The Broiler Trick Restaurant Chefs Swear By

If you've ever used the broiler in your oven, you know that a little broil can go a long way, producing delicious, crispy results in just minutes. If you've never used the broiler in your oven, it's time to introduce yourself to that little button and say hello to your new favorite cooking method.

First things first: What exactly is a broiler, and how is broiling different from baking? Every oven has a built-in broiler, which is either a coil or burner that's located at the top of the oven or in its own broiler drawer (depending on whether you have a gas or electric oven). The broiler emits intense, high heat that radiates from directly above the food, much like how a grill provides intense, high heat from directly below. While baking in the oven is a lower, slower method that cooks your food by surrounding it with moderate heat, broiling is a quick, efficient way to cook by blasting only one side with a high heat source that's located closer to the food.

As Food Network aptly refers to it, broiling is essentially "upside-down grilling". Which is a beautiful thing — because you may not have a grill, but chances are you have a broiler. And this makeshift-grill-inside-your-oven can take your food to the next level, giving it the perks of grilling without the actual grill. Here's why restaurant chefs and home cooks alike swear by it.

Using the broiler to beautifully brown

James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef and cookbook author Chris Shepherd, who co-founded the Underbelly Hospitality restaurant group in Houston, recommends using the broiler to rapidly brown your meat to perfection. "One of my favorite tricks is to switch from baking to broiling to finish off a dish in the oven and give meat a bit of color," he tells Insider.

Because broiling acts a lot like grilling, it can give your meat a nice crispy crust for that darkened, char-like final touch. And especially if you've baked it already, you only need to broil it on high for a couple of minutes to get the best of both worlds.

But the broiler trick doesn't stop at meat. You can also finish off all kinds of seafood, veggies, and even cheese and fruit under the broiler to crisp and caramelize them, or even use the broiler to cook recipes from start to finish. Of course, there are certain foods that work best for broiling, because they're the right consistency and thickness to fully cook and crisp up in a short amount of time without burning. So, what are those particular items?

How to make the most of broiling

If it's something that would cook well on a grill, it'll most likely cook well under the broiler. Most vegetables will work great — especially things like eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus, onions, and potatoes. The trick is to make sure you cut them evenly, and ideally on the thinner side so they caramelize nicely while still getting tender enough. 

When it comes to meat, stick to lean or thin cuts like flat iron steak, thin pork chops, butterflied chicken, or ribs (if the cut is too thick, you'll want to partially cook or bake before you broil since you run the risk of burning the outside before the inside can fully cook). Seafood like shrimp, octopus, fish filets, lobster tails, and crab cakes will also broil beautifully because most seafood doesn't need very long to cook. And don't be afraid to think outside the box — you can broil things like jalapeño poppers, bacon-wrapped dates, fruits like peaches or pineapples, and even some desserts like crème brûlée or bread pudding.

Some pro tips to keep in mind when broiling: While you'll obviously need to add some kind of oil to most food, be careful not to over-oil since this can be a hazard with the high heat. Go for a rub over a marinade, and use foil over parchment paper since it can catch on fire. Be sure to keep an eye on your food, just like you would while grilling, to make sure it doesn't burn, and remember to flip if it's something you want browned on both sides.