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The Art of Broiling


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Broiling as cooking: what should one know? Is it even possible?

Anything beyond browning the surface of already done dish.

Please, help: i have some damn expensive burgers (not Boulud, but they have duck magret as one of ingredients) and i have no energy to start our charcoal grill... :sad:

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I wouldn't broil an expensive burger (or any burger for that matter). You can either sautee it or do what I do for steaks: put an oven safe skillet in the oven at 450 F and let it come up to temperature. Throw your burgers on for 5 minutes a side and you should get a medium rare burger with seared sides.

edit: cast iron skillets are best for this. I wouldn't recommend a non-stick since this temp is somewhat close to its maximum allowable but I'd have to double check D the C's article.

Edited by col klink (log)
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I broiled some boneless quail the other night. But they were so thin that 3 minutes per side after a vinegar-based marinade was enough. Thay had crispy skin and cooked through very nicely without drying out too much.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Can you tell us more about your broiler? Most home broiler models aren't really worth using for anything. Some of the pro-style ranges, however, have broilers that are essentially like restaurant salamanders. Those are excellent for cooking meat when you want a serious crust but a rare interior.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I wouldn't broil an expensive burger (or any burger for that matter).

And i didn't! :smile:

I used my grill pan on stove top. They burgers came out perfect: with grilled marks and well browned as magret part produced a lot of fat.

Even the smell: the combination of cinnamon and cumin seeds created an exotic aroma in ythe house.

Can you tell us more about your broiler? Most home broiler models aren't really worth using for anything.

i'm pretty sure this is the case of my broiler.

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The most important thing to remember is that broilers cook with radiant heat. Because of this, the distance from the source of heat to the food makes a huge difference in the final outcome. In fact, radiant heat drops with the square of the distance from the heat source. This means that if you double the distance from the broiler to the food, the amount of heat it is exposed to is cut by a factor of 4. It you triple the distance, the heat is cut to 1/9 of the original amount. So getting all your food a uniform distance from the heat source is critical.

What does this mean in practical terms? If you have a low-end broiler that is a single loop heating element, then you have to be very careful to lay food out in a pattern that matches the loop and align the pan directly under the element. It's not actually the case that most home units are underpowered, the problem is that it is difficult to get large pieces of food a uniform distance from the heat source. If H is your heat source, and F is your food, you get something like this:

------(H)------

(FFFFFFFFFF)

The food directly under H gets nicely crusted, but the edges, which are substantially further away, barely cook. If you put a steak that is 6" wide 3" below a single broiler element, then the edges of the steak will only get half the radiant heat that the center does, even though they are just 1.2" further from the element. Of course, if you very carefully arrange your food in a pattern that matches your heating element, you can do a sort of OK job.

More advanced home units and commercial products have heating elements that are more uniform, like this:

(HHHHHHHHHH)

-(FFFFFFFFFFF)-

This enables all parts of the food to cook uniformly. Raising and lowering the food lets you control how much radiant heat the food gets.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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The most important thing to remember is that broilers cook with radiant heat.  Because of this, the distance from the source of heat to the food makes a huge difference in the final outcome.  In fact, radiant heat drops with the square of the distance from the heat source.  This means that if you double the distance from the broiler to the food, the amount of heat it is exposed to is cut by a factor of 4.  It you triple the distance, the heat is cut to 1/9 of the original amount.  So getting all your food a uniform distance from the heat source is critical.

What does this mean in practical terms?  If you have a low-end broiler that is a single loop heating element, then you have to be very careful to lay food out in a pattern that matches the loop and align the pan directly under the element.  It's not actually the case that most home units are underpowered, the problem is that it is difficult to get large pieces of food a uniform distance from the heat source. If  H is your heat source, and F is your food, you get something like this:

------(H)------

(FFFFFFFFFF)

The food directly under H gets nicely crusted, but the edges, which are substantially further away, barely cook.  If you put a steak that is 6" wide 3" below a single broiler element, then the edges of the steak will only get half the radiant heat that the center does, even though they are just 1.2" further from the element.  Of course, if you very carefully arrange your food in a pattern that matches your heating element, you can do a sort of OK job.

More advanced home units and commercial products have heating elements that are more uniform, like this:

(HHHHHHHHHH)

-(FFFFFFFFFFF)-

This enables all parts of the food to cook uniformly.  Raising and lowering the food lets you control how much radiant heat the food gets.

I need some further clarification:

So, if a train leaves Washington at 9am travelling toward NYC at 120 mph, and a train leaves NYC at 10am travelling toward DC at 90 mph, when will my 6 1/2 pound chicken finish roasting at 375 degrees if put in the oven at 6pm?

:raz:

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I think there's an issue of power as well. No matter how evenly you distribute the heat over a broiler in the 10,000 BTU/hr range, I don't see how you're going to get a hard sear on the outside of a piece of meat while leaving it rare inside -- then again nobody seems to make a broiler in that power range that has even heat distribution. Still, there's a theoretical temperature limit, no matter how close you place the food. Whereas, when you have a 20,000 BTU/hr broiler like most of the pro-style ranges do, you're able to achieve these kinds of results.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Searing meat, I agree. But I've always got plenty of use from standard domestic broilers for jobs where you just need to melt and/or crisp the surface of your food, gratins being the obvious example. Generally I find lack of heat is not a problem - you need to watch closely so the dish doesn't get cremated.

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I have found that the convection broil in my new oven works much better than my old conventional oven. I've broiled steaks several times in it when the weather was really too awful to grill, and I get a nice crust on the outside of it. I alway use my broiler to carmelize the sugar on creme brulee, even though I have one of those kitchen torch things :smile:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I think there's an issue of power as well. No matter how evenly you distribute the heat over a broiler in the 10,000 BTU/hr range, I don't see how you're going to get a hard sear on the outside of a piece of meat while leaving it rare inside -- then again nobody seems to make a broiler in that power range that has even heat distribution. Still, there's a theoretical temperature limit, no matter how close you place the food. Whereas, when you have a 20,000 BTU/hr broiler like most of the pro-style ranges do, you're able to achieve these kinds of results.

If it were indeed possible to get a 10K and a 20K unit, both the same size and with even heat distribution, then you would only have to put your food 29% closer to the 10K unit to get the same heat as the 20K unit. It's the inverse square law that gets you every time. Relatively small changes in distance make a big difference when you square.

20K / d^2 = 10K / (((1 - 0.29)d)^2)

I think you are right that you won't find a 10K unit with good even distribution, though. That's really the killer.

Of course, this assumes that all the heat is radiant. If you get too close, there is going to be some transmission though the air too.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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put an oven safe skillet in the oven at 450 F and let it come up to temperature. Throw your burgers on for 5 minutes a side and you should get a medium rare burger with seared sides.

I would like to give this method a try, but how big a burger are we talking about here Colonel? 1/3 lb.?

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Darren, this just doesn't square with the my experience using broilers. I've got a 20,000 BTU unit at home with very even heat distribution, and I've used 80,000 BTU units in restaurants. I don't care how much closer you move the food to my broiler -- 29% or 99% -- you can have the food touching it and it will never produce the same effect as a Jade or Garland professional infrared upright broiler. There has got to be a factor missing from the equation. Why would restaurants bother to pay for 80,000 BTU broilers when they could buy 40,000 BTU broilers and move the food 29% closer? Is there an absolute temperature maximum for any given BTU/hr figure? Is there some sort of adjustment that has to be made for air as an insulator?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Gotta be something missing then.  I guess further research is in order.

I see a TDG article in the making :biggrin:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Gotta be something missing then.  I guess further research is in order.

Or I'm crazy. Chances are about 50/50. Or it could be both. Let me know.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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So, here's the deal. I made the mistake of assuming a point source. Actually, a uniform broiler is better modeled as a large plane. I did the integral for an inifinite plane and found that the heat at any given point above the plane is proportional to 1/d, not 1/d^2 as for the point source. So the 29% becomes 50%. Only 49% more to explain...

There's a reason I still keep that high school calculus book around.

Are the invision guys working on an equation mode?

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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put an oven safe skillet in the oven at 450 F and let it come up to temperature. Throw your burgers on for 5 minutes a side and you should get a medium rare burger with seared sides.

I would like to give this method a try, but how big a burger are we talking about here Colonel? 1/3 lb.?

Sure, but I've only done this with beef and pork steaks. A 3/4" steak took about 5 minutes a side for medium doneness. I believe only the thickness of the meat matters here. When the cast iron gets nice and hot, you can throw your burgers on and there's virtually no temp loss in the pan. It's a really cool way to cook but it can get your kitchen pretty hot in the summer time.

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So, here's the deal.  I made the mistake of assuming a point source.

You are so fired.

That diagram you did above is awesome. I've never seen a better explanation of why my broiler sucks. The only thing I ever use it for is toasting a lot of bread, and it doesn't even work so well for that.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I wouldn't broil an expensive burger (or any burger for that matter). You can either sautee it or do what I do for steaks: put an oven safe skillet in the oven at 450 F and let it come up to temperature. Throw your burgers on for 5 minutes a side and you should get a medium rare burger with seared sides.

My dearest Xanthippe :wub: and I cook steaks and burgers with a technique similar to CK's.

Rub one or two, inch and a half thick Ribeyes with garlic, coat with oil and liberally salt and pepper the meat.

For an inch and a half Ribeyes we turn the oven to 500 F and insert the cast iron skillet. When the oven reaches temperature let it soak for a bit. If you are using an electric stove about three minutes before you are ready to start turn the largest burn on high. When the burner is glowing cherry red pull the skillet out of the oven and put it on the burner. Put the steak in the pan and don't move it for thirty seconds; turn with tongs and let it sit for another thirty seconds. Pop the skillet back in the oven for two minutes per side and remove to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let rest for five minutes. Then enjoy the medium rare meat. Serve with your favorite cholesterol lowering medication

BTW--if you don't have good kitchen ventilation you might want to remove the battery from your smoke detector while you do this.

We have modified this technique for burgers, chops and fish fillets. The modifications are mostly timing.

As an asside, while waiting to be seated for dinner at one of my favorite dinning spots I had a chance to watch the head chef prepare one of the specials of the evening, Filet Mignon. It was about an inch and a half and he used the same timing and technique.

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Ahh dear Socrates another of the Alton Brown faithful emerges. This is without a doubt the best and most consistent method of home preparation I have found, especially for those of us without the nice 20,000 Btu broilers at home. One big big big point though is the necessity to let your meat come up to room temperature (I am assuming everyone always does this? NOT) , otherwise the whole thing just doesn't work with the timing. You wind up with a pretty rare version of medium rare if your entire cooking time is 5 mins for a 1 1/2-2" piece of beef. Of course if you're a geek like me you just check with your trusty Thermapen Look at me! until you hit the magical 135.

Get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!!!

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  • 3 years later...

A fascinating thread, but I need Basic Broiling Help.

I've never used the one on the bottom of the oven. I'm not even sure what might be lurking in there. Is a bottom-pan broiler good for anything (besides gratins, mentioned upthread--I can't produce a respectable/edible one)? I'm curious if it's more than just a bunch of wasted space. :rolleyes:

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You have a broiler on the bottom of your oven? I don't think I've heard of that before! My fairly new range, has an infrared gas broiler. I haven't used it for much, but I really have to watch stuff when I do use it. I guess I could try a steak under it and see if it's any better than a regular broiler. :unsure:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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The broiler on my oven is like the one shown in the diagram, here.

Part of me thinks, Cool! Bruleed stuff! The other part thinks, Hmm, I usually prefer to see my food much farther away from the floor... :rolleyes:

And I've discovered that the door is stuck. So I might not leap into the world of broiling so soon, after all. :wink:

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