The Best Alternative To Grilling Burgers With The Same Great Char

When you're hankering for a char-grilled burger, but the weather isn't cooperating, you're out of gas or coals, or you don't even have a grill to begin with, you may think you're out of luck. Before you settle for a pan seared variation or trip to your favorite burger joint, there's an excellent alternative hanging out right in your kitchen: your oven's broiler function. 

Whether your oven's broiler resides within the main chamber or lives in a pullout drawer underneath, it can deliver a comparable char to your patties. Gas or electric, your oven's broiler will offer up a nice browning and sear to your burger without the hassle of firing up the grill. Just make sure to know your oven and read its manual. 

Some models suggest keeping the door slightly ajar, for a few reasons: to keep an eye on your food just as you would with a grill (and avoid a visit from the fire department), to let the air circulate which will prevent the food from steaming, and to prevent the oven from overheating and automatically shutting off. Other models will instruct keeping the door closed, as they have built-in prevention methods for all of the above.

Your broiler is just an upside down grill

Whether you're grilling over charcoal or gas, the basic science behind how a grill cooks your food is the same. It's a pretty versatile method of cooking; grills offer a source of dry, radiant heat from below with the open flame. It can be either a direct or indirect source of heat depending on where you place the food (i.e. right over the flame, or off to the side), and if you close the lid, your grill can do convection cooking, just like an oven.

The broiler is essentially just a grill with the flame, or source of direct heat, flipped to the top. Both grilling and broiling reach temperatures upwards of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, achieving that sought after char on your burgers is attainable indoors.

To get that great char with your broiler, preheat it to high and line a pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the burgers on the pan and place it about 2-3 inches below the heat source. Broil for about three minutes per side, depending on thickness and how well-done you like your burgers cooked. Keep an eye out for that browning char to clue you in on when to flip. The only thing missing will be the grill marks.