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How to Broil Anything

By TBSP Susan
Updated March 2, 2020
Use these tips for broiling so you don't end up with a burnt and smoldering mess.

Broiling cooks foods fast and hot. Here's how to broil chicken, chops, fish and more so you can enjoy all the expedient benefits of broiling without any of the culinary accidents.

In some ways broiling is similar to baking and roasting. These methods all use a direct, radiant dry heat at relatively high temperatures and can be done in a conventional oven or over a fire on a grill. The primary difference between broiling and baking or roasting is that in broiling only one side of the food is exposed to heat at a time.

Best Foods to Broil

The best foods for broiling are those that are naturally tender. Also, thinner cuts broil better than thick ones. You don't want to broil overly thick cuts of meat, even if they are naturally tender, as the temperature is so hot it can char the surface of the meat while leaving the inside undercooked.

Some recommendations for good broiling meats are:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Burgers - Ham
  • Fish fillets
  • Salmon steaks
  • Halibut steaks
  • Sea trout
  • Sole

Broiled Shrimp, Corn and Tomatoes with Kimchi

Broiling Basics

Most ovens don't give you very many choices in the temperature settings for broiling, tending instead to have a singular Broil setting. At this setting the oven usually heats up to around 550º F. Since you can't usually adjust the controls for broiling, the way you adjust the temperature reaching the food to be cooked is by raising or lowering the oven rack. The standard position of the oven rack for broiling is about 3 inches from the top edge of the food to the heating element.

Different ovens will also have different preheating requirements for broiling, some requiring little to no preheating time at all. Read the manufacturer's handbook for your oven to find out the preheating instructions for its broil setting.

If cooking particularly fussy dishes or particularly thick cuts of meat, lower the rack for a distance of more like 4-6 inches from the top of the food to the heat source. This allows the heat to penetrate deep into thicker meats and prevents sudden scorching of delicate ingredients, like vegetables.

When you place the food on the broiling pan, make sure the pan is cold (or at least room temperature). Placing food on a warm or, worse, preheated roasting pan before placing it in to broil can cause food to stick to the pan.

Broil until the food is browned on one side, then turn it and do the same for the other side, keeping in mind that it will probably take less time for the second side to brown than the first.

Broiling Tips

Proper ventilation is imperative when broiling, just as it is when baking and roasting. How you achieve this depends strongly on the type of cooking equipment you're using. Some oven ranges, especially electric ovens, only broil effectively when the oven door is left ajar.

If cooking multiple pieces of meat at once, such as chicken parts, try and make all the pieces as close to the same size as possible. Otherwise the skin on the smaller pieces will burn before the meat of the larger pieces is cooked.

For chops and steaks, cut off the excess fat to keep it from burning and curling. For chicken, lower the rack to 6-8 inches from the heating element and broil with the bone side up first to keep the skin from getting soggy.

Always broil with a two-piece broiling pan, so the fat can drip through the slotted upper pan to be contained away from the meat in the lower pan. Otherwise the fat could smoke up or even catch fire.

Be careful with seasonings and sauces when broiling as they often blacken before the meat is done cooking. Marinades without sugars (including honey, jelly, molasses, etc.) are best for broiling.

To cook foods up hot and fast, broiling is one sure-fire way to spend less time waiting for your meal and more time enjoying it!

More Ways to Broil