Flame Gorilla will itemize all the reasons he loves indoor grilling. But for fairness and completeness, I will give you some of the downsides to an indoor grill as well. That way you can make an informed decision if you decide to find yourself a good one.
The Pros of Indoor Grilling:
- Grilling indoors is fast and easy – If you want to make a great grilled meal in no time, an outdoor grill or fire pit is probably not the perfect way to do it. Lighting charcoal or wood and getting nice hot embers for cooking takes a lot of time and space! With an indoor grill, you can get your grill hot and ready to cook in no time.
- Avoid the mess! – The prep and clean-up is much easier indoors than for an outdoor barbeque. No need to shovel ashes, haul charcoal or wood, and no staining your hands with soot and ash. An indoor grill is fast to set up and doesn’t require wood or charcoal so there is less mess and less clean up. Just throw your grill in the sink to soak after using it and pretty soon you can just wash it like any other kitchen utensil.
- Easy heat control – With an indoor grill, controlling your cooking heat is as easy as adjusting your burner heat or turning an electric knob. Whereas controlling the heat on a wood burning or charcoal grill can be difficult and slow, indoors you can do it in no time.
- You can stay indoors! – For those of you who don’t like the great outdoors, or if the weather is simply not good for outdoor grilling (rain don’t work too well with barbeque!), you can still always grill indoors. No bugs and no bad weather.
- Many options – There are at least a few different types of grills you can choose from to grill indoors, and each has their own unique advantages and purposes. For example, there are simple stovetop grill pans which you throw on your burner and start grilling. There are also an assortment of sandwich maker, panini press and other electric grills which are great for making toasty sandwiches as well as killer grilled meats and veggies. Lastly, there are electric countertop rotisserie ovens which make roasting a chicken or lamb kabobs a snap.
- You can make grilled sandwiches! – As mentioned above, some indoor electric grills can double as a sandwich maker. The classic Italian panini sandwich and the French Croque Monsieur both require a two sided sandwich press like these but you can make a huge assortment of toasty sandwiches as well as grilled meats on these handy electric grills.
- So many recipes! – Pretty much anything you can make on an outdoor grill or fire pit you can make on an indoor grill, with a few exceptions. In fact, you can make sandwiches on an electric press grill which you can’t really do on a charcoal grill. You can also make some things that would fall through the grates of an outdoor grill, like finely chopped vegetables. Indoor grilling is definitely versatile.
The Cons of Indoor Grilling:
- Cooking with fire is fun! – I said it on the first page of my site, humans love fire! Its in our genes (hopefully not in our jeans!). Some of us truly enjoy sitting outside with friends getting the hot fire going, watching those coals or wood embers get super hot while we coax it along. Its an art and a skill and I love it.
- Smoke flavor tastes good – This is one big difference from indoor grilling which is lacking. Indoor grills, while they cook the food in a similar way to a fire grill with the nice caramelized grill marks that add so much flavor, don’t use wood or charcoal and therefore don’t have smoke. The smokey flavors and aromas that get infused into meats as they cook on a grill are great and enhance the overall experience. On an outdoor grill you can even add aromatic wood chips like hickory and mesquite to add unique flavors to your dishes. Unfortunately this can’t be achieved indoors. However, you can always open the ol’ bottle of liquid smoke to add some smokey flavors to your indoor grilling!
- Heat distribution is different – This may not be immediately obvious, but the way food cooks on a stovetop grill and on a barbeque is very different. A barbeque, because there is open space between the grill grates, allows the food to be exposed to radiant heat from the coals or firewood. This kind of heat is very effective at cooking food quickly and evenly. You also get conductive heat from the contact of the hot grate with the food. Indoor grilling is mostly based on conductive heat from where the food touches the grill pan. You don’t get as much radiant heat to the parts of meat that are not in contact with the grill so food can cook a bit less evenly if you aren’t careful.
- Cooking outdoors is fun! – Assuming the weather is decent, the swarming Cicadas are not out, and you like the outdoors in the first place, there is nothing like relaxing outside on a nice summer afternoon, drinking a brew (or sipping Champagne!) and tending the grill. There is just something that just screams relaxation and fun about sitting by the fire pit under the afternoon sun or the night stars.
- Slow cooked roasts are easier on a grill with a lid – A stovetop grill pan or electric sandwich maker are great for quickly grilling up a piece of meat or thick slices of vegis. However, for slow roasting a bigger piece of meat (like a whole chicken, a rack of ribs or a leg of lamb for instance) you need a lot of ambient heat, a slightly lower temperature (so the inside will cook before the outside gets charred!) and a lid to keep that ambient heat swirling around your food. An indoor grill doesn’t create much ambient heat, just conductive heat where the food is touching the grill. So an outdoor grill or fire pit with a lid really shines here. If you want to make this kind of food indoors, either the oven or a rotisserie oven should be used.