How to Broil in the Oven

Wondering how the broiler function works on your oven? It's a way to cook food quickly at a high temperature with deliciously crispy results when done correctly. It's all about timing, positioning and attention.

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How to Broil in the Oven

What Is Broiling?

For normal baking and roasting, the oven produces heat which indirectly cooks your food by surrounding it. When you broil, you put your food very close to intense heat to cook directly, often with the goal of creating a toasted or browned finish to the food.

You can cook the food from start to finish under the broiler, or you can complete a dish with a few minutes under the broiler for a toasty finish. If you're cooking the food under the broiler the entire time, choose thinner foods that can cook through quickly without the outside getting charred. This is especially important for meat, which needs to reach a specific internal temperature for food safety.

You can use the broiling feature for almost any type of food. It's popular for various meats to get that seared outside similar to grilling. You can use it brown casseroles, pies, veggies and other dishes. It's also an easy way to melt cheese on top of your favorite meals.

Locating the Broiler

You can find your broiler in one of two places: on the top of the main oven compartment or inside a separate pull-out drawer below the main compartment. The broiler on most electric ovens is inside the main part of the oven. For gas ovens, it's more common to see the broiler in the lower drawer along with a two-piece metal broiler pan, but it may also be inside the oven.

Preparing to Broil in the Oven

Adjust the oven racks for safety before you turn on the broiler. It's a good idea to let the broiler preheat for five to 10 minutes before you put food under it. You can put your broiler pan in the oven to preheat, but the food may stick to the pan with this method.

Pans to Use

Not all pans fare well under the intense heat of a broiler. Skip the glass pans, as the high temperatures can cause them to shatter. If you're planning to broil a pie or casserole at the end of the baking time to brown it, consider the pan you choose to make sure it's safe.

One of the easiest options is to use a pan designed for broiling. These pans have a slotted top with a tray underneath to help heat evenly and to catch drippings from the food. You can also use cast iron pans or metal baking sheets with rims as long as they can handle the high heat. Line a baking sheet or the bottom catch tray on a broiling pan with foil to keep the hot grease from staining the pan.

Controlling Your Broiler

When you turn on the broil feature, you have no control over the temperature. The broil temperature is automatic, usually with a maximum of 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Some models have a low and high broil setting to give you some control.

What you can control is the distance between the food and the heat source, especially if the broiler is inside the oven. The closer the oven rack is to the broiler, the faster your food browns. A distance of about 3 to 4 inches is usually the best bet, but you can lower the rack if you want a slower broil.

Preventing Burnt Foods

Since broiling happens at high temperatures, it's easy to burn your food. Lowering the rack slightly slows down the broiling process to prevent burning. Watch the food as it broils to look for dark spots appearing on the surface.

Start with a shorter broiling time than you think you need to make sure it doesn't overcook. You can always increase the time as needed. Flipping the food halfway through the cooking time ensures that both sides get seared without burning.

Broiling is a basic function of your oven, but it can take some practice. Be attentive and prepared to ensure your food comes out crispy and seared without being burnt.


Shelley Frost

Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.