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Leave the oven door ajar when broiling?

This is a pretty embarassing question to be asking, since I consider myself a pretty decent home cook and have been doing it for decades... BUT, is it necessary to prop the oven door open when broiling? I'm pretty sure my mother told me this, but I don't ever see it mentioned on cooking shows (even the ones that actually try to teach you to cook). I think the rationale was that the broiler units would turn off when they reached temp. if you closed the doors.

So, for my entire culinary career (which began by putting my college roomate in the infirmary, but that's another story), I have been propping the door open. Am I just wasting money on my utility bills, or do I have it right?

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  1. That's what my mother told me to do also, so I'm still doing it all these years later. It could be real or another urban myth.
    Good question. Hope that someone has a good answer.

    1. It will be interesting to see what responses you get on this, because I can picture that someone's actually done a study that shows otherwise. But what I understand to be the rationale for leaving the door cracked is to ensure broiling by direct heat from above, as opposed to baking at a very high temperature.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cmkdvs

        Wow, so there is a whole generation of BB's that grew up convinced of this! And, we could be wrong. I think cmkdvs is correct though - the idea is that if the door is closed, the broiler will turn off and you will just be baking at a high temp instead of broiling.

      2. Yup, me too. And the door on my oven has an auto open position about 4-6 inches wide, so there's got to be something to it.

        1 Reply
        1. Yes, absolutely and here's why.

          Broiling keeps the upper element "on" in an electric oven. If you keep the door closed then the temperature keeps rising. There is a fail-safe "off" at a certain temperature that will turn the element off at that temperature. Not good if you are in the middle of broiling. By keeping the door open the internal oven temperature never hits the "off" number and the element stays on for the entire cooking process.

          8 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Yes, that's exactly my understanding, too. You want the direct heat of the element, not the heat of the surrounding air-- but if the door is closed and the oven keeps heating to the point where the element goes off, you'll be baking, not broiling...

            1. re: another_adam

              Wow, I have never heard this before. Does it apply to gas ovens as well? Mine is the type with a little broiler door underneath the main oven.

              It doesn't make sense to me that this would be an issue, to me the whole point of having a setting for "broil" on the dial would be that it would turn on the broiler and keep it on.

              1. re: andytee

                No, I think it's specifically about electric ovens-- when you turn the gas broiler on, it just goes until you say otherwise. (I think jfood is right that the turning off on electric elements is a safety feature)

                I guess, wastefulness aside, it does have the advantage that you can more easily keep your eye on whatever is in there getting all good and broily (always a challenge with the lower broil drawer, I find)

                1. re: another_adam

                  I have a gas oven with digital temp.. so when I set "broil" I also have to set a temp.. and it turns off at that temp. I have definitely opened a closed oven during broiling and found the heating element off. I tend to cycle between open and closed, keeping it just cool enough to have the flame on.

                2. re: andytee

                  I think it only seems like it keeps it on if you turn the temp to highest as the item being broiled will be done before the oven gets to that temp and shuts off. Run-on sentence but I hope it makes sense. I have a gas oven and do not prop the door. I have never opened the door and seen the flame off, although maybe this is like the refrigerator light?

              2. re: jfood

                jfood, I think you have it spot on. A an elecric broiler will turn off if you shut the door when it reaches a high temp. So, the mom;s knew what they were talking about. Keep the door ajar when broilng with an elecric element. Thanks!

                1. re: jfood

                  Agreed, and I also thought it had to do with moisture. As in Gas broilers, burn off the moisture and electrics do not. And in broiling you want hot high and dry searing, so the open door helps the heated moist air cycle out.

                  1. re: jfood

                    That is sort of what Mom said but her's was well if you want it to broil leave the da*m door open, if you want to bake, close it. LOL

                    I understand what you mean, makes sense to me.

                  2. Depends on your oven. My old one said to leave the door ajar, which I did. Worked fine. My new one says to leave the door closed, which I do. Works fine.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Same for me. My new one works just fine broiling with the door closed. It's a Bosch double wall oven. :)

                      1. re: Morganna

                        Very curious M.

                        Jfood owns a double GE-Monogram (made by Bosch) so he went to the two websites and looked at their respective manuals. Both say to keep the door CLOSED during broiling, as you point out. Yet when jfood broils he always leaves it open because the one time he closed it, the element went off. Very confusing, go figure.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Many instruction manuals are written and cooking tools are constructed with a safety eye rather than a cooking eye. I'm sure that all oven manufacturers everywhere would like us all to keep the door closed all the time, even if it makes the steak tough.

                          Sort of like how Rival ruined the low-temp setting on the CrockPot.

                          1. re: jfood

                            My GE-Monogram gas oven has a door open stop. Haven't read the manuals because this is the house in Mexico and the manuals are in Spanish. For the Jenn-Air gas oven NOB there is also a door open stop. Haven't read that manual either.
                            Reading through the thread, it makes sense to broil, not bake at a very high temperature.
                            I'm going to keep the door open just like Mom said to.

                            1. re: jfood

                              I have a GE Trivection and it says to leave the door open (at the stop) for standard broiling unless I want the element to cycle on and off, in which case the door must be closed. Good for things like a whole "Frenched" (butterflied) chicken and such.. For speed broil, which is twice as fast as standard, the door MUST be closed, but this method is not recommended for steaks if I want them rare or medium rare. Standard broil with the door open is rocommended for that.