What is Broiling?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Broiling is a cooking process which involves the use of very high heat for a short period of time. In addition to producing food quickly, broiling is also used for low fat cooking. As a general rule of thumb, thinner cuts of meat are more suitable for broiling, to ensure that the meat is cooked all the way through. Meat, poultry, vegetables, and seafood can all be broiled.

A pizza broiling in an oven.
A pizza broiling in an oven.

There are two different types of broiling. One involves cooking the food in an oven which is set to a “broil” setting. The other is called pan broiling, and it takes places on the stovetop using dry, high heat. Both produce slightly different end products, especially pan broiling, which can sometimes be closer to sauteeing than broiling. Broiling tends to produce a large amount of smoke, so it is important to do it in conditions with good ventilation.

A frying pan, which can be used for stovetop broiling.
A frying pan, which can be used for stovetop broiling.

To broil in an oven, most people use an oven with a separate broiler rack, usually located beneath the oven. The food being broiled is inserted, and the oven is turned to “broil.” Broiling directs intense heat at the food from directly above to quickly sear and cook it. The food may need to be turned if it is particularly thick, and it should be broiled in a sturdy cooking pan over a broiler tray.

To broil on the stovetop, a sturdy frying pan is used. The stove is adjusted to a high setting, which sears the meat when it is placed in the pan. As fat is produced, it is usually poured off. Thick foods should always be flipped to ensure that they are properly cooked.

Some people liken broiling to grilling, since it is essentially grilling in reverse. The heat comes from above, rather than below, but in both instances high heat quickly sears the food, sealing in flavor and moisture. As the heat penetrates the food, the food is cooked through. Both broiling and grilling can cause food to burn if it is not carefully watched, so always keep an eye on foods being broiled.

Typically, food is marinated before broiling. Most cooks go light on the fat, both to make the food healthier and to reduce the amount of smoke produced. Marinades which are high in sugar can also produce a great deal of smoke, and may form unappetizing bits of charred material. Remember that broiling pans and trays are very hot, so handle them with care until they cool.

A broiling pan.
A broiling pan.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Reply to post #7: You need to consult the internet and most importantly, your owners manual. Looking at mine now and in bold print it says to leave the door open to the broil stop when broiling. With the door closed the element will go out when the set temp is reached. Then you are baking not broiling.


Answer to post 4. Never leave the oven door open when cooking. No such thing as a broiling and leaving an oven door open method. Danger, you could actually cause a fire and explosion. You and your mother should consult the internet and professional cooks on how to broil properly.


I was hoping to elicit an explanation of broiling fish on a charcoal fire on the beach, which I admit is rather unlikely in our culture but maybe in poorer communities.


Thank you. More to it than I thought!


I was always taught by my Mother and others that the oven door should be left ajar during the broiling process. That is why the door has catch points at about 2 to 4 inches open. Have you heard of this method and do you use it?


I would like to know how one would broil fish on charcoal 2000 years ago? Would it have been in a pan of water? I am doing an oil painting of Jesus cooking breakfast for his friends after He appeared to them shortly after being put to death. Wonderful scene but need authentic image of the type of utensils.

The broiled fish breakfast was on the beach, by the way not in the house.


It appears that cooking meat at high heat produces compounds that are not beneficial to human health. Therefore it is a good idea when broiling to turn the meat often in the broiling pan. This will cut on production of harmful compounds.

Some preliminary studies also suggest that rosemary has a beneficial effect. When adding rosemary to the meat before broiling or any other high heat cooking, it reduces the production of harmful elements.

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