There’s nothing tastier than a delicious grilled steak or chicken breast accompanied with a selection of grilled peppers, zucchini, and onions. So, what do you do when you don’t have a grill? You cook without one!
Not everyone has a backyard where they can set up a charcoal or propane grill or BBQ. But there are techniques you can use to cook food that tastes and looks as though it was grilled.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to grill without a grill, so you and your family and friends can enjoy a meal that tastes like it just came off the BBQ.
1. Oven Broiling
Your oven comes with a broil function which can be used to grill fish, meats, poultry, and vegetables. The broiler quickly cooks food, much the same as a grill, with meats and chicken being nice and crispy on the outside and tender and juicy inside.
Heat comes from the top of the oven rather the bottom and cooks with a high temperature, usually from 500 F to 550 F. If your oven doesn’t come with one, invest in a broiler pan. A good choice is a cast iron grill pan that has ridges which allows excess fat to drip down and into the bottom of the pan.
To grill using the broiler, start by setting the oven rack at the highest position, about 4 to 6-inches from the heating element, and turn on the grill function of your oven to preheat for a few minutes.
Prepare the pan by lightly spraying with oil before placing food on top. Then place the pan into the preheated oven, being sure to leave the door open a crack to prevent the oven from getting too hot and food from burning.
Halfway through the cooking time, you can flip food, so it’s evenly broiled on both sides. Check vegetables frequently when broiling as they’ll burn quickly at the high heat.
Tip: For easy clean up, line the pan with foil!
2. Cast Iron Skillet
Even though a cast iron skillet used on the stovetop won’t give you the full smokiness of grilling, it can cook foods that are full of flavor. Choose either a flat cast iron griddle pan or one with ridges, which is ideal for cooking sausages or steak.
The more well seasoned your cast iron pan is, the better. A well seasoned cast iron pan is what gives foods a taste that mimics an outdoor charcoal grill.
A few hours before cooking, prepare meats and chicken by marinating or seasoning, allowing the flavors to infuse.
When ready to cook add a bit of oil to the pan, heating over medium to high heat, waiting until the pan is hot before adding food. Cast iron distributes heat across the entire pan, so foods are cooked evenly. Flip once halfway through cooking to get a nice char on both sides.
Tip: Using as little oil as possible will give steak and chicken a better sear.
3. Crock Pot
Using the crock pot lets you cook foods that have a delicious BBQ style flavor. Foods that do well in a slow cooker are pulled pork, pork shoulders, briskets, and chicken thighs.
Place the meat in the crock pot, adding BBQ sauce and smoking spices. Cook on low heat overnight or during the day so it’s ready in time for dinner.
Tip: Sauté sweet onions with a tablespoon of brown sugar until nicely caramelized. Add to the crock pot before cooking to add even more BBQ flavor to the dish.
4. Smoking Seasonings for Flavor
Adding seasonings to food can give it a grilled and smoky flavor. Sprinkle seasonings right onto the meats, poultry, and fish or use in a marinade and let the flavors soak in for a few hours.
Some good seasoning choices to get a grilled flavor include:
- Hickory smoked sea salt
- Smoky paprika
- Chopped chipotle chili peppers
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Chili powder blended with cocoa powder
Mix one or a combination of these spices with a bit of olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and a touch of honey or brown sugar. Spread onto the meat or poultry, cover, and place in the fridge for up to 6 hours before broiling or grilling in a cast iron pan.
5. Liquid Smoke
Another way to get the smoky flavor of grilling without using the grill is with liquid smoke. You can buy liquid smoke both online and at a specialty culinary store.
Made from condensed smoke, the liquid is filtered and concentrated to increase the smoky flavor. Available in several different flavors, such as hickory and mesquite, you’ll want to use liquid smoke sparingly or it can overpower foods.
To use, brush a bit of liquid smoke onto steaks, burgers, and sausages before and during cooking.
Tip: For a more subtle grilled flavor, mix liquid smoke with a bit of balsamic vinegar before brushing onto foods.
6. Indoor Smoker
If you’re looking for a unique way to grill without a grill, consider making your own indoor smoker to cook foods right in your own kitchen. Before smoking, you’ll want to open up windows and turn on a fan to keep the smoke detector from going off.
Using a large aluminum pan with high sides, line the inside with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place a layer of hardwood chips inside. Applewood chips are a good choice for a smoky BBQ flavor.
Place another layer of foil on top of the wood chips, poking small holes into the foil for the smoke to escape. Place a wire rack on top of the foil. Then place the entire pan on the stove, heating over medium-high heat.
As the pans heats up, smoke will start to rise up out of the holes. Place marinated meats, fish, poultry, or seasoned vegetables onto the rack. Cover the pan with a lid or make a cover with more aluminum foil.
Smoke for about 3 to 4 minutes, and then remove the food from the smoker and broil or grill in a pan. The smoke will have infused into the food, giving it a grilled flavor.
Tip: Experiment with different types of wood chips to achieve different flavors. Good options to get a smoky grilled flavor are cherry, hickory, mesquite, oak, and walnut.
7. Use a Culinary Torch
Most of us have a kitchen torch that we use to make crème brûlée, brown meringues, melt cheese, and toast bread crumb toppings. You can put that same torch to use to grill and add a bit of char to meats and vegetables.
After food has been cooked, use the torch to blacken red peppers, corn, chicken breasts, and juicy steak.
8. Invest in a Countertop Grill
If you enjoy grilling a variety of foods, you may want to consider investing in an electric grill for your kitchen countertop. There are different models available, but all are used to grill food quickly indoors or on your patio by replacing propane and charcoal grills.
There are two basic styles of indoor grills – those that cook only from the bottom and you’ll need to flip food, or those with the double contact grill where food is cooked by using both the bottom and the lid.
Easy to use, countertop grills cook food so it’s juicy and tender. Just prepare meats, chicken, and veggies as you would when cooking over a charcoal grill.
How to Make Grill Marks Without a Grill
Once you’ve cooked food and have a nice flavor without using a grill, you may want to add marks to make it look as though you cooked over charcoal. There are two ways you can achieve these grill marks:
Ridged Pan Method
Using a cast iron grill pan with the ridges can get you a faux-grill look. After cooking the food so you have an even sear all over, remove from heat and keep warm on a plate by covering.
Heat the cast iron pan up to high without adding any oil. When heated, place the food back into the pan. Wait for 1 to 2 minutes before carefully rotating the food from a 10 o’clock angle to a 2 o’clock angle. Wait for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Then flip over the meat or chicken and repeat the process. The high heat of the ridges should sear grill marks into the food, making it look like it was cooked over the grill.
Hot Skewer Method
For this method you’ll need a metal skewer and a gas stove or culinary torch. Heat the metal skewer over a hot gas flame until it’s red hot. If you don’t have a gas stove, a culinary torch will work just as well.
When hot, press onto the meat, chicken, or fish and make a few attractive grill marks. You may have to heat the skewer more than once to keep it hot enough, so it doesn’t stick to the food.
Final Words On Grilling
Using the tips here, you’ll be able to grill without a grill and end up with a great meal each and every time. Try more than one method to see what gives you the best results and grilled flavor.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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