The Broiler: Your Kitchen’s Most Underutilized Appliance

by Michelle Rossi

Ahh, spring is in the air and grilling season is almost upon us. For those lucky enough to own or have access to a grill, grilling makes a homemade dinner seem so quick and easy! But what about those of us who don’t own a grill? And what about those chilly fall, winter, or spring months in Boston where all you want to do is stay inside and forget the crazy weather outside?

Enter: your broiler.

If you’re like most home cooks, you might only think of your broiler as a garlic bread-toaster, cheese-melter, or pizza-crisper. While you may have come across recipes that utilize the broiler as a cooking element, using this high-heat cooking style may seem intimidating. It’s okay, you’re not alone!

I consider myself an avid cook and baker, and I rarely use my broiler until recently. About a year ago, I stumbled upon a chicken recipe that required me to cook the chicken under the broiler and promised me grill-like results. Much to my surprise, my chicken cooked in less time than I thought possible. I was skeptical. I wanted to hate it so that I could prove that broiling was nothing like grilling. But I’ve fallen in love with my broiler, and now I just can’t stop.

For those of you without access to a grill, all you need for an almost-grill-worthy meal is a broiler pan.  You probably already have one, but its hiding in the forgotten drawer under your stove. Every oven comes one, yet no one seems to use it! If you don’t have a broiler pan, you can also use a rimmed baking sheet with oven-safe cookie racks, or purchase a new broiler pan here. Trust me, it is worth the investment.

Before we start, there are some things you should know about broiling:

  • Broiling uses the top heating element of your oven, cooking by radiation instead of convection (taking it back to high school physics here!). Broiling happens quickly—for any of you who have made garlic bread under the broiler, you know that it can go from delicately golden to incinerated in ten seconds. When broiling, it is a good idea to set your kitchen timer and stay in the kitchen!
  • Many oven broilers have a high and low setting—I almost always go with high. Don’t panic if yours only has one setting, just set it to broil and proceed.
  • There are debates on whether you should leave your oven cracked open when you broil. I usually do so that I can watch the broiling process (it happens fast). One source claims that electric ovens may need to be open slightly when broiling to avoid overheating; on the other hand, some gas models won’t operate with the door open. To further confuse things, The Kitchn recommends keeping the door open cracked to vent steam and to ensure cooking by radiation, not convection. Reading the comments on Food52 won’t help you much either, as it also offers varying answers. My opinion: consult your oven’s user manual if you have it. If you aren’t sure, leave the door open. If your broiler doesn’t turn on with the door open, try closing it. Whatever works!
  • Test to see how far your pan will be from the heating element before you turn on your oven. Put your cold (empty!) pan on your top rack and adjust the rack up or down until the cooking surface is 4-5 inches from the heating element (this is usually the top rack).
  • DO NOT use glass dishes under the broiler. Trust me on this one. Glass and rapid temperature changes do not mix.

Over the past few months, I have perfected a few recipes using my broiler pan.  Remember how I said the boiler cooks quickly? Well, I can have these recipes on the table in under 20 minutes. Happy broiling!

Grilled chicken broiler recipe

Photo: Author 

Almost-Grilled Chicken Thighs

This is one of my go-to recipes for a quick dinner with a vegetable, or as part of a fancy spread when friends come over. It can easily be scaled up, as the measurements do not have to be precise. Try experimenting with your own seasonings—I like adding smoked paprika, and a dash of cayenne for crispy chicken that is perfect for chopping up and putting on a pita with hummus and veggies.

Serves two for dinner, with lunch leftovers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs)
  • 1 small (7oz) container full-fat plain Greek yogurt, about 1 cup (I like Fage)
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (more or less to taste)
  • Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine yogurt, lemon zest and juice, minced garlic, and cumin. Season with salt, taste.
  2. Place your chicken in a large bowl or a ziplock bag and add the yogurt mix. Make sure the chicken is well coated. You can prepare the chicken up to 1 hour in advance (any longer will start to turn it mushy)
  3. Turn on your broiler to high (if there is a high/low option)
  4. Line the bottom drip-tray of your broiler pan with tinfoil for easy cleanup. Spray the slotted tray of your broiler pan with Pam or lightly coat with a high-heat oil of your choice
  5. Remove the chicken thighs from the yogurt mixture, letting excess drip off, while also keeping a good amount on the chicken (it acts as chicken “sunscreen”). Place them on your broiler pan in one layer, leaving some space in between pieces.
  6. Broil for 5-6 minutes, or until pieces of the yogurt start to char. Flip the chicken and continue broiling for another 6-7 minutes. Pay attention to which pieces are crisping quickest—you might need to rotate your pan or move the chicken pieces around a bit during the cooking process (just like grilling!)
  7. The chicken is done when it reaches 165­o on an instant-read thermometer, or you cut open the chicken and the juices run clear. Remember that chicken thigh is dark meat, and even when cooked may look slightly pinker than chicken breasts.

Serve over rice, or in a pita!

Not-Really-Fried Shrimp

This is a favorite meal from my childhood, that I recently re-discovered. Better yet—you don’t even need a broiler pan! Butterflying the shrimp can take a little bit of time, but this recipe can be made ahead up to 8 hours and kept in the refrigerator until it is cooked. I love making it for dinner guests because I can prepare it ahead of time and spend the majority of my party interacting with my guests!

Michele Evans Easy Seafood Recipes

Photo: Author

Adapted from “Michele Evans’ Easy Seafood Recipes”

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  •  1 ½ pound jumbo shell-off shrimp
  • 2/3 cup flour (plus a bit more, if needed)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (plus one more on hand, just in case)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (plus a bit more, if needed)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Juice from 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan and add the garlic and lemon. Set aside.
  2. Butterfly the shrimp by carefully by cutting each shrimp down the back (outer curve) without going all the way through. (For a quick tutorial, check out this article)
  3. Set up a dipping station, with flour on your left, egg in the middle, breadcrumbs on your right.
  4. Dip each shrimp in the flour, the egg, then breadcrumbs, lightly shaking off the excess of each. Place each shrimp on a rimmed baking sheet. (The shrimp can be stored in the refrigerator at this point for up to 8 hours)
  5. Turn your broiler on high. Spoon the butter garlic mixture over the shrimp. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until the shrimp are brown and no longer transparent on the inside when cut open.
  6. Serve with cocktail sauce

 

Simple Broiled Fish

This is the simplest way I know how to prepare fish without giving my apartment a “stinky fish smell” because it cooks so quickly! Choose filets that are less than 1/2inch thick, and keep an eye on them as they cook. As with all broiling, it will go quickly!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 fillets of your favorite fish (I like Atlantic Char, Bluefish, or NY/PA Perch for their sustainability)
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Your favorite spices

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare your broiler pan by lining the bottom tray with tinfoil, and lightly greasing the grated tray. Preheat your broiler
  2. Mix olive oil, garlic, lemon and spices together, and lightly coat each fillet in the oil mixture.
  3. Broil 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness until fish is flaky and cooked through.

 

Michelle Rossi is a second-year dual-degree NICBC-MPH student who spends most of her precious free time cooking elaborate meals for herself and friends. She is a collector of cookbooks, and especially enjoys reading and re-reading “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, “The Smitten Kitchen”, the 1975 edition of “The Joy of Cooking”, and her 15-year collection of Cooks Illustrated Magazines. When Michelle’s not in the kitchen, you can find her teaching about the natural world at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm, where she strives to find the connections between nature, nutrition and public health.

Gluten-Free or Not, You’ll Want To Try Sarah Lynn’s Desserts

by Nako Kobayashi

Gone are the days that having food restrictions means you have to resort to eating lesser versions of your favorite treats. Gluten-free dessert cookbook author Sarah Lynn develops dessert recipes that are both food restriction- friendly and delicious. The Sprout sat down with this Boston-based Instagram influencer to learn how she developed her successful food business.

Sarah Lynn Baketobefit donuts healthy dessert cookbook

Sarah Lynn, owner of BakeToBeFit, with her donuts from one of her healthy dessert eCookbooks (Photo: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

When someone asks what she does for a living, Sarah Lynn, a Boston-based food entrepreneur, never really knows what to say. “For most people, it’s a really short answer, but I don’t really know what I am.” That’s because Sarah singlehandedly develops and photographs recipes, writes cookbooks, maintains the blog, and runs the social media accounts for her healthy dessert cookbook company, BakeToBeFit. “I’m kind of an author, kind of an Instagram influencer, kind of a blogger, kind of a photographer,” she explains.

Sarah graduated from the University of Richmond in 2015 with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Business. She never imagined that she would own her own gluten-free cookbook company. Having always loved cooking and baking, Sarah always dreamed about managing a food blog, but she had no idea where to start. After learning that many bloggers use Instagram to develop a following and gain exposure, she decided to start her own Instagram account during her senior year of college, with the handle @sarahlynnfitness. She began by posting daily meals, workouts, and the occasional recipe.

healthy gluten-free funfetti cake baketobefit

You don’t have to be gluten-free to want to eat this cake! (Photo: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

The summer after graduating from college, Sarah was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Although she was relieved to find out why she had been feeling ill, she was also devastated that she would no longer be able to consume gluten – a key component of many of the things she loved to cook. Not wanting her diagnosis to keep her from pursuing her food dreams, Sarah started experimenting with gluten-free recipes. She found that the gluten-free versions of some of her favorite baked goods were also lower in calories and more nutritious than the traditional versions. This is due to the use of some ingredients such as oatmeal and coconut flour in the place of traditional white flour.

Baketobefit recipe healthy dessert

A re-post of a photo taken by someone who tried out a #baketobefit recipe
(Photo: Instagram @baketobefit)

Sarah’s Instagram followers loved the photos of her new gluten-free recipes. The most popular were the photos of gluten-free desserts. This led her to write the first of her four eCookbooks, available for purchase online, the Healthy Cake Cookbook. Initially, Sarah didn’t intend on making her cookbook a business. It was simply a way to put all the recipes in one place for her followers. The book quickly gained popularity, however, and she soon wrote her next book, the Healthy Cookie Cookbook. @baketobefit was born when Sarah decided she wanted a second Instagram account to share photos taken by people who had tried her recipes. Around this time, a reporter from Business Insider requested to make a video about her. The exposure she gained from this video allowed Sarah to start focusing on her food business as a full-time job.

healthy chocolate dessert baketobefit

Sarah’s Instagram account will leave you drooling (Photo: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

Currently, @sarahlynnfitness has 148 thousand followers. Scrolling through the endless feed of desserts, it’s easy to see why. I personally can’t help but drool every time I visit Sarah’s Instagram page, and that is exactly what she says she wants. “I try to make [the desserts] look like the most indulgent things ever, but they are actually made with healthy ingredients [compared to the traditional versions].” Sarah boosts the nutrition profile of tasty desserts while also making them consumable for people with food restrictions. For Sarah, this kind of creative challenge is more fun than developing recipes for food that already looks nutritious.

Sarah is often inspired by photos of really decadent desserts. Other times, she tries to recreate “copycat” versions of her favorite childhood treats. A lot of experimentation is involved in getting the right taste and texture. “I do it by feeling, and what the dough looks like,” Sarah says. Keeping a notebook next to her while she experiments, she writes down what she added or tweaked to a recipe at each step. This way, when the dessert turns out the way she wants, she knows exactly how to recreate it.

healthy high-protein gluten-free donut

This fun donut has 8 grams of protein in it! (Photo: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

Not only are all of the recipes in Sarah’s BakeToBeFit eCookbooks gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan-friendly, they are also packed with protein so they will keep you full for longer and can also be used as a post-workout snack. She accomplishes this by using ingredients like unsweetened apple sauce, gluten-free flour substitutes like oat and coconut flours, and her go-to protein powders (details in her FAQ page) which use minimal ingredients and are free of artificial sweeteners and flavors.

Most importantly, Sarah’s desserts taste amazing. “I feel like there are a lot of diets that are really strict, and they make you feel miserable. I don’t think that’s actually healthy. I think it’s great when you can incorporate food that is still pretty healthy but tastes really good and uses good ingredients.” More than the calorie or nutrient content of her recipes, Sarah is concerned with how her desserts make you feel. Sarah’s dessert recipes use healthier ingredients than their traditional counterparts and are relatively low in sugar so you can indulge in these desserts knowing that they will also help fuel your body.

healthy dessert chocolate instagram food porn

Sarah’s recipes always come with many substitution recommendations so anyone can try them!
(Photo: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

Because Sarah has Celiac Disease, she is very considerate of the various food restrictions and preferences her audience might have. The FAQ page on her website thoroughly discusses the content of her recipes and her suggestions for substitutions so that anyone can feel comfortable purchasing her books. In addition, each of her eCookbooks has an “Ingredients and Substitutions” page where she details how the recipes can be adapted to meet individual needs.

While all of Sarah’s recipes are gluten-free, she emphasizes that she wants her recipes to be for everyone. She feels that a lot of people who are not gluten-free tend to avoid gluten-free products and recipes. “I used to be like that,” she explains, “if I saw gluten-free bread at the supermarket, I wouldn’t buy that. I would feel like I didn’t need to.” As someone who has no food restrictions, I can personally attest to the fact that you do not have to be gluten-free to want to devour one of Sarah’s desserts. One of the best brownies I have ever had, gluten-free or not, was one of Sarah’s.

healthy chocolate chip cookie dessert food porn

“These cookies are completely oil/butter-free, gluten-free, grain-free, vegan friendly, no sugar added, and super easy to make” (Photo and caption: Instagram @sarahlynnfitness)

Be sure to check out Sarah’s amazing desserts on her Instagram @sarahlynnfitness and the @baketobefit account. Be warned: soon you won’t be able to think about anything but her brownies, donuts, cookies, and cakes. If you find yourself drooling uncontrollably, visit her website baketobefit.com or youtube channel for access to her four eCookbooks as well as some free recipes!

Nako Kobayashi is a first-year AFE student who is always insatiably hungry. She would like to say that her favorite pastime is cooking but in reality, she spends much more time endlessly scrolling through photos of food on Instagram.

Curry Salmon and Cauliflower Rice: A Yummy Way to Get Omega 3s

By Katherine Pett

Having purchased a bunch of individually wrapped, frozen salmon fillets at the grocery store, I was searching for a way to cook them that would be both delicious and out of the common way.  Having read earlier posts on the benefits of turmeric and hoping to maximize my intake of health omega-3’s, I experimented with a curry recipe for salmon.  After a couple months of tweaking, this is what I came up with!  Try it out and let us know how it goes!

Curry Salmon

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 bag (about 8 oz) of frozen spinach
  • 1 cup of coconut milk (the full-fat kind)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 1.5 tsps paprika
  • 1.5 tsps curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 pinch black pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 pinch salt (or more to taste)

Instructions:

1. Mix all your spices thoroughly and set them aside.

2. Add ginger (peeled) and garlic cloves to food processor and pulse until fine.  Then add frozen spinach and mix all ingredients til they are finely chopped.  If you don’t have a food processor, a blender works fine.

(If you’re working light on kitchen tools, buy frozen chopped spinach beforehand, then just chop ginger and garlic as finely as you can).

3. Heat your tbsp of coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When melted, add your spinach mixture to the pan.  Saute until the ginger and garlic are becoming a clear consistency and frozen spinach is fully thawed and hot to the touch.

4. Add in your bowl of spices and mix thoroughly in the pan.

5.  Add coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime juice and mix.

6.  Once the mixture is simmering, add your fish.  Then bring to low heat, cover the pan, and cook for up to 10 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Cauliflower Rice

This is a nice way to serve your curried dish and get another serving of non-starchy veggies into your day!

Ingredients:

  • One head of cauliflower
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Cut cauliflower into manageable chunks, then process in a food processor until it is the approximate size and shape of rice.

2. Then, heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan on the stove, add your cauliflower rice and stir until the cauliflower is cooked through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you don’t have a food processor, your best bet is to make a mashed cauliflower and use that as a base instead.  Instead of processing the chunks of cauliflower, steam them in a large pot first.  Once pieces of cauliflower are very soft, mash them in a large bowl.  It won’t be grainy like the rice, but it will taste just as good!

I like to serve my curry salmon over the cauliflower rice for a meal that’s high in vegetables and healthy fish!

This recipe should make 5 servings.

Here are some (non-artistic) photos of the process!

unnamed unnamed-1

What you need to get started.  I cut those salmon down until they were in cubes.

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Add your spices to the mixture before the coconut milk (although I’ve messed up and added it after and that was fine, too!)

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This is what it looks like with the salmon added!  Once salmon is cooked through, serve it over cauliflower rice (or the starch of your choice) and enjoy.

Katherine Pett is a first-year student in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program at The Friedman School.  She can be reached at katherine.docimo@tufts.edu and on Twitter @smarfdoc.