I didn’t want to let the limited space in my 8’x5’ college kitchen stop me from grilling bacon-wrapped hotdogs on game day, so I bought myself an indoor grill. It ended up being a great investment, and while there’s no arguing that a burger grilled outside over a wood fire is hard to beat, you can come surprisingly close in your dorm room. Through a lot of trial and error, I—your trusty Los Angeles magazine college student correspondent (AKA intern)—have come up with a few tips that anyone can use to produce that great grilled taste indoors—without that pesky carbon monoxide poisoning.
Get the right grill
One of my roommates had a George Foreman grill that I tried out before buying my electric grill – big mistake. Aside from being a pain to clean, the Foreman doesn’t hold heat well, so the burger I tried to make didn’t have any grill marks. I opted for an electric grill with a glass lid. The wires are detachable, making it super easy to clean, and keeping the lid on while food cooks keeps moisture in so your meat won’t dry out. Griddle pans also work really well, just make sure you have a fan above your stove so the smoke doesn’t set off your fire alarm – I’ve made that mistake one too many times.
Follow the same rules you’d use on an outdoor grill
Grilling experts stress the importance of letting your grill pre-heat, making sure your meat is patted dry before putting it on the grill, and oiling the grill’s surface so meat doesn’t stick. The same rules apply when grilling indoors. I’ve also learned that meat cooks better if you put it on the grill at room temperature, so be sure to take it out of the fridge an hour or two prior to grilling.
Use smoked spices and marinades
There are countless spice options that will give your meat a smoky flavor even if you’re using a totally smokeless grill. Marinate a steak overnight with liquid smoke, or make a dry rub out of smoked spices. Just make sure to under-season rather than over-season your meat, as you can always add more but usually can’t take away.
Bacon is your friend
A while ago, I wanted to make bacon cheeseburgers. I used applewood-smoked bacon, and after cooking the bacon on my indoor grill, I cooked the burgers in the rendered bacon fat. I did this out of laziness—I just didn’t feel like cleaning off the grill in between meats. As it turns out, the burgers actually soaked up the bacon’s smoky flavor and tasted authentically outdoor-grilled. I’ve been using the same technique ever since.
Mind your neighbors!
Something else you have to keep in mind if you live in a small space is that you probably have neighbors in very close proximity. With that in mind, steer clear of grilling any pungent seafood. Or, if you really have a hankering for a grilled fish taco, just load up on the Febreeze.