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Indoor Grilling Ideas: 3 Tips for the Perfect Indoor Picnic

You’re all set for a family barbecue. The refrigerator is stocked. The coolers are overflowing. The picnic table is set. And then … it begins to rain.

Don’t worry; you’ve got this. With the huge array of indoor grilling options available these days, a little rain is no excuse to cancel the party. Be prepared for the next bout of stormy summer weather with these indoor grilling ideas:

#1: Use what you have to get outdoor grilled flavor indoors.

If guests are already on their way when the skies open up, you may have what you need to grill indoors already hiding in your kitchen. It just takes the right mix of equipment and ingredients to recreate that savory outdoor-grilled taste.

First, use a grill pan to cook your meats and vegetables on your cook top. A grill pan is a flat pan that has high ridges to mimic a grill’s grates. Cast-iron grill pans work the best because the material stays evenly and consistently hot.


Don’t have a grill pan? Your oven’s broiler can work in a jam. Simply cook your food on a tray under the broiler until it gets crispy and charred.


Another tip: Add herbs and spices with smoky flavors to your food. Epicurious suggests adding smoked salt or smoked paprika to meat and fish, smoked olive oil to vegetables, and chipotle chiles to sauces and marinades.

If you’re more of a sauce fan, you can choose condiments that have hickory, mesquite or apple-wood smoked flavors.Our favorite secret to smoky flavor comes from The Huffington Post, which achieves that rustic taste using smoked bacon. Simply cook up some bacon in your grill pan, remove it, and then grill your steak or hamburger in the same pan so that it’s infused with the flavor.

Cooking with a grill pan or broiler, and adding the right mix of flavors, will turn your guests into happy indoor picnic dwellers.

#2: Prepare in advance by buying an indoor grill or smoker.

Want to up your indoor grilling game a bit? Consider adding a freestanding indoor grill to your kitchen.

There are two popular types of portable, electric indoor grills: open grills and contact grills. Open grills are freestanding electric grills with an open surface area, while contact grills have both a top and a bottom grilling surface, so the grill closes to cook both sides of food at the same time. (The most famous of these is the George Foreman, which rose to infomercial fame a few years back and is still quite popular.)

There are pros and cons to each type of electric grill, so before you make your purchase you want to consider:

  • Price
  • How fast and evenly it heats
  • How easy it is to clean
  • The size of the cooking surface
  • Advanced features (temperature sensors, meat thickness measurement, various plate designs, etc.)

BestReviews.com has an in-depth comparison of popular open and contact grills, to help you choose the one that meets your criteria.


An indoor smoker, on the other hand, does what it says -- it smokes food inside of a kettle. This is also a standalone appliance, to which you add wood chips and water (or beer, if you’re inclined) and your meat or vegetables. It gives meals that smoky, rather than grilled, flavor.

#3: Choose recipes that transition well to indoor grilling.

If the weather forecast is questionable, plan your picnic menu by selecting recipes that taste as good grilled inside as outside.

Our favorite? The Kitchen Company’s version of Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, which we adapted from William Sonoma’s Eat Well recipe book. With a zesty, fresh salsa that you can make in advance, and light yet flavorful tacos that can be cooked on an outdoor grill, in a skillet or using a contact grill, this is the perfect recipe for any summer soiree.


(Want more indoor grilling recipes? Find them here on the blog, or over on Pinterest!)


With the right equipment, the right ingredients, the right recipes -- and the right, sunny attitude -- you can recreate the most amazing summer barbecue right in your kitchen.

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