Just because it's 10 below and your front steps are buried under the world's biggest snowdrift, it doesn't mean you can't still enjoy a good burger. In fact, we'd say it's the perfect time to fire one up. We're not talking about some grease-laden concoction you fry up in that crusty old pan you call a skillet. No, we're imagining the kind of moist, juicy burgers you live on all summer long-the kind you can only get with a lot of smoke and a hot grill. Or so you thought-because we're about to tell you how to get that fresh-from-the-grill taste right in the warmth and comfort of your snowed-in house. (Don't worry: You're not going to be lighting those trusty charcoal briquettes in the middle of the kitchen or garage, either. That's for the guy down the block who's just itching to make the 10 o'clock news.)
CHOOSE THE RIGHT WEAPON
Indoor grills are just as versatile as the outdoor variety, and you can cook almost anything on either kind, says Steven Raichlen, author of Indoor Grilling and the host of Barbecue University on PBS. The trick, he says, is modifying your outdoor technique to match whatever you're cooking with inside. And while a giant cooking pit built into the middle of your living-room fireplace might be ideal, there are two other options out there that work just as well and are a hell of a lot safer and more affordable.
Contact grills. Definitely the most convenient indoor-grilling option-and the appliance that made George Foreman a household name. For anybody who's been living in a secluded bunker for the past 20 years, these electric grills heat on two sides, plug in and sit on your countertop, and have a removable drip pan to catch the fat that runs off your food.
Pros: "Since the grilling surfaces make direct contact with the top and bottom of the meat, your food cooks twice as fast," says Raichlen.
Cons: When you cook food quickly, it's much more likely to dry out and become tough and chewy.
Best for: Burgers, paninis (sandwiches), grilled cheese, fish, and tofu.
What to buy: Stick with a Foreman-there's a reason it's the industry leader. Raichlen also recommends the Uno ProPress panini grill by Villaware.
Grill pans. Imagine a skillet combined with a grill: These large pans have raised ridges on the cooking surface that allow grease to drip and collect away from your food. The pans go right on the stove like a normal skillet and are available in single- or double-burner varieties that cover half your stovetop. Pros: "These pans are great because they take up so little room in the kitchen and get screaming hot," says Raichlen. They also create great grill marks, which add flavor to meat (and look really cool).
Cons: If too much grease collects between the ridges, it can start to smoke.
Best for: Anything dense and chunky, especially steaks or fish.
What to buy: Look for a large cast-iron pan with high, sharp ridges. Raichlen recommends any of the models made by Le Creuset or Lodge.
What to avoid: Electric grills. These plug-in versions of an outdoor hibachi usually have a broiling section at their base and a grilling surface on top. But according to Raichlen, they're also underpowered, release foul odors, and tend to smoke a lot-especially indoors. "Stick with a contact grill or grill pan instead," he says.