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My dirty secret: I don't know how to use the oven's broiler

I fancy myself quite a good cook but my dirty secret is I don't know how to use the broiler. Sure, I know how to turn it on and have used it to give a quick brown to the top of some dishes, but that's it. I see recipes that use the broiler and I am mystified. If a recipe says "broil 5 minutes a side" how do you know where to put the oven racks? Should the food be a couple inches away? Six inches away?

I would love to make Rao's Lemon Chicken however my broiler fears are stopping me. Any advice for the broiler adverse?

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  1. 1st question - do you have an electric oven or a gas one?

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      I have a gas oven with the broiler on the ceiling of the oven.

    2. This should help answer some of your questions: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/361268

      1. My broiler's been broken for 10 years, so I skip recipes that require broiling unless I think I can get away without it.

        1. Every oven is different - when I changed mine I used to get utterly frustrated with broiling in the new oven.

          Experiment using the level that is about 5 - 6 inches from the heat. In my oven it takes 35 - 40 minutes to broil bone-in chicken legs, turned every 8 - 10 minutes so that one side does not burn.

          I rarely use the top level really close to the heat other than for crisping or browning stuff. Low and slow usually gets me great results.


          1. Is my broiler the drawer underneath the floor of the oven?

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaykayen

              It depends - my old oven worked that way, but the oven I have now doesn't. It still has the drawer down there (for storing stuff? I have no idea why they bothered) but it isn't the broiler. That said, my current oven's broiler is much too hot. The few times I've used it it burned things almost immediately. Maybe I need to do as someone suggested above and move things a little lower (farther from the heat). As it is, I now avoid (like the OP) making any recipe that calls for broiling.

            2. Alton Brown said: "Think of your broiler as an upside down grill." Even with that, I hardly ever use mine, except to brown my food.

              3 Replies
              1. re: mcel215

                My electronic oven has a botton on the pannel says Broil, but I really don't know where broiler part is at. The bottom part of the oven is for storage and the oven part I don't see how it can broil food (heat seems come from top and bottom of the oven). So I always avoid making any recipe that calls for broiling. However, I really would like to know is there other alternative to broiler (except for grill) ?

                1. re: ijeny

                  if it's an electric oven the broil setting turns only to top heating elements on, and you place your food near the top. Ages ago in my mom's gas oven the broiler was where you say storage is (the gas was at the bottom of the oven, and the top of the "storage" area. Sounds like you have electric though.

                  1. re: ijeny

                    I have an electric oven as well. My broiler element is on the top of the oven and my baking element is on the bottom of the oven.

                    In the few times I have used the broiler, I place the oven rack on the top of the oven and turn on the broiler. Slide a skillet (metal handle) with whatever you are cooking, meat, fish, etc. Cook for a couple of minutes each side. I've never been impressed with broiling. What I usually do, is pan sear meat/fish and finish off in an oven for about 5 minutes. To me, this process comes closest to grilling.