Here's How to Broil Food Without Burning It to a Crisp

No need to be intimidated. Learn how to properly broil food for crispy, beautifully browned results.

Want to achieve that perfect char on meat, veggies, or homemade pizza? Broiling food is a great way to add a crispy finish to your favorite foods, but it's often misused or unused, thanks to a bad rap and an undeserved intimidation factor.

Let's start with the basics: Broiling is a method of cooking that directly exposes your food to super-high heat, only (typically) from the top rather than the bottom—like an upside-down grill. This makes it perfect for browning or quick-cooking dishes.

But one misstep and you'll be left with a dried-out steak or burnt pizza crust. To make sure that won't happen, we tapped Whirlpool brand manager Kait Capone. She shares everything you need to know about how to broil food like a chef.

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Locate Your Broiler

A broiler is not the same as an oven: A broiler is an element inside the oven. While it's typically near the top of the oven cavity—usually with a dedicated heating element—some ovens (generally older gas models) have a separate broiler drawer positioned under the main oven.

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Use the Right Cookware

If you don't have a broiling pan—which consists of a rack on top with a shallow drip pan underneath—use a shallow metal baking pan and a baking rack to hold your food. Alternatively, if you're broiling meats, a cast iron skillet is suitable. Avoid using glass or Pyrex cookware, as the intense heat can cause it to crack or shatter.

03 of 06

Adjust the Oven Racks

In general, arrange the top rack in your oven to create a 3- to 5-inch gap between your broiler and the top of your meat. Place thinner cuts and foods that benefit from heavy browning and caramelization closer to the broil element.

Thicker cuts and bone-in meats that take longer to reach their required cooking temperature benefit from a position farther from the broil element, which allows them to cook to the center and reduce the chance of burning.

Overall, the closer you place your food to the broiler, the faster it will cook. Check your recipe to find the right rack placement for your particular dish. If your oven has a broiler drawer, you won't be able to adjust the shelf height.

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Preheat Your Broiler

Once your racks are in place, let your broiler preheat for at least 5 minutes before placing your food inside. This is general guidance because preheating times vary, depending on your oven, so check your user guide to see exactly how much time you need. Some recipes, especially those that involve searing the surface of meat, may call for a longer preheat time.

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Use the Proper Setting

While most broilers operate via an on-off switch, some ovens have a low-high broiler function, and others allow you to set a particular temperature. If your recipe doesn’t specify a temperature, use the highest setting.

In general, the high setting is best when broiling thin cuts of meat that you prefer seared in natural juices and less done on their interiors. The low broiler setting is better for thicker cuts of meat that you want cooked all the way through.

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Watch Your Food

Since broiling involves high heat, it's important to stay close and monitor your food while cooking. For some models, the oven's manual recommends slightly cracking open the oven door while broiling for optimal air circulation. (If there are kids in the house, this recommendation is a non-starter.) If broiling with the door closed, use your oven light or open the door to frequently check your food's progress.

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