An Expert Guide to Broiling Food

Broiling Can Be Tricky -- Learn How to Do It

An oven for broiling food
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On the surface, it seems remarkably easy. You want to broil food — maybe fish or a steak — so you turn on your oven's broiler, slide open the broiler drawer and drop the food onto the metal grate. You close the door and a prescribed number of minutes later, you'll have a perfect dish.

Not so fast. From how you place the food to whether you close the door, broiling food correctly is a lot more complicated and can often depend on what you're cooking.

 Here are some broiling tips to help you along. 

Placement of the Food 

When instructions call for broiling food 4 inches from the heat source, this means 4 inches from the heating source to the top surface of the food. Use a ruler to judge properly if you have to. Thin cuts of meat, fish and poultry are typically placed closer to the heat source. Thicker cuts should be farther away so the interior can cook through without the exterior being burned to a crisp.

Door Open or Closed? 

If you have the food properly positioned, you should be able to broil with the door closed. Some people leave it ajar to watch for flare-ups, especially when they're cooking fatty cuts, or to make sure the food isn't overly charred. Of course, leaving the door open can create a greasy splatter mess outside the oven. If you're just browning the top of the dish, such as with a casserole, you might want to leave the door open and watch it so you can remove it at just the right moment.

How Long to Broil? 

Broiling cooks food much faster than other forms of cooking because it's the result of a direct heat source, either a red-hot rod in an electric oven or flames in a gas oven. Most recipes will tell you exactly how long to broil, but if you're winging it without a recipe, cut the cooking time in half and begin monitoring the food at that point.

Another option is to check to see how long you would grill the meat, poultry or fish and use that as a guideline, but you'll still want to keep an eye on the food's progress. 

Other Tips

  • Be sure to preheat the broiler and the pan, too — about five minutes, give or take. 
  • Begin broiling with the food at room temperature, but if you're using a basting liquid, warm that a bit first. Cold basting liquid will slow down the browning and cooking process.  
  • Spray the broiler and drip tray with cooking spray or cover it with foil to make cleanup easier. If you place foil beneath the food, be sure to cut slits in it so any accumulated grease can slide through into the bottom of the broiler pan, avoiding splatter and potentially a fire. 
  • Trim off excess fat to avoid flare-ups. Putting a slice of bread in the drip pan will soak up oil drips and this helps avoid flare-ups as well. 
  • Never use a glass dish in your broiler, only metal designed to withstand high heat. Broilers can reach as high as 550 degrees and glass may explode at that temperature.