How to Get a Smoky Meat Flavor Without Grilling Outdoors
Everybody loves grilling. Being outside and standing over an open flame cooking your food has a somewhat primal feeling to it.
Almost everyone agrees that food cooked over a grill has a certain special taste that you can’t get anywhere else.
Unfortunately, there are lots of things that can prevent us from enjoying grilling outside. Oftentimes the biggest limiting factor is the weather. Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that stays warm year round, you likely know the seasonal limitations of your area.
Even when it’s warm outside, sometimes the weather does not cooperate. Rain, wind, and even mosquitoes or other wildlife can make grilling outdoors a nuisance.
The Solution: Try Indoor Grilling!
Luckily, there has been a huge surge in popularity in “grilling” indoors. This can be accomplished several ways. Specially designed indoor grills, grill pans, and even oven broilers can be used to recreate the classic grilling experience.
But one question remains: how can we achieve the great flavor provided by a grill when cooking indoors? We’re going to discuss several options that will give your food that classic “fresh off the grill” taste from the comfort of inside your kitchen.
First and foremost, your food has to be seasoned properly. This applies to all forms of cooking, obviously, but especially for when you’re trying to recreate a certain taste.
Fortunately, meats can be seasoned in layers beginning with the marinade, which will form the base of the meat’s flavor. Using a flavoring like liquid smoke might be considered cheating by some, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
A little bit of that goes a long way, so err on the side of caution. You can also help enhance the smoky flavor of your food by selecting a cut of meat that’s slightly higher in fat, such as a New York Strip or ribeye steak.
These fattier cuts will actually generate their own smoke as they cook and their fat renders, helping you capture a more natural smoky flavor.
After marinating, you’ll be ready to add some more spices. Using smoked spices and salts is another super easy way to add concentrated smoky flavor to your meat.
Some great ones include smoked paprika, whose mild flavor pairs well with almost anything, and smoked chili powders which can be used to pack some extra punch. Be careful not to go overboard with the smoked spices, however, because you’ll risk overpowering your meat’s natural great flavor.
Try Different Indoor Grilling Methods
Our next consideration is to actually cook the meat. There are tons of options for indoor cooking, as you certainly know, but not all of them are suited to recreating the grilled flavor we’re looking for.
One of the best options for this is using a cast iron grill pan, the kind with raised ridges that will leave char marks on your meat. This is probably the closest thing you’ll get to an open top outdoor grilled flavor when cooking indoors, but the flavor does primarily come from the surface in contact with the meat and the sear that it creates.
If you’re looking for an extra-smoky, closed top grill flavor, you’re actually going to want to use your oven, specifically the broiler.
The enclosed environment of the oven traps smoke and its associated deliciousness inside and allows it to infuse into your meat. However, you most likely wouldn’t want to bake something like a steak or a burger if you’re trying to recreate a grilling experience.
That is where the broiler comes in. Combine the high, intense heat of the broiler with your well-seasoned meat in a cast iron grill pan for a deliciously seared and perfectly smoky taste.
If you’re nervous about using the broiler’s concentrated heat or are cooking something that would benefit from less direct searing, a great option is to bake it in the oven on top of a wood plank.
You’ll want to use one that is specifically designed for food uses, not just any old piece of wood. The flavor you’ll get is a more subtle version of what you’d typically find from using wood chips in a smoker.
Applewood, hickory, and cherry woods are well suited to this purpose and provide amazing flavor notes as well as a cooking surface! This works especially well for fish such as salmon that pair well with a smoky flavor.
Finish and Serve!
Finally, you’ll need to consider how you want to finish and serve your meat. Barbecue sauce is an obvious option for providing super concentrated classic smoky flavor.
There are also a variety of finishing salts that come in different smoked flavor options which add both a great taste and texture to your food.
Whichever way you decide to go, remember to choose flavors that complement each other well and don’t overload the senses. More is sometimes less, and don’t forget to let the natural deliciousness of your food shine through!