Grilled Veggies: Can an Oven Broiler Replace a BBQ?

I love grilled vegetables off of the BBQ and I am not alone. You love them too, don’t you? But does that mean I have to go outside and light up the grill every time I want them?

Maybe not.

Not too long ago I was designing a new kitchen for a client. Her old kitchen included an indoor BBQ. While this allowed her to have her favorite style of vegetables on a regular basis, years of smoky indoor air helped her to decide to eliminate the BBQ option from her new kitchen.

oven broiler
Photos courtesy of Meher Kourouyan / www.ReelLightPictures.com

So what could she do to keep grilled vegetables an easy option for dinner? She asked me if she should get a salamander.

First, let me tell you what a salamander is.

It’s a special type of infrared gas broiler. Infrared broilers produce a very high heat and are often found in commercial kitchens. However some gas ovens built for homes include this type of broiler. I’ve often specified a Viking Range gas range for this specific feature.

It’s a great broiler, but what makes it stand out is what I call, “Great finishing.” Because of the broiler’s high heat, it melts cheese on bread, without burning or drying out the bread. It produces a perfect glaze on a crème brûlée without overcooking the custard.  My opinion is that the real reason to get excited about having a salamander/infrared broiler OVER a traditional oven broiler is the finishing alone. Because other oven broilers can still do a great job on meats, poultry and fish.

But what about grilled veggies and that yummy flavor brought out by fire?  Without a BBQ, can you get the same result, where the outside of the vegetable is caramelized by the heat and the inside is still juicy and tender?

The answer is almost. Because no matter what, you’re not going to get the smoke flavoring.  But you can get the rest of the experience with a high quality oven broiler, gas or electric.

Here’s what I recommended to my client: 

  • Pre-cook the vegetables.
  • Put the vegetables on a rack that fits inside of a pan, so that as much heat can circle around the entire surface.
  • Finish the veggies by browning or glazing them under the broiler at very high heat. Although a gas oven broiler works well, the broiler in a quality electric oven will do the job too. Also, the capabilities of the infrared broiler (aka salamander) are not required to get great “grilled” vegetables out of the oven.

OK, now I’m hungry.

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