the oven to give them more time to cook through while they brown, but they should never go unattended under the broiler.

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If your broiler can operate with the door open, keep an eye on knobs and cabinets above the oven — heat rises, and those high temperatures can do damage even on the outside of the oven. Never leave the kitchen while your oven is on the broiler setting, and since every oven is a little different, your best bet is to check with the manufacturer’s recommendation for broiler use.

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