How to Cook with an Indoor Grill

If the weather isn't cooperating, move your grilling session inside! We'll tell you everything you need to know about how to grill indoors.

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Summertime grilling is one of our favorite activities. You can pretty much grill anything, so why heat up the house when you can hang outside and enjoy a beautiful day? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, ruining our outdoor cooking plans. And anyone who lives in a condo or apartment knows that grills are considered a fire hazard, putting them on the no-go list for patio spaces.

Luckily, it’s super easy to learn how to grill indoors. No, we don’t mean taking your grill inside: Indoor grills are a specific type of grill that usually run off electricity. They’re lightweight, inexpensive and can be stored in a cabinet when not in use, making them the ideal alternative to a traditional grill.

Wondering what type of grill you should buy? Take a deep dive into the pros and cons of buying an indoor vs outdoor grill.

What Is an Indoor Grill?

An indoor grill is exactly what it sounds like: A grill that is designed for use indoors. Most models are electric-powered griddles that feature raised ridges on the griddle plate, leaving “grill marks” on the food as it cooks. The ridges also keep the food elevated from the grease, allowing it to drain off and reducing the overall fat content of the dish. Like electric griddles, they often come with several temperature settings, too.

You can also use a grill pan as an indoor grill. These pans are designed with the same raised ridges as the electric models, but they’re used on your stovetop. Learn more about the most common types of grills.

Different Types of Indoor Grills

Sorry, but you can’t just use your outdoor grill indoors. That’s actually really dangerous: It can start a fire or lead to carbon monoxide poisoning! Instead, you’ll want to use one of these types of grills designed for indoor use.

Open grill

An open grill is usually long and wide, with a grate that drains into a drip pan. It lays flat, so it looks like you’re using an outdoor grill. On the plus side, it holds more food than folding contact grills, but it also tends to take up more counter space. The food also takes longer to prepare because it only cooks on one side at a time (just like a regular grill).

Give it a try with the Hamilton Beach Electric Indoor Searing Grill.

Folding contact grill

These grills feature grill grates hooked together with a hinge, folding in half to cook your food from two sides at once. In addition to functioning as an indoor grill, they also double as a panini press. Their compact size takes up significantly less storage space than an open grill, but their space limits the amount of food you can cook in one session.

Give it a try with the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler.

Grill pan

If you don’t have any space to store an extra appliance, pick up a grill pan instead. These pans are usually made with heavy-duty cast iron and work just as well as indoor electric grills. Some grill pans are reversible, featuring a smooth, flat griddle on one side and raised grill ridges on the other.

Give it a try with the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Grill Pan.

How Does an Indoor Grill Work?

Electric grills work like electric stovetops. They have an element embedded into the cooking surface, heating it up when it’s turned on. The element covers the entire grill, so you may find you enjoy the even heating of an electric grill more than an outdoor grill. When the unit is turned off, the surface continues to stay hot for a short period. Because indoor grills don’t produce an actual flame, they’re safe for indoor use.

The Best Things to Cook on an Indoor Grill

An indoor grill might not be large enough to cook a rack of ribs or a whole pork shoulder, but it’s definitely capable of tackling any small grilling task. Use it to cook anything from burgers and chicken sandwiches to hot dogs and grilled brats. Vegetable dishes work really well on an indoor grill, too, so go meatless and use it to make vegetable kabobs, eggplant steaks or Mexican street corn.

Basically, anything you can cook on the direct heat side of the grill will work on an indoor grill. It’s not possible to use most indoor grills for indirect heat, but you could use your oven in a pinch.

Safety Tips

Indoor grills are generally safe to use, although it’s always a good idea to follow safety precautions. For starters, clean out the grease drip tray regularly. There is a small chance the grease can make its way to the heating element, starting a fire. You’ll also want to avoid exposing the cord to water, and be sure to unplug the unit before cleaning.

Can you use a charcoal grill indoors?

No, no and more no: It’s never okay to use an outdoor grill indoors. A charcoal grill’s live coals not only present a fire hazard, but they’ll also produce an uncontrollable amount of smoke for an indoor space. That can not only lead to smoke damage to your furniture, but it can also present several health risks.

How can I reduce smoke?

A big issue for indoor grillers is smoke. Smoke isn’t much of a problem outside, but no one wants to set off the smoke alarm! The best way to prevent smoke is to start with a clean grill. Debris and burnt-on bits can create a lot of smoke, and they don’t taste great, either. Another way to reduce smoke is to choose lean cuts of meat or trim off any excess fat, as the grease produces smoke when it drips onto the heating element.

Some indoor grills are “smokeless,” which means they have built-in fans. On other models, you’ll find that a small amount of smoke is unavoidable. Try positioning the grill underneath the hood vent in your kitchen. You can also use the grill near a window with a small fan to push any offending smoke outside.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.