When the warm weather reminds me of barbecues I had with family and friends growing up, I start craving that charred, smoky flavor. But since I can't have an open flame (apartments -- ugh), I started searching for grilling alternatives.
Here are five favorite scenic routes to getting that barbecue-grill-smoky flavor, when you have neither a grill nor a smoker. Nothing tastes quite like it was actually grilled, but these tips are pretty efficient at staving off those cravings.
1. Broiling The process usually takes longer and is always a much bigger pain, but broiling provides similarly intense heat to create charring and caramelization. Keep the oven door slightly ajar. That tends to emit unbearable heat and smoke, so it's a good idea to broil leaner cuts of meat and avoid oily marinades to reduce the smoke. Use a preheated broiler pan to sear the meat, and catch the drippings during the broiling process.
2. Indoor grill It's a precarious process, but with careful cooking, I've had luck with this a smokeless indoor electric grill called Sanyo HPS-SG3 Smokeless Indoor Electric Grill. It's not terribly expensive, but it has a large cooking plane so I can cook all the carcinogenic meat (and occasional vegetable) I want. It's narrow enough that I can squeeze it into one of my deteriorating cabinets, and that cursed drippings pan is dishwasher safe.
3. Solar Cooker I don't trust this thing to produce off-the-grill-tasting foods, or even to really work, but it will satisfy your green friends' "carbon footprint" anxieties. It also lets me cook outside and impress my friends, two of my favorite things about grilling. Short on money, but long on sunshine? Today's your day: the thing's on sale, so you can cook like ahip pioneer for under $300.
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4. Roasting over soaked woodchips There's an easy way to cheat and still achieve a nice smoky flavor. Just soak some woodchips in water, then spread them along the bottom of an aluminum baking pan. Nestle a baking rack in the woodchips, set the meat on the rack, and roast. This battle plan still puts out a lot of smoke and smell in your apartment, but you can always dunk your furniture in Febreze later.
5. Fake the flavor This is the least-satisfying method, but if you have asthma or an awareness of your carbon footprint, it's the easiest. Before baking the meat or cooking it in a skillet (or whatever it is you do), use Liquid Smoke. Liquid Smoke sounds like a drug or a band name, but it's a marinade made from enough herbs and "concentrates" to provide that "real barbecue flavor."
At $25 for 12 bottles, how bad can it be? If you care about chemicals in your body, try experimenting with marinades, using soy sauce, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, a bay leaf salt and pepper as the base ingredients. Your food still won't taste like intense heat and charcoal, but there are enough reminiscent flavors for someone to say, "You know, this reminds me of the stuff we used to make on the grill."
You can also use lapsang souchong, a strong, Chinese black tea with a flavor that is often compared to a campfire or pipe tobacco. Using it to flavor meat works best in a smoker, but you can also try grinding it up to use in a marinade, rub or mixed into ground beef.