Turn the Dial to Broil

by Mark R. Vogel

            Broiling is a dry heat method of cooking whereby a radiant energy source is located directly above the food.  In other words, the food is underneath the heat.  Many people refer to broiling as “upside-down grilling” but that’s not completely accurate.  To understand why we must discuss the ways heat is transferred to food. 

            Convection is when heat is transmitted via moving currents of liquid or gas.  Thus, when you bake or roast something in your oven, the circulating hot air surrounding the food performs the cooking.  Conduction is when heat is transferred through direct contact from the cooking vessel to the food.  Turn on your frying pan, fill it with bacon, and the heat is conveyed directly from the flame, to the pan, to the bacon.  Boiling is a combination of both.  The food cooks from direct contact with the water, (conduction), and from the circulation of the water, (convection).  Finally food can be cooked by radiant heat, a.k.a., infrared radiation.  Such is the case with broiling.  Here the food is in close proximity to the heat source but not touching it.  Grilling is not pure infrared radiation.  You certainly achieve radiant heat from the nearby coals or gas flame, but you are also cooking via conduction, since the food is actually touching the grates.  Therefore, and I know I’m being a little pedantic here; broiling is cooking via infrared radiation while grilling is a combination of infrared radiation and conduction.  Whew!  Glad we got that out of the way.

            With the exception of the tiny thermal technicality I just outlined, everything else about grilling and broiling is the same.  Because broiling is a dry heat method, only tender cuts of meat are suitable.  You would never broil a pot roast, lamb shank, or beef brisket.  They would become even tougher. Cuts from the rib and loin of our four-legged friends are best suited for broiling.  Fish, shellfish, vegetables and chicken are also good candidates.  You should also never broil a thick cut of meat, even if it is of the tender variety.  Broiling is very intense heat and fast cooking.  If the piece of food is too thick, the exterior will be burnt by the time the center is cooked.  So ixnay to the on-the-bone chicken breast.  Do boneless breasts instead.  Conversely, if the piece of food is too thin, you’ll obliterate it.  Stay under an inch in thickness but not as thin as a cutlet. 

            Of course, this all depends on the quality of your oven.  I’ve cooked in ovens that had a wimpy broiler.  The food never develops that sear like you obtain on a grill or by sautéing.  If your kitchen is vitiated by such an oven, use an alternative method.  Searing the food creates strong flavor.  A broiler that falls short in the heat intensity department will shortchange your taste buds.

            The basic broiling method is as follows:  First, make sure your broiler has completely preheated.  If you start the food in a cold oven and turn on the broiler, the food will not properly sear.  And by the time it does it will have overcooked from the prolonged and gradually escalating thermal trip.  Next, lightly brush the food with oil.  This will add flavor, help prevent sticking, and facilitate the production of a uniform sear.  Then season the food with salt, pepper, and whatever other spices you wish to use.  If you’re not planning on making a sauce from whatever drippings accrue in the pan, you can cover the broiler pan with aluminum foil for easy cleaning.  Place the food on the pan and then into the broiler.  Four inches from the heat source is usually sufficient.  Keep a close eye on it.  As soon as the first side is browned, flip it.  The second side will not take as long since the food is partially cooked at this stage.  Remove when the second side has browned. 

BROILED PORK CHOPS WITH HARICOT VERT

Haricot Vert are tender French string beans.  Use regular string beans if your supermarket doesn't carry them.


4 center cut pork chops

Olive oil as needed

Rosemary, chopped, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

4 oz. dry white wine

4 oz. beef or veal stock

1 bay leaf

4 cloves garlic, chopped, (divided)

Gastric, as needed, (see recipe below)

6 oz haricot vert

3 shallots, chopped

            Preheat the broiler.  Brush the chops with oil and sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Do not cover the pan with foil.  Broil until desired doneness.  Remove the chops and cover with foil to rest and stay warm.  Place the broiler pan on top of the stove and turn the heat up to high.  Deglaze the pan with white wine, and then add stock, bay leaf, some additional rosemary, two cloves of the garlic, and reduce for a minute or two.  Add two oz. of the gastric. Continue to reduce and taste, adding more gastric if necessary.  Strain the sauce before serving.  Sauté the haricot vert with the shallots in olive oil until almost tender.  Add the remaining cloves of garlic toward the end and season with salt and pepper.   

GASTRIC:

4 oz sugar

½ cup white wine vinegar

            Heat the sugar in a saucepan until it melts and turns a pale brown.  Add vinegar and cook until sugar has completely dissolved and is incorporated into the vinegar. 

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