Grilling is one of the best things about summer. When food is cooked on a grill it’s generally more flavorful, but sometimes it isn’t an option due to space constraints in your home or the weather. At that point, indoor grilling is the way to go.

Below are some tips to get the most out of indoor grilling. By putting them to work, you can make food taste as good as if you’d been able to cook it on your patio.

Shop carefully

There are a lot of indoor grills on the market, and they don’t all function the same way. Some of them are open and others have a folding top that works almost like a panini press or a waffle iron. A third option is a simpler grill pan. These pans often are either made of cast iron, or look like cast iron, and have a series of raised surfaces that appear like the bars on a grill. With grill pans, a flame never touches your food, even if you’re using it on a gas stove.

As you’re picking your indoor grill, its wise to consider what you’re looking for out of the experience. If you’re just looking for authentic-looking grill marks, a cast-iron grill pan will do the trick. If you’re looking to make crusty, crunchy melted sandwiches and are fine with lighter grill marks on your food, a closed-top grill will do the trick. If you’re looking for an indoor experience that’s closest to what you can cook in the fresh air, open-top grills may be for you.

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Food prep is key

As with most kinds of cooking, food prep is key to a good indoor grilling experience. For better grill performance, and to reduce smoke, trim excess fat from any meat items. This extra fat just makes its way onto the food on your plate anyhow.

With indoor grilling, you also want to pay attention to how you season your food. Marinades and dry rubs can be even more essential than they’d be outdoors since you’re partially making up for flame-broiled flavor. Just be sure to be aware of how much salt your marinade contains. Liquid or canned smoke can also add a more authentic grilled flavor, but its use can be controversial.

Lastly, be aware of how the way that you’re cutting your meat and vegetables affects their cooking time. Cubed meats or vegetables on a shish kebab will cook differently than the sliced meats and flat-cut vegetables used in fajitas.

Cooking tips

What you do once you’re food hits the grill plate is important. Here are several things you should – and shouldn’t – do to get the best results:

  • Watch internal cooking temperatures: Before you start to grill, be aware of the internal food temperature that you’re looking to achieve. Know what’s right for the cut of meat you have and how to recognize when you’ve reached it, even if you don’t have a thermometer handy. This is an essential safety practice for cooking meat and seafood, but it’s handy to know for vegetables too.
  • Don’t walk away: As with outdoor grilling, you need to stay by your food while it is cooking. Just because the action has moved indoors doesn’t mean it is safe to walk away. You’ll still need to monitor for smoke levels, ensure that food is properly cooked on all sides, and to check for that moment when the food has reached the exact temperature you’re looking for. A few minutes away from your cooking space can result in overcooked meat, scorched vegetables, a smoking kitchen, or even an indoor grill fire.
  • Be aware of how steam may affect your food: In some closed-top grills, steam is going to affect how you’re cooking. Sure, it keeps food moist, but it may not provide the kind of texture you’re looking for.  Watch for steam buildup and release it if you can.
  • Stop cooking slightly early: Once you’re reached your food’s safety temperature, give some thought to when you are going to remove it. For meat, especially steaks, consider removing it sooner rather than later and then letting it rest on the counter or stove. Your food will continue to cook, but any juices will be able to redistribute through your meat, improving both texture and flavor.

Putting it all together

Real indoor grilling results happen when you use these tips together. In many ways, these tips are connected to each other and if you’ve shopped thoughtfully, prepped your food, and cooked with attention, you’ll see the best results. If you skip any of these steps, things might be different.

Even in a perfect situation, you may never get exactly the results you’d see from open-air cooking. The good news is that it’s possible to get close. In the end, no matter where you grill, you should be able to enjoy your meal as you bring summertime cooking under your roof.