Before we even start, you can't use your outdoor grill inside, even in your garage. Charcoal and gas grills produce large amounts of carbon monoxide and even small amounts can kill you. This his might seem obvious, but every year a dozen people die from using an outdoor grill inside. Indoor grilling must be done on a grill or grill pan designed for indoor grilling.
It’s time to dispel some myths about indoor grills and indoor grilling. First, unless you are using a gas-powered (and vented) indoor grill, you won’t really get close to the flavor of outdoor grilling from an indoor appliance. It’s never going to be quite the same.
Second, indoor grills don’t necessarily produce safer and healthier foods. While outdoor grills can create cancer-causing chemicals, so can indoor grills. No matter how you grill, burning fat on high heat causes these carcinogens to form, which is something to keep in mind.
The last myth that needs to be shattered is the notion that indoor grilling machines significantly reduce the amount of fat in foods. Certain contact grills have the words “lean, mean fat reducing” printed on the appliance, but when Consumer Reports looked into these products, they found “no significant” difference between pan-frying and using the grill. If you think about the fact that pan-frying is one of the least healthy ways to cook, then you need to take these claims for what they are—a great way to sell appliances.
Types of Indoor Grills
Let’s take a quick look at the types of indoor grills on the market. There are basically two types: the open grill and the folding contact grill. The open grill is similar in cooking style to an outdoor grill. These electric appliances have a heating element and a grill-like cooking surface. While you have to flip foods to cook evenly, the experience of grilling is much more authentic and the flavor is closer to the real thing. A good example of this type of grill is the Zojirushi EB-CC15 Indoor Electric Grill.
The Cuisinart Griddler GR-4 is basically a panini press, which is the origin of all the folding contact grills like the popular Foreman Grill. These have been popular in Europe for decades and are great for making sandwiches. Of course, they are really using the term grill as in grilled cheese sandwich. Not something you'd make on a full-sized gas grill, but these appliances are versatile. The advantage of a contact grill is that they cook on both sides simultaneously and require less attention.
Relatively inexpensive and readily available, a grill pan, such as the Lodge Cast Iron Grill Pan, is a great choice for indoor grilling. This heavy-duty pan will sear better, and the ridges over the surface will keep food away from grease collecting in the base of the pan. This pan will last for years if it's properly cared for.
How to Grill Indoors
Now that we have the equipment straightened out, let's look at the process of grilling. Just like outdoor grilling, indoor grilling requires attention. Don't walk away from the grill. Remember, you are indoors now; all the smoke made from a fire or burning food isn't going to get carried away by the wind. To reduce fat and smoke generated by your indoor grill, trim excess fats from meats. Some open grills may let fat drippings get to heating elements. This can cause a fire though the risk is minimal. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. It is also good to use indoor grills with a vent on or window open.
So what can you grill on your indoor grill? Most anything you would outside. Indoor grills can't drain liquids as well as outdoor grills, and you don't want marinades running over your counter, so when grilling marinated meats, allow them to drain first on a cooling rack. While you can baste on an indoor grill, you need to do so sparingly. Lightly brush basting solutions on foods, careful not to spill. Other than that, you can cook almost anything that will fit on your grill.