What’s the best part about summer? Gathering family and friends to eat barbecue. This is most often accomplished with an outdoor grill or smoker. What can you offer your loved ones if you don’t have the option for outdoor grilling or smoking? Let’s barbecue in the kitchen. Here are some ideas for getting that great smoked and grilled flavors into your food. It’s summer barbecue in the kitchen!
Food and Spices
Have you ever eaten something that had a rich smoky barbecue flavor only to find out later that it wasn’t even smoked or grilled? That’s the topic of this first category. Without a grill or smoker you can still get the flavors into your foods. Here are some options;
Here’s a spice to use: smoked Spanish paprika, a.k.a. pimenton. This is dried over oak embers giving it a unique smoky flavor. Use this paprika in marinades for fish, poultry, meat and vegetables. Of course, you can also use it as a seasoning before or after cooking. This is often enough to add a smoky flavor to your meal.
When you take a jalapeño pepper and smoke-dry it, voilà, you now have a Chipotle pepper! Use these chilies in their dry form, ground up into a fine powder, or in canned form in adobo sauce (some say this is better than the powder). Use chipotle in marinades and barbecue sauces — simply puree it with your other ingredients.
Smoked Sea Salt
Another seasoning to use is smoked sea salt. This happens to be one of the cheapest (or should I say ‘least expensive’?) ways to get smoky flavor. All you have to do is simply season your food with it after it’s cooked. Done and done!
This concoction still amazes me. They’ve actually bottled smoke in liquid form by way of condensation. This is genius! Flavors come in mesquite, applewood, hickory, and more. A little goes a long way when you’re flavoring your barbecue sauces and marinades.
Mmmm…just reading the word ‘bacon’ has my brain tricking me into smelling it (no, I don’t have some nearby…but I wish I did). Cook up some smoked bacon until you’ve rendered the fat (if you’re not a cook/griller/foodie/etc. you might have to Google that…I know I did). Then using that same grill pan just toss your burgers or steaks right in. Those meats will grab onto some of that smoky flavor. Other options for this leftover bacon fat is to spread it cold over your meat before you sear it in a skillet or use it melted to baste meats while cooking.
Smoking Wood Chips
Okay, these aren’t food or a spice but they also don’t fall into the next category so by default they’re ending up at the end of this one. My apologies if I’ve offended you OCD types. Smoking chips are used in outdoor grilling and barbecue, but there’s no reason why we can’t use them in the kitchen. Simply throw some soaked wood chips in with your steak as its finishing cooking in the grill pan, cover briefly and let the smoke infuse the meat. A word of caution: ensure your kitchen has good ventilation before attempting this.
Tools and Equipment
The second group to assist us with indoor barbecue is equipment and tools. We’re no longer tricking the mind/taste buds with spices and other foods. Buckle up.
So we’ll start our list with the least expensive option, the broiler. This method will still reward you with great flavor and near-authentic charred exterior. Remember those wood chips from above? Use those (soaked and on a tray) in the bottom of your oven to infuse your burgers and steaks during broiling. Just preheat the oven first in order to get the smoke going. Love ribs? Finish them under the broiler, too!
Cast-Iron Grill Pan
Another great option for grilling indoors? Grill pans. Easy to store and they work well at giving you the look of grilled food. Look for cast-iron grill pans as they hold heat incredibly well (they’re the best in my book). A couple other things to look for; sharp grates, a round shape, and low sides.
These contact grills became widely known and used with the Foreman version. These contact grills and panini presses work wonderfully well and fast for grilling foods since both sides grill at the same time. Since these don’t allow smoke to circulate, you’ll actually get better results from an indoor grill (up next) or a grill pan but otherwise, these offer a decent final product.
Electric Indoor Grill
So a simple way to replicate the outdoor grilling experience is to have an electric indoor grill. Because the grates are placed above the heating surface you get two advantages; one, it’s very similar to an actual grill and two, it beats out those grill pans which often trap moisture due to shallow indentation (i.e. steamed meat — not what we’re looking for).
The Smoking Gun
Like adding science to your meals? Using a smoking gun can give add that. This brings true smoky flavor to foods (condiments, meats, etc). Place cooked food in a pot, turn on the smoking gun (with a pinch of the provided wood chips) and use the tube to direct smoke into the lidded pot. Make sure you have good ventilation. Cue the thunder and lightning along with the evil scientist cackle.
This indoor smoking kettle just requires a smidgen of wood chips and a cup of liquid (beer, water, etc) to smoke foods in your kitchen. These can fit fish, poultry, meats, and even an entire roast — it’ll smoke them all. Don’t fret about filling your kitchen with smoke, the kettle only generates enough smoke to flavor your food.
So there you have it. A handful of ideas and tricks to get you those barbecue grilled and smoked flavors into your summer meals. Impress your friends, family, and neighbors. Have you thought about how lucky you’ll be to be cooking indoors away from mosquitos and flies? That’s just an added perk. Let’s cook barbecue in the kitchen!