Broiling is a great way to add an extra depth of flavor to an already fantastic dish. Whether it’s vegetables, meats, or even some desserts, broiling your food is a popular way of making it stand out. Do you actually need to invest in a broiler pan to do it?
Broiler pans are specifically designed to withstand the high heat of the broiling process and allow for an easy cooking experience and fast cleanup. There are ways to skip using them, but they remain the most effective tool for broiling in any kind of oven.
Here’s what you need to know about broiling pans to decide whether or not they’re suitable for your kitchen. There are also some tips on what to look for when buying one and how to use them effectively in gas and electric ovens.
What’s a Broiler Pan?
Broiler pans (also called a broil pan) are designed for you to use under your oven’s broiler. They sit directly under the top heating element in your oven and allow your food to be directly exposed to the heat. Because of this, broiling pans do not come with lids.
So, what does a broiler pan look like? They’re usually made from two pieces: a lower drip pan and an upper slotted pan. The idea is that the juices and fat from the food drip down into the lower pan, letting you get a crispier finish on the food itself while retaining the flavor from the drippings. Broiler pans don’t usually come with a lid.
Most will be dishwasher safe but should be handled with care. The typical broiler pan is also made either of stainless steel with a nonstick coating or black porcelain. These pans must be thick, sturdy, and nonstick, given how the cookware is used. You can also find these pans in the form of a broiler plate.
What Broiler Pans Are Used For
When food broils, it’s cooked under very high heat coming only from above the dish. This heat serves to caramelize or sear the top of the food being cooked, adding flavor and texture. This addition of baked-in texture is why a nonstick finish is so vital for a broiling pan; without it, they would be rendered useless after one bake.
They’re also fantastic cookware for any dish that requires basting, as the concave surface gives you easy access to the food. It also makes these dishes an excellent choice for meats like pork and chicken and seafood dishes.
Where to Get a Broiler Pan
Most ovens, especially more prominent brands like Whirlpool and Wolf, will come standard with a simple metal broiler rack or broiler tray within the oven. These can usually be found in the broiler compartment of the oven and are standard size for the range. Unfortunately, these pans aren’t always the best quality. They’ll get the job done but usually aren’t nonstick, making it harder to clean them.
If you’re looking to purchase a broiler pan separately, you can find them at most major home appliances and home goods stores. You can also find them online on sites like Amazon and Overstock. As with any other item, when purchasing online, be careful to read the reviews for a particular pan before purchasing to spot any potential issues.
Are Broiler Pans Worth It?
Though on the surface, it may seem like a fantastic investment, many home cooks wonder whether investing in a broiler pan is worth it. After all, most quality broiler pans will range between $20 and $30, if not more. Is it a good idea to spend that kind of money on a pan you may not use frequently?
To decide whether a broiler pan is worth buying for you, you’ll want to consider how often you’ll be broiling and how focused you are on getting a perfect broil every time. You’ll also want to consider your budget and any alternatives you could use.
Is a Broiler Pan Necessary?
Strictly speaking, a broiler pan isn’t necessary for most recipes. Broiling is usually an optional step to add flavor at the end of a dish’s prep time or an alternative way to cook things like vegetables. You can make most recipes with your regular oven settings or over a grill, and they’ll turn out fine.
If, however, you do plan to use your oven’s broiler regularly, regular cookware isn’t going to cut it. Most standard oven pans are too thin to handle such intense, direct heat. They can buckle and warp, which can ruin the pan and damage the food inside. For this, using a cast iron broiler pan is an excellent idea.
Because there is no bottom drip pan, using a regular pan may even lead to spills, which is a severe fire hazard. Hot fat dripping onto an exposed element can catch fire quickly, and at best, leave your oven extremely dirty or even broken. At worst, it could lead to a more significant fire in your kitchen and severe damage.
This risk is why having a proper oven broiler pan is essential; it makes sure that you, your food, and your oven are safe.
Can I Broil Without a Broiler Pan?
You don’t strictly need a broiler pan to broil. You could simply rotate the food halfway through cooking for a similar effect, or you could use a roasting pan instead.
Roasting pans are made of the same heavy gauge steel or porcelain as broil pans. They’re generally a bit larger to accommodate giant poultry and cuts of meat and are designed to endure high heat for a long time. Like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, many roasted dishes are finished under the broiler in their roasting pans.
Still, a roasting pan isn’t going to give you precisely the same effect. Many roasting pans don’t have a nonstick finish, which can cause food sticking and burning. They also don’t have upper slotted racks (usually), so your food won’t crisp as well as it would in a broiling pan. The results will be passable but not identical.
Whatever baking dish you use needs to be thick enough to withstand the heat. Some other alternatives include cast iron skillets and thick baking sheets with wire racks set inside them. Never use glass cookware to broil, though – this can cause them to crack or, worse, shatter.
How to Use a Broiler Pan
Your broiler is going to be located in one of two places. It’s either going to be a simple element at the top of your oven with space to position an oven rack directly beneath it, or it’s going to be a separate compartment below the main oven chamber that looks similar to a drawer. In both cases, you’ll generally have between four and six inches of space to work with.
Be sure that your broiling pan fits in your broiler with a bit of extra space, no more than a couple of inches. If need be, measure your oven’s broiler before buying your pan to get an exact fit.
As with any kind of high-heat cooking, keep pets and small children out of the kitchen when broiling. The intensity of the heat under a broiler and, in turn, in the broiling pan can easily cause burns.
How to Use a Broiler Pan in an Electric Oven
To use a broiler pan effectively, position the rack on the highest setting in the oven while it’s cold. Then, turn your oven onto the broiler setting (some may have more precise controls; some may simply need to be turned on as regularly) and allow it to heat up for a few minutes before inserting the food.
While it comes up to temperature, put your pan in the oven empty. Let it heat up for about five minutes, then remove it. Quickly (but carefully) set your food in the middle of the upper slotted pan, leaving a bit of room on all sides if possible to get proper ventilation.
Replace the pan in the middle of the rack and watch it closely throughout the cooking time. Because broiling is heat-intensive, the food will only need a few minutes – no more than about ten usually – and even then, it may cook much faster than you were expecting it to.
If you’re glazing your food with something containing sugar, such as honey or barbeque sauce, you’ll want to wait until it’s only two or three minutes from finishing, then apply the glaze. This will give it time to caramelize without burning.
Once your food is done, remove it from the oven, allow it to rest, and remove it from the pan. You can then collect the drippings from the lower pan and use them in another part of the dish or dispose of them appropriately.
How to Use a Broiler Pan in a Gas Oven
Broiling in a gas oven follows much the same process as broiling in an electric oven. Ovens can also have precise controls or simply use the primary setting, but they do have a couple of key differences to consider.
The main difference is that the heat in a gas oven isn’t going to be as dry. To get the right crisping in your dish, you’re going to want to leave the door cracked slightly to help control the humidity.
Gas ovens are also less precise than electric ovens. You’ll need to keep a closer eye on the food and may need to rotate it to get even cooking. This is especially true of thinner foods like vegetables, which are prone to uneven cooking anyway.
Still, as long as you’re careful, you should be able to broil in any kind of oven effectively.
Broiling is becoming more and more popular as people take to cooking their meals at home. It’s not the scary professionals-only method it once was. As long as you’re careful and consistent, anyone can use their broiler to take their food up an extra notch.
Broiling pans can make this process even easier to learn. Because they are purpose-built, they help you achieve a more even and consistent process every time you use them. They can help you get more out of your food by saving drippings that might otherwise be reabsorbed or not usable and can prevent dangerous fat leaks in your oven.
If you’re planning to do a lot of broiling, consider buying a quality broiling pan. It will save you a lot of hassle and heartache with broken, warped, and singed pans – not to mention many burned meals.
However, always practice caution in the kitchen and read the instructions on recipes carefully. When cooking with high heat, you have to be careful not to burn your food or yourself in the process.