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Aug 8, 2010 08:21 AM

Need Advice: burning my food (creating the campfire effect without actual fire)

I had a very happy accident lately: I have left potatoes to boil on the stove, had to attend to something and when I was back, they were scorched and not unlike camp-fire potatoes. Yummy. The pot: made of regular metal (not cast iron or anything) - was black and difficult (but not impossible) to clean.

I suddenly thought that I can actually sometimes try out BBQ / grilling / camp-fire recipes at home (another point: I understand that in the US it is standard to have a BBQ grill in your balcony/yard, but I live in a European sized flat, with big balcony, but with house regulations that would prevent setting fire to anything in the flat or on the balcony).

So, are there any ways of making the "camp-fire"/grill affect at home? I saw that some ethnic stores around here sell electric grilling plates - are these things any good as an alternative for meat/shrimp (for the winter, for times when you don't feel like grilling outside with the whole gear)? What about other ways to "burn" my food?

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  1. well, first i'd start using the term "char" instead of burn - sounds more appetizing ;)

    - if you have gas burners on your stove, you can actually hold ingredients (peppers, skewers/kabobs, etc) directly over the flame to char the exterior.
    - regardless of whether you cook with gas or electric, the broiler is useful for high-heat charring/sizzling in the oven.
    - a cast-iron grill pan is probably the best stove-top option.

    for what it's worth, none of the indoor/counter top grills or plates will be as good as the real thing outdoors, because they just don't get hot enough. electric can't compete with charcoal or gas when it comes to getting a real grill effect.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      By the way, some of the best toast I've ever had was prepared - not in an oven or toaster - but held over gas flames in a "toaster".

      1. re: monku

        I like a lot of my food well-done or charred, and must admit I keep a little plumber's torch by the stove to finish things off:

        I'll run the flame over the top of a finished pizza to get those little burn marks on the cheese and onions. I'll lay out stoned wheat crackers on a cookie sheet and flame them until the edges get nice and brown. Lately I'm experimenting with sweet corn. Grilling it over a fire is still the best, but when I don't have time for that, nuking the ears, then husking them and flaming them until the kernels get a little caramelized is not bad at all.

        1. re: monku

          I have a grill pan and never use it. Short of giving grill like marks, I think it does a poor job of cooking. The two things real grilling exceeds at is the immense heat and the smoke. Since the smoke can't be replicated indoors, you should focus on the heat.

          This is best done either with a cast iron skillet or using your oven's broiler. You can preheat a cast iron skillet till its crazy hot then the full surface area will get a good char on your steaks, chicken, etc, as opposed to a grill pan where the only contact is the ridges. As an example, when making a steak, in a skillet there will be a crust over the entire surface of the steak rather than just where it came in contact with the ridges.

        2. You guys are wonderful - gonna try some of your ideas.