Kitchen Tips: Broiler 101

26 Aug

If you’re new to your apartment kitchie – and new to baking or cooking in general – you may have noticed the “BROIL” function on your oven’s temperature dial. What does a budding chef need to know about her or his broiler?

From a post on theKitchn all about broiler use. How SWEET is this gas broiler?? Looks like a torture device. Or something used to curl celebrities’ hair.

  1. It’s HOT – when you broil anything, whether it’s a fish fillet or a grilled cheese sandwich, watch it carefully. It’s easy for food to go from “just about done” to “totally fantastic” to “oh good Lord, what’s that fossilized brown chunk on my baking pan?” when you’re not watching the broiler carefully. Often times, you can (and should) leave your oven door slightly ajar while food is under the broiler, which allows you to check for doneness frequently. No fossils!
  2. It’s FAST – If you want to broil a salmon fillet, you’re talking about 10 minutes of cooking time. If you’re broiling an open-faced sandwich, you’ll max out at 5-7 minutes before your cheese gets gooey and fabulous.
  3. It’s HEIGHT-SENSITIVE – Raise your oven rack to the position closest to your oven coils at the top. That’s the best spot for broiling, as it allows for serious direct heat.
  4.  It CAN be a budding chef’s best friend. Broiling allows for a fabulous browning / charring that adds such a great finishing touch to your dishes. If you’ve made a big tray of baked ziti, let it sit under the broiler for another 5-10 minutes, and watch that gooey cheese topping become a crispy, brown and bubbly masterpiece.

Fun things to do with your broiler:

  • Toast muffins! Split them in half — a “top” and a “bottom” — and broil for 3-5 minutes. When brown and toasty, top with peanut butter, regular butter, jams or jellies.
  • Make English Muffin Pizzas or open-faced sandwiches — if the “dough” is already cooked through, it’s easy to melt and brown the toppings (cheese, pepperoni, veggies) using your handy-dandy broiler.
  • Top an oven-safe bowl of soup with a round of French bread and oodles of cheese. Five minutes later, you have your own version of “French Onion Soup,” complete with cheesy crusty bits for nibbling. Mmm!

Image sourced from You, too, could have soup that looks this delicious. Nom nom nom.

  • Toast nuts or seeds for a few minutes (1-3 is probably best, and watch them carefully to make sure nothing burns) to bring out their essential oils and deepen their flavors.
  • Restore semi-stale cereal by spreading cereal grains into a single layer on a baking sheet, and broil for about a minute. The moisture will leech out of the grains (which caused them to go stale in the first place), leaving you with fresh cereal. Watch this one carefully to avoid accidental crispiness.

Here’s a recipe I whipped up recently from that mistress of all things fun and friendly in the kitchen, Rachael Ray. This dish uses cod, a basic white fish, but you can easily swap it out for haddock or tilapia. I’ve modified the directions slightly, but the essence, ingredients and method are the same. *Note*: If you’d like to reduce this recipe to a serving for one, use 2-4 slices of eggplant, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a single-serving fish fillet (pre-packaged, or ask the fishmonger at your grocery store for help.) Happy broiling!

Why yes, dinner can always be this pretty.

Broiled Cod with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Basil – serves 4-6

You’ll need:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 eggplant, trimmed (ends cut off) and sliced into ½ inch thick slices (peeling optional)
  • ¾ lb skinless cod fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil, or 2-3 tsp dried basil

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the broiler. In a skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden – watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a small bowl. Add the tomatoes to the pan, cooking on one side for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or so.
  • Line a cookie sheet or baking sheet with foil. Transfer eggplant to prepared sheet in a single layer. Drizzle and brush with remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Broil, flipping once, until tender and brown (about 8-10 minutes).
  • On the baking sheet, spoon your tomatoes on top of eggplant slices. Place cod chunks on top of the mixture. Broil until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter; top with freshly chopped basil and precooked garlic, and serve.

Do you guys use your broilers much? Or are you more likely to be toaster oven and microwave people? Do you like cod, haddock, or other fish?


5 Responses to “Kitchen Tips: Broiler 101”

  1. Amy August 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I love my broiler! My mom never used it and I had no idea what it did until I saw Alton Brown’s explanation. In short, he said its like an upside-down grill!

    Just last night I toasted up rounds of french bread for bruschetta (for which I had also made Parmesan chips). I’ve also made some really good terriyaki chicken thighs under the broiler. But, yes, it does need to be watched closely otherwise the apartment will fill with smoke.

  2. Lauren August 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Broilers: A Warning.

    As deliciously wonderful as broiled foodstuffs are, your hand is not included on that list. For the love of all that is holy, wear a full-hand ovenmitt! Or you may end up with a third degree burn on your thumb, that, while adding character and earning you cred in a streey gang, makes you cry like a little girl.

    • galleykitchengal August 27, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Truth! You are a wise woman, Ms. Lauren. To quote “The Santa Clause” (Yep, this quote is in there. Look it up.), “Remember, kids: Nothing is more painful than 3rd degree burns.”

      • Felicia August 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

        I love that you quoted the Santa Clause. Also, I totally heart my gas broiler. Bad A**!


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    […] that cheesy goodness, assemble the dish in an oven-safe, deep-sided pan, top with mozzarella, and broil for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is gooey, bubbly and browned to your liking. (“All things in […]

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