If you wait until barbecue
season arrives to do your grilling, you'll miss out on a lot of mouth watering meals. Whether it's meat, fish, poultry or even vegetables, food that's grilled indoors can be just as delicious as it is when grilled on a BBQ. All you need is the right gear and a little know-how.
Even if you have a grill in your oven, having a benchtop grill on hand makes a lot of sense. Handy, versatile and placed at just the right working height on your benchtop, you will be motivated to do more indoor grilling and can even choose to grill a quick meal for one "on the fly" when you might otherwise settle for something less tasty. There are two kinds of benchtop grills:
- Contact grills have top and bottom heating elements. These have the advantage of faster cooking times, since both sides are being cooked at once and the heat is captured inside the grill. Look for a good quality contact grill that does not squeeze the meat tightly between the cooking surfaces. A non-stick surface is a must with one of these.
- Open grills are often larger than contact grills, allowing you to cook more food at the same time and watch its progress as you cook. As with contact grills, you'll want a high quality non-stick surface.
An option to a benchtop grill that allows you to cook at optimum working height is the cooktop grill. In this case, your cooktop provides the heating element, while the surface of the grill plate offers a genuine grilling effect. Sometimes also called a grill pan, the best ones have indentations on the bottom that provide more direct heat and faster heating to the ridges on the bottom of the pan. Both cast iron and aluminium models are available. Since aluminium conducts heat faster the cast iron, you will get more distinct grill lines if you use one of these. While much heavier, many gourmet grillers prefer cast iron because of this and the fact that it retains and spreads heat more effectively than aluminium.
There are three kinds of grill accessories: those that help you cook better, those that protect the grilling surface and those that make cleaning up easier:
- Since you can't get that wonderful smoked flavour with an indoor grill, you do the next best thing with spices and flavourings. Essential flavouring accessories include a pan and whisk for mixing marinades and a basting brush. Some cooks take it one step further and buy a flavouring injector (similar to a hypodermic needle) to get flavouring deep inside the meat.
- Benchtop and cooktop grills have non-stick surfaces that need to be protected. Always buy spatulas and tongs that are designed for non-stick surfaces. Also consider using wooden rather than metallic skewers for indoor grilling, just to be on the safe side.
- When buying a benchtop or cooktop grill, look for one with removable grill plates, for easier cleaning. Also, grill scrapers and grill brushes are available for use on non-stick surfaces. These will help make cleaning up a breeze. If you do oven grilling, keep disposable aluminium drip trays handy for those heavy fat dripping dishes.
Other grilling accessories to look for include:
- Waffle iron plates for contact grills with removable grill plates.
- A cast iron press for squeezing fat out of meat (especially handy for hamburgers).
- Lava and granite stone plates are available for both gas and electric stoves. These are great for a "sizzling hot" presentation and are becoming a "must have" gourmet kitchen accessory.
Now that you have the ultimate gear for grilling indoors, you never have to miss out on that great taste only grilling can provide again. In fact, you'll probably find that you'll be putting your old pots and pans "on the back burner" in favour of experimenting with new and exciting indoor grilling recipes.