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How to Grill Without a Grill: The Ultimate Guide

June 19, 2020 7 min read

How to Grill Without a Grill: The Ultimate Guide

We all love that smoky, scorched flavor you get from cooking on a grill. But what happens if you don't have one of those hefty, outdoor grills or a backyard to cook in? Well, luckily, we've got a few tips and tricks to help you to replicate that flavor indoors.

We asked our barbecue chefs for their best advice when it comes to indoor grilling, and they didn't disappoint. 

What exactly is grilling?

Grilling is usually associated with outdoor, coal-fired, or gas-driven barbecues. You cook your meat and vegetables on a grill plate, which is held over open flames. You can add seasoning and sauces to your food and let it sear quickly, at a high temperature.

You'll be left with those juicy scorch marks and that smoky, grilled barbecue taste that everyone associates with summer. But traditional outdoor grills are not small and you need a large outdoor area, such as a garden or patio, to use them safely, and to not smoke out your house.

Grilling without a grill

If you're not lucky enough to have a huge backyard, then you might need to learn how to grill in-house, in your kitchen, while if you live in the city, you'll need to get to grips with grilling in an apartment. But learning to grill without a grill isn't as difficult as it sounds.

There are some great ways to replicate the barbecue tastes and those delicious scorch marks by grilling on a stove and grilling in a pan. You can grill at home in many cast iron kitchen pieces, including skillets, but you'll make your life a whole lot easier if you have a cast iron griddle pan!

#1 Oven broiling

What is broil? Your broiler is basically an upside-down grill. Heat comes from the top, and not from the bottom. This will only work if your broiler is inside your oven. It's not going to give you that grill effect, or that smoky flavor, but it will do a good enough job of charring your food.

  1. Make sure your rack is 4-8 inches away from the heat source, and put down some aluminum foil on the broil pan so that you don't have to do any scrubbing afterwards.
  2. Place your food onto the aluminum-covered pan and cook for 8-1o mins.
  3. Keep the oven door open slightly to avoid burning, and turn the food over halfway through.

See? In the battle of broil vs grill, broil isn't a loser.

#2 Grilling on stove top

How to use stove top grill as an alternative to grilling? The best way to grill inside is by using a griddle pan on a stovetop. This is the simplest way to get your meats seared, and your vegetables scorched without leaving the kitchen.

Cast iron is perfect for indoor grilling because the oily layer of seasoning you should have in the bottom of your pan holds so much flavor. Cast iron is heavy, but it really retains heat well. You can heat it to high temperatures, which allows you to fast-cook those burgers or sausages, much like you would on an outdoor grill.

To get those scorch marks though, you'll need a grill pan. A grill pan has raised ridges on the inside to replicate the setup of an outdoor grill. You can heat it up to a high temperature, and oil the inside to help things cook quickly. You can use the raised ridges to scorch your barbecue food by grilling on stovetop.

The process of grilling at home on a stovetop is quite simple:

  1. Place your grill pan on the kitchen stovetop and heat it to a high temperature.
  2. Add in your oil and let it sizzle for a moment.
  3. Place your meats and vegetables on the raised edges of the pan.
  4. Grill for a few minutes, then flip over and repeat on the other side.

#3 Dutch Oven

You can use the lid of a Dutch Oven as a pan, so the whole pot can be used for different things. The inside of the lid is smooth and concave and perfect to use as a griddle. The material of the lid holds heat for a really long time. Most of them are pre-seasoned, so all you need to do is heat it up in the oven, take it out, and start grilling on it.

Ultimate tips for indoor grilling:

Here are some tips for you to try to get that perfect grill look and feel, without going outside.

#1. Invest in a griddle

Some of these have ridges, so the fat is going to drip away from the food, and you'll get that much-sought-after grill look. They are heavy and they can take up space, so make sure your kitchen is big enough. They are relatively inexpensive and they're best for quick-cooking. They won't give you that smoky flavor though.

#2. Use smoky ingredients

This is probably the easiest way to get that smoke flavor that you're after. If you sprinkle smoked salt or paprika on fish and meat, you're onto a winner. You can also add olive oil to your veggies. Other spices and seasonings include:

  • Chopped chipotle chili peppers
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chilli powder
#3. Discover liquid smoke

You can also use liquid smoke, but don't use too much of this, otherwise your food will just smell burnt. This is a completely natural product and it's made by condensing smoke that comes from burning wood. You can find vegan versions and you can find versions that don't contain additives or preservatives. Simply brush a small amount of it onto your food before you cook and you're good to go.

#4. Set up your own indoor smoker

Yes. You can DIY the smoky vibes.

  1. Open a window or turn on a fan
  2. Line a pan or wok with foil and lay out some wood chips
  3. Cover the wood chips with more foil and a rack.
  4. Cover the rack with foil and poke holes in it
  5. Set this up over a burner (set on high)
  6. When smoke begins to rise evenly arrange your food on the rack and cover tightly with foil
  7. Smoke the food for 30 secs - 1 min
  8. Uncover and cook as normal

Indoor grill recipes - FAQ

How do you grill meat without a grill?

You can recreate a lot of those meaty grill flavors inside too. Sausages are one of the best meats to grill in the kitchen, as they don't often retain too much of the smoky flavor outdoors. Burgers are the same, and these are delicious when cooked on a grill pan in the kitchen.

Other meats, such as chicken, work fantastically well with a delicious marinade, while you could even get creative and try smoking your beef or braising it indoors. There are a few spices and sauces that work particularly well when you're grilling indoors. We love using smoked paprika or a classic barbecue sauce to really bring out the flavors and to give your meat an authentic taste.

Your condiments and extras are just as important too. Don't forget to melt your cheese directly onto the burger, cook up some caramelized onions to top off your meat, and braise your burger buns on the hot pan before serving!

How to grill chicken on stove?

If you're wondering the best way to grill chicken inside, then don't worry, we've got you covered!

We love to marinate our chicken in a smoky barbecue sauce overnight to really give it that extra kick when you cook it on the stovetop. Using sauces, marinades, and spices can really help to bring out the flavors you're missing from the outdoor grill.

You can then grill your marinated chicken at a high temperature on the stovetop, without ever having an actual grill. If you're using chicken legs or wings, simply cook for around 4 minutes on either side. Make sure they are cooked through, of course, before serving.

How do you grill vegetables without a grill?

While meat might be the centerpiece of a summer barbecue party for many Americans, it's still not a barbecue without the vegetables!

Grilled vegetables or vegetable kebabs are a fantastic addition to your barbecue feast, and they are super-simple to recreate indoors too. We love using large mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchinis, and onions, but there are so many more vegetables you can get creative with too!

The best way to grill them indoors is again on a grill pan, but you can get away with using a cast iron skillet too. We recommend lathering your vegetables in oil, heating the pan up to a high temperature, and grilling them for a few minutes on either side.

You can also flavor up your vegetables by marinating them overnight in a barbecue sauce or covering them in spices or spicy sauces before you cook them on the grill.

If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can even grill meat-free veggie burgers or sausages in the same way as regular meat patties or meat sausages using a grill pan in your kitchen. There are so many different, meat-free substitutes on the market these days, and they offer an authentic, veggie version of classic barbecue staples!

How to get grill marks without a grill?

Some of the options above will give you that grill-marked look.

  1. Oven broiling - the broil pan has ridges and those will give your food that grilled, charred look.
  2. Cast iron skillet - some of these also have ridges and they are amazing for cooking sausages and steak.
  3. The indoor smoker we mentioned earlier should also mark the food, if you're using a rack that creates that kind of look.
  4. Ridged pan method - cook your food as normal and remove it. Heat up your cast iron pan without adding oil. Place the food back into the pan. wait for a few mins and rotate the food clockwise. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Hot skewer method - heat up a skewer on a gas stove or culinary torch. Press it into the food.

The final word on how to grill inside

If grilling inside isn't for you, then don't worry because there are some great alternatives. Many cast iron grill pans are reversible, which means you can either grill or griddle with them in your kitchen.

You don't need to have a fancy outdoor grill to cook up a storming barbecue feast. All you need is one of our options above and plenty of barbecue food to get started grilling inside your own home! 

Ready to start grilling? Take a look at some ideas for what you can cook on a griddle. Bookmark this handy guide to indoor grill for your next party!

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