Many of us can’t have a charcoal or gas grill in our current home. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t cook great food using electric tools. Smokers, grills, and skillets don’t have to be loaded with wood, heated with gas, or set over a campfire to create amazing meals. You can even take many of these tools outside while you cook.
1. Electric Smokers
The key to safely smoking meat is to get it to a consistent temperature and leave it there. While electric smokers make this easier than a lot of other tools, this also means that you need a smoker that is solidly built and very well insulated.
Many electric smokers have glass across the front. While it can be fun to watch your food cook, glass is hard to insulate and you can lose a lot of heat out the front of your smoker. If possible, look for a solid case with sizable handles that make the smoker easy to move – culinary blogger Dave Jones from bestelectricfireplace.review offers some good suggestions. Wheels are nice, but many people need to move their smoker from house or apartment out to patio or deck, so wheels may not work well in all situations. Moving it while it’s loaded is particularly challenging with wheels. You don’t want to move a loaded smoker around and risk dropping food directly on the heating element.
You also want a smoker that’s easy to clean. Stainless steel racks are critical to reducing the risk of oxidation inside your smoker. Also, you’ll want racks and wood chip pans that are lightweight enough that you can easily maneuver them with tongs if needed.
Finally, smoker maintenance is key. The combination of steam trays, wood chip pans, racks and dripping meat will mean that your smoker will need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried after each use. While a charcoal grill or barrel smoker can be brushed and the scrapings burned away when preparing the next meal, electric smokers are self contained and will take some scrubbing. Take the time to do this properly once the unit has cooled, and if you have to wait for the next morning, be prepared to do so. It will be worth it! For a full, in-depth guide on the best woods for smoking with check out GrillSimply‘s guide on smoking wood.
2. Electric Grills
Electric grills run the gamut from small to large and from permanent to portable. You may be happiest starting out with a tabletop grill. Once you have honed your skills on this tool, you can upgrade to a larger grill.
An electric grill offers several conveniences that a charcoal grill just can’t give. First off, you don’t have to fiddle with briquets. Also, when the element is working, it’s red, so no need to hold your hand over the fire. A tabletop grill can easily be moved from your patio to your kitchen by the widely spaced handles, and it will cool down quickly once you turn it off.
You can use your electric grill either open or closed. Set a small cookie sheet on the grate, put down a layer of corn chips, sprinkle on cheese, veggies of your choice, jalapenos, and you’ve got some easy nachos to whet your appetite. Make sure to add cool sour cream and a dish of salsa to the tray before serving.
To safely cook meat, review the temperature requirements and cook with the grill lid closed to get the meat cooked quickly, hold in the moisture, and set a safe hamburger or chicken breast on the table.
Your electric grill will need a good scrubbing after each use. Take care not to brush the grate until you have it in the sink for easiest cleanup. Let any juices in the tray below the grate cool down before trying to move them, especially if you have been cooking meat. Fat can hold heat extremely well; you don’t want to get burned in the cleanup.
3. Electric Skillets
With an electric skillet, you can turn almost any space into a kitchen. If your kitchen is tiny, an electric skillet is a great addition to the space. You can use it as a frying pan, a deep fryer, and a wok.
The bottom of your electric skillet will heat up first, and quickly. If you’re cooking veggies, don’t worry about adding oil to the pan. Instead, chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and toss them in a bit of oil or soft butter. Heat up your electric skillet and add them to the pan when it’s hot. If you’re not sure of the best temperature, start at between 250 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Flick a drop of water onto your skillet surface. If the drop dances across the surface and sizzles away, it’s ready.
Toss your chopped vegetables, coated in oil, onto the skillet. Stir quickly. If it sizzles but doesn’t smoke, you’re at a good temperature. If it smokes after the first few seconds, turn down the heat so you don’t burn the fat.
To brown, leave the lid off. When you put the lid on, the veggies will soften, but they’re steaming in the heat. To keep them from getting mushy, take the lid off.
If your skillet has a plastic lid and you want to fry meat, be aware that more heat will leave the top of the cooking space that the sides, as plastic is a poor insulator. Open the vent on the lid of the skillet with care so you don’t get steamed to avoid stewing your food.
Invest in a spatter screen to use the electric skillet as a griddle. Bacon and other meats can make a huge mess in your kitchen, but covering them can damage the texture. With a spatter screen, you can keep the meat well-oxygenated so it crisps, but protect your kitchen from mess and odor.
You don’t need to know how to work with charcoal or propane to successfully cook wonderful food on electric tools. Start small and work simple. Be certain to review all temperature rules on cooking meat. Keep a separate cutting board for raw meat, and if you use any utensil on raw meat, set it on that cutting board until you either use it in the cooking tool or wash it.