The Broiler: Your Secret Weapon for Easy Weeknight Cooking
Here’s how to use the broiler, plus 13 recipes that make the most of its quick, high-heat power
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Green Chili Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo; photograph by Olga Ivanova
In a world filled with Instant Pots, slow cookers, and air fryers, one of the handiest items in my kitchen couldn’t be more old-school: My broiler. With it, I can get a fantastic weeknight dinner on the table in minutes, and all I have to do is turn on the oven.
Most of the time I use my broiler for dinner recipes — usually main dishes — but it comes in handy for appetizers like bacon-wrapped scallops, too. And sometimes even breakfast! Broiled grapefruit, anyone?
If you’re counting carbohydrates, the broiler could be your best friend; it works its magic beautifully on protein. So start by learning the basics of broiling below, and then check out the easy, protein-centric broiler recipes that follow.
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What is broiling?
Think of broiling as upside-down grilling. You get similar flame-kissed char from the high heat, but from above the food instead of underneath — and you don’t have to go outside, or set up your grill. When it comes to weeknight convenience for home cooks, broiling is hard to beat.
Broiling vs. baking
Both broiling and baking use the oven. Both cook with dry heat. But there’s one big difference: the source of that heat. Baking works by surrounding the food with hot air at a moderately high temperature, cooking it slowly and evenly. With broiling, on the other hand, you’re sliding the food just a few inches below the heating element, to cook it quickly from the top down. In some recipes, the food spends most of the cooking time baking and the broiler goes on at the last minute, just to crisp it up.
How to broil
Broiling doesn’t take any particular skill, but you do have to pay attention. First, make sure your pan is flameproof, even when using an electric oven. The coils will get hot. If your oven came with a broiler pan, that’s usually your best option, but a sheet pan with a cooling rack set inside works well, too. You want somewhere for the juices to drip, so the food can get nice and crispy.
Preparing your oven for broiling depends on where the broiler is — it may be at the top of the oven, or in a drawer underneath the main compartment. For a top-level broiler, move an oven rack to one of the highest slots. (Which one depends on the recipe and how much char you want.) With a drawer you have less control over placement, but some do offer two positions. Most often, you’ll want to have the food four to five inches from the heating element.
Set the oven to BROIL and preheat for 10 minutes with the door closed. The oven should be screaming hot when the food goes in. From here, follow the recipe instructions. Total time under the flame is usually pretty brief so you’ll want to stay nearby.
Pro tip: Look at your heating element before you start. In my oven, it’s at the top center, a single rod running from front to back. The reach of the flame is relatively narrow, so I’ve learned to place food toward the center of the broiler pan. When I use a sheet pan, I slide it in lengthwise, so more of the food is exposed to the flame at once.
Broiled chicken recipes
Step aside, grilled chicken.
Barbecue Baked Chicken Legs
This kid-friendly dinner uses the quick bake-and-broil method but tastes like it’s been cooked low and slow on the grill. Season drumsticks with salt and black pepper, then slather with prepared BBQ sauce and arrange on a baking sheet. They spend half an hour in the oven, then go under the broiler to caramelize.
Feta Topped Broiled Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are anything but boring when you rub them with a mixture of tomato paste, vinegar, and dried herbs and spices before broiling. But it’s the last step that takes this into wow territory: Lay tomato slices on top of the cooked chicken, sprinkle with feta, and run it back under the broiler until the cheese browns.
Heavenly Broiled Chicken Breast
Want dinner on the table in 15 minutes or less? Give these juicy, flavorful chicken breasts a shot. Each thin-sliced breast gets rubbed with a little olive oil, garlic, and finely chopped fresh herbs before going under the flame. They only need 3-5 minutes per side to cook perfectly.
Broiled red meat recipes
If you’re watching your cholesterol, you might want to skip these recipes. But if you love your steak and pork with a gorgeous crust on the outside while staying juicy within, read on.
30-Minute BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Yes, this recipe really does deliver baby back ribs that will have you licking your fingers in just half an hour. Here, too, you’re baking-then-broiling. Heat up some baked beans while the ribs are in the oven and serve with coleslaw.
London broil isn’t a cut of meat, and it’s not from England. It simply means you take a tough cut of steak, let it tenderize in a marinade, broil it, and slice it thin. Here, we’re making broiled flank steak. The marinade is simple but amazing: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, and other seasoning.
Broiled Pork Chops (with Creole Seasoning)
An easy homemade creole seasoning mix (made with spices found in your average spice rack) makes this dinner almost effortless. You simply pat it on the chops and broil — the trick here is to put a cast-iron pan in the oven while the broiler preheats. Cooking the chops in that hot pan speeds up the process. Now all you need are mashed potatoes and maybe some steamed green beans.
Broiled seafood recipes
I love a bit of char on my fish, so the broiler is a great option. Watch closely, since seafood cooks very quickly in such high heat.
Salmon and Coconut Rice Bowls with Sriracha Honey
In this gorgeous bowl, edamame-studded, coconut-scented rice gets topped with a glazed, broiled salmon fillet plus thinly sliced cucumber, then drizzled with a quick ginger-soy-sriracha-honey sauce. Yes, really. This is going to become a new weeknight favorite.
Broiled Fish Tostadas
I like fish tacos as much as the next person, but sometimes I shake things up with crunchy tostadas. Here, you crisp up corn tortillas in the oven, then preheat the broiler. Season fillets of mild, white fish (think tilapia or catfish) with southwestern spices and make a quick slaw before sliding the fish under the broiler. Spread a simple avocado mash onto the tostadas, break the cooked fish into chunks, and pile it on top along with some slaw. With a squeeze of lime juice, this is pretty killer.
The Best Broiled Lobster Tail
Lobster is all about the butter, right? The smoky-spicy-garlicky butter you brush onto these tails before broiling will have you swooning — it goes so beautifully with that sweet lobster meat. You won’t believe how easy it is to make something this sophisticated.
Broiled burger recipes
There’s a reason one of the major fast-food chains touts its “flame-broiled burger.” Burgers + broiler = perfection.
Juicy Broiled Burgers
You will not find a better recipe for a basic burger, in my opinion. Yes, it’s just ground beef seasoned with salt and black pepper, but the technique for forming the patties makes a huge difference — as does getting them closer to the heating element than you normally would. The burger-to-bun ratio comes out exactly right, and the flavor? It’s a heckuva burger.
Green Chili Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
I find turkey burgers to be on the dull side, but zhuzhing up your ground turkey with canned green chilies, spices, fresh cilantro, and scallions makes them anything but. I love the kick from the chipotle-lime mayo, too. Serve these with tortilla chips, of course, and maybe a 5-minute corn and black bean salad.
Zesty Chicken Burgers with Cilantro Cream
Normally I don’t think of burgers as diet-friendly, but when you swap in ground chicken breast you eliminate most of the unhealthy saturated fat. You can probably imagine how dry a plain chicken burger gets after cooking. Which is where delicious add-ins help: Lime juice, minced red onion and cucumber, and a smidge of mayo make the burgers juicy and flavorful. In another nod to nutrition, the cilantro cream uses Greek yogurt, and the burgers get served on toasted whole-wheat English muffins.
Bonus: broiled vegetables
You can’t broil all this protein and not have a side dish, right?
How To Quick-Roast Vegetables Under the Broiler
I’ll serve roasted veggies with almost anything. All they need is a squeeze of lemon juice and maybe some chopped fresh herbs, and you’ve got a lovely side dish. It can take upwards of 45 minutes, though, so when I’m in a rush I use this smart broiler shortcut. In around 20 minutes, I’ve got nicely charred, softened-but-not-soggy vegetables. I usually make more than I need for dinner, so I have extra to use — for pasta, quesadillas, pizza, you name it — all week long.
More ideas for quick weeknight dinners
Check out the shortcut recipe ideas in the Yummly articles below.