How To Maximize Flavor When Cooking Meat On An Electric Grill
Jun 16, 2023
Although a charcoal grill may be your best bet for cooking steak, it's not really an option for most apartment dwellers. One solution is to use an electric grill, which offers both portability and convenience. This cooking appliance doesn't require combustible fuels, so it's safer and more eco-friendly than its conventional counterparts. Additionally, some models have cool-touch handles, heat shields, adjustable temperature settings, and other safety features.
There's a caveat, though. First of all, these gadgets struggle to reach the temperature needed to trigger the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that gives the meat a golden-brown crust and smoky taste. Second, they don't add char to the meat, resulting in a bland flavor. There's also a risk of moisture loss and uneven cooking, which can affect food texture.
However, that doesn't mean you should throw away your electric grill. With some creativity, you can achieve a rich, smoky flavor and take your steak from good to great. Like with most things, it's all in the small details.
How you prepare the meat before grilling it can make all the difference. One way you can achieve that distinctive BBQ flavor is to make a marinade with olive oil, soy sauce, spices, and liquid smoke. Soak the meat in it for several hours or overnight, and then cook it on the electric grill. Alternatively, rub the meat with olive oil, smoked paprika, and black pepper prior to grilling, which will also lend a smoky savor. In general, marinades will up your steak game and work for any other meat you may have on hand.
An even simpler option is to simply brush liquid smoke on the food you plan to cook. Use a small amount (no more than a ¼ teaspoon) and dilute it with water if needed. You can season the meat with a dry rub, smoked pepper flakes, cayenne powder, or sweet paprika. Any of these ingredients will impart a subtle smokiness to your food without the risks associated with charcoal grilling. For a more intense aroma, cook the meat in aluminum foil after marinating it for at least two or three hours. Beyond using seasonings, another great way to imbue your meat with flavor involves carefully using actual wood smoke.
Wood and charcoal grills produce smoke and give the meat a unique BBQ flavor, but if you have an electric grill, you can use it along with a smoker box to achieve similar results. You can purchase one online, but they're easy to make yourself. First, pick a small metallic container with a lid (stainless steel and cast iron are popular). Drill a few holes in the lid so the smoke can escape and infuse your food. You'll also want to line the box's interior with aluminum foil to make cleaning easier.
Then, fill the box with wood chips or pellets. The type of wood you choose will impact the smoke flavor, so opt for aromatic woods like cherry, hickory, apple, or mesquite. Meanwhile, preheat your grill to the desired cooking temperature. Place the smoker box on its grates, near or over the heating element. Wait until it starts to produce smoke, and put the meat on the grill. You can also use a smoker box to enhance the flavor of grilled whole fish, seafood, or vegetables.
A stovetop smoker or charcoal briquette will do the trick, too, but you'll spend more time in the kitchen. No matter the chosen method, grease the grill grates beforehand and keep the lid on while cooking. If your electric grill has no lid, you can make an aluminum foil tent or use an overturned metal bowl. Above all else, make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated.