Apartment Grilling: Indoor Cooking Tips for City Dwellers
By Fabiana Santana
Indoor grilling is easier than you think. Just because you live the big city life, doesn’t mean you can’t eat like you live in the suburbs. After all, why shouldn’t apartment dwellers reap the rewards of summer’s bounty and enjoy weekend cook-out style BBQ – even if they are staying indoors? Here are some tips for throwing your own apartment cookout.
Get the Right Equipment
A good cast iron grill pan will do the grill mark and great flavor trick any day, but if you want to experiment further with a small gas grill that you can use on a small terrace or balcony, then the Weber Baby Q Grill is for you.
With push button ignition and a 189 square-inch cooking surface area, this is an easy to use, compact grill that uses a 14 or 16 ounce propane cylinder – not the giant sized tanks that are common in the ‘burbs.
If the cast iron grill is your preference, then opt for Le Creuset’s Reversible Griddle/Grill . The ridged grill side is ideal for grilling burgers, steaks, chicken and veggies. And because it is cast iron, it is well-seasoned and only gets better with use. It is long enough to fit over two stove top burners, so the cooking surface is large enough to prepare food for four and the deep grooves of the grill ridges means grease won’t stay attached to your meat. Use the flat side for frying eggs, cooking pancakes, or even making grilled pizza dough.
The smoky essence of summer BBQ is the one thing that many apartment dwellers miss most. If you are a fan of Top Chef, you know that it is just as easy to create an indoor smoker than it is to use an outdoor one. But we promise there won’t be any science project like gadgets with this tip! Liquid smoke, found in the seasonal aisle of your supermarket or where the BBQ sauce is stocked, is a great way to get that smoky flavor indoors. Use a small amount with your favorite marinade – that is all their is too it! The smoky flavor penetrates the meat or fish so it tastes like it was cooked over an open, wood flame. And liquid smoke made from the burning of mesquite and apple wood, so there are authentic flavors present.
Let The Air Out
High heat is necessary when dark grill marks and a nice sear is your goal, so make sure you open the windows and keep your cooking area well ventilated so that you don’t actually have a real smoking emergency on your hands! If you have an exhaust fan on your oven, turn it on, and open a window too. If you are working with only a window, aim a room fan towards it so that it directs smoke out. Be warned, though, the smell of grilled foods almost always attracts a crowd, so be prepared for knocks at your door!
*Don’t forget to check with your property management staff if you intend to use a gas or charcoal grill on your outdoor space. Some cities actually outlaw grilling in apartment balconies so you want to be sure you are in compliance.
When choosing meat, it is important to know what you are looking for.
- Start with high quality meat, choice grade or better for steaks. Choose a center cut, like a filet, rib eye or strip steak for eating whole, and flank or skirt for making fajitas.
- Choose a cut with great marbling, the white ribbons of fat running through the beef. The fat will turn to liquid during cooking, keeping the meat moist and flavorful.
- Think thick. Steak houses like Ruth’s Chris (they grill indoors every night!) feature a flavorful crust on the outside of their steaks. A steak less than 1.5″ thick will cook through before the outside is crispy. Again, thinner meat is ideal for quick cook grill dishes like fajitas or quesadillas.
- Because you’re not going to be getting the smoky flavor you would from a charcoal grill, you’ll want to season your meat. Season your meat with sea salt and fresh black pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and let it marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. For extra flavor use a grill rub or a flavored marinade of your choice (don’t forget to add the liquid smoke if you are after a smoky flavor). Marinate with these items for at least 20 minutes.
- Let your pan or grill pan get very, very hot before cooking. Brush the grill plates or grilling surface with vegetable oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Add the meat to the grill top and let it sit undisturbed for two minutes. Once seared, flip it over and sear the other side. If it is a thick cut of meat, cover with a tent of foil until cooked through – 10-12 minutes for medium rare.
- Most indoor grills will not be large enough to cook whole or half chickens. Instead choose cuts like breast or thigh. That way, not only can you fit enough for a party of 6 on the grill, you can make sure you cooked it all the way through, too. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are great for grilling because they are meatier than breasts, which can dry out quickly if you are not careful.
- Marinate chicken the same way you would steak – for 10-20 minutes with your favorite flavors.
- Make sure you do not use the same tongs or forks on other meat that you use for your chicken.
Indoor Grill Meat Cooking Times:
- Flank Steak: 12 to 14 minutes
- Hamburgers: 14 to 17 minutes
- Precooked Hot Dogs or Sausages: 5 to 7 minutes
- Chicken Breast: 12 to 15 minutes
- Fish Fillets or Shrimp: 5 to 7 minutes
(These times are for cooking on an open, uncovered grill, flipping once.)
- 1 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey (if you can find it, ground prime rib will make for an truly decadent burger)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- small pinch of cumin or a drop of liquid smoke
- In a mixing bowl, combine ground meat, egg, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin or smoke. Form into four patties.
- Heat countertop grill or grill pan on medium-high heat. Grill burger until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side for a medium rare burger. Top with cheese of your choice, apply a foil tent, and turn off heat to melt the cheese. It should only take a minute.
- Place patties on a prepared bun (lettuce, tomato, etc) and enjoy!
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