By now, you probably know that Adam Richman has an appreciation for cooking (and, of course, eating) outside the box. After a spell taking on America’s wildest eating challenges on Man vs. Food, the food lover traveled the globe looking for unique dishes and ingredients on the Travel Channel series Secret Eats with Adam Richman. So, it’s no surprise that Brooklyn-born Richman wouldn’t let something like a small apartment, lack of patio space, or laws against balcony grilling stop him from enjoying a classic summer food experience: the good old American cookout. We sat down with the TV host and chef to find out how to wrangle all your favorite cookout flavors and turn even the tiniest space into an indoor grilling paradise.
Tools for Grilling Indoors
You may be surprised to find that you don’t need a host of special equipment to create iconic backyard barbecue flavors indoors — in fact, you likely already have most of what you’ll need. Still, there are some tools that can boost your indoor grilling sessions, so they’re worth checking out if you’re hoping to bring the cookout into your kitchen.
If you just can’t get enough of that delicious charred flavor, an indoor smokeless grill is a worthwhile investment. Smokeless grills are designed to focus their heat on the cooking surface, so the drip pan below the grill remains cool enough that oils and other fats don’t sizzle and smoke as they hit it.
“I definitely am a big proponent of smokeless grills,” says Richman. “I recommend using it a few times as a trial run so you can get used to the temperature zones because it can get very hot or very cold very dramatically if you’re not careful.”
Cast Iron Grill Pans
Maybe you’re not looking to invest in a full indoor grill, or perhaps you just don’t have the counter space for another kitchen appliance. A cast-iron grill pan is another perfect tool for urban cookouts, and you don’t need to sacrifice much space for it. Richman suggests starting your meat on the stovetop with a simple pan sear and then finishing it off in the oven: “you [can] get a cast-iron grill pan … so you can create that nice sear and char you get from a grill, but then get the internal temperature up by putting it into the oven. That way you can re-create that … nice crunchy dark bark that people like with seared meat, but without having to sacrifice the juiciness or … create so much smoke. I find that grill pans work extremely well for getting the ‘grilled veggie’ sort of flavor that you get from a grill.”
“To get that smoky flavor,” says Richman, “I also like smoking guns.” Smoking guns are small battery-powered tools that can be used indoors or outdoors to add a hit of classic smoky flavor to finished foods. Fill the gun’s compartment with the wood chips of your choice, light it, and let the attached tube impart all the rich, delicious flavors of smoke into your meat or vegetables.
Tips and Tricks for Grilling Indoors
Now that you’ve got all your gear in order, you’re on your way to enjoying the ultimate city cookout — but before you get those flames going, there are a few tips and tricks you’ll want to keep in mind for getting the most out of your indoor grilling experience.
One of the biggest concerns for cookout-craving apartment-dwellers is the inherent smokiness of grilling. “I’m an apartment-dweller myself, so I think that there is … obviously a desire to not turn the smoke alarm on or make your neighbors hate you,” Richman says.
“Cook as close as you can to your range hood and let the range hood use its fan.”
So how do you keep the folks downstairs from complaining about the umami hotbox billowing out of your apartment? “Cook as close as you can to your range hood and let the range hood use its fan,” Richman suggests.
He also recommends keeping the air in your space moving and filtering as you cook so smoke doesn’t linger: “Some people use … a household air purifier. They have really tiny ones that are countertop ones, so [you] can move those into the kitchen. I have one … that’s maybe a foot and a half tall, but definitely goes very far to keep the air smelling nice.”
You can also make use of some of your household cleaning supplies when indoor grilling: “Febreeze Air Effects and Ozium [Air Sanitizer] both actually attach themselves to particles in the air so that they can prevent stinky smells.”
A little careful consideration of your cooking temperatures and methods also goes a long way in capturing all the flavors of the grill without filling your whole complex with smoke. “If you’re going to be … using any kind of oil, maintain the temperature of it,” Richman explains. “If something has a high smoke point, it’s going to be a lot nicer to cook with at a high temperature and won’t create a whole cloud.”
Ingredient choice is another thing to consider when indoor grilling — be sure not to shy away from vegetables. Because they don’t have the same high fat content as meat, veggies actually throw off a lot less smoke. We’d never tell you to skip out on a delectably seared steak, but try to balance out your ingredients to keep smokiness at a minimum.
What to Expect from Indoor Grilling
When it comes to flavor, you can really enhance your grilled goodies by embracing new ingredients — something that Richman is quite familiar with from his food travels. “[Use] things like Korean Gochujang, a fermented bean and pepper paste that has an unbelievable flavor that changes with heat in a really positive way,” Richman suggests. “You put that on ribs or use it as a glaze and it can be extremely delicious.”
You can really enhance your grilled goodies by embracing new ingredients.
He also urges city-grillers to add variety when trying to capture smoked flavors: “Feel free to play with the different woods you use. I’ve seen, as I’ve gone around the world … things like lychee wood [or] cashew wood; they impart really beautiful flavors. Plus, if you have a smokebox, even in the tiniest home smoker, don’t just throw wood into the firebox, do things like throw whole onions with the paper on, whole cloves of garlic … broken up but with the paper right on, and oranges or orange peels.” Integrating underutilized or unexpected flavors into your grilling process takes your food to the next level and will have you forgetting all about your lack of patio space.
Indoor Grilling Recipes
Now that you’re armed with all the right tips and tools, it’s time to start cooking! To get your indoor grilling party started, Richman shares some of his favorite recipes from his book Straight Up Tasty: Meals, Memories, and Mouthfuls from my Travels.
“The Juicy Lucy is easily the Twin Cities’ most iconic burger. This cheese-filled masterpiece has been the subject of feverish debate for generations, with two iconic spots claiming to be its originator: Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club. To avoid my potential partisan affiliation, I offer up a variation that bears no resemblance to either of those progenitors but pays tribute nonetheless. This Italian version combines bulk Italian sausage with ground beef, as well as fresh basil and roasted peppers, and it’s stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese.”
- 1 pound ground beef
- .75 tsp salt
- .5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 lb hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
- .5 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup fresh basil, cut into thin chiffonade slices
- 3 roasted peppers
- 6 semolina rolls
- Olive oil, for grilling the rolls
- Roasted Garlic Mayo
- Mix the beef with the salt, pepper, garlic, liquid smoke, and sausage meat. Form into 12 thin patties, each roughly 5 inches in diameter.
- Cut the cheese into 6 slices and place 1 slice on top of half the patties. Top the cheese with some basil, half a roasted red pepper, and finish with a second meat patty. Crimp the edges of the patties to enclose the stuffing, making sure no cheese is exposed.
- Chill the patties for about 15 minutes. Preheat your grill or a cast-iron skillet to medium high.
- Place the patties on the grill and cook until medium and no longer red in the center, about 6 minutes on each side. While the burgers are cooking, brush the cut sides of each roll with olive oil and grill or toast until golden.
- To serve, place the burgers in the grilled rolls and top with a dollop of the garlic mayo.
*Roasted Garlic Mayo
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- .5 cup Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise
- 1 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Peel off and discard the outer layers of the garlic skin, leaving the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off about .5 inch of the top of the garlic head to expose the individual cloves.
- Put the garlic in an oven-safe pan and rub the olive oil over the exposed cloves. Roast the garlic for 30 minutes, until the entire head is very soft.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the garlic cool. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins into a small bowl. Add the mayonnaise and whisk to blend thoroughly. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
Grilled Asparagus Rafts
“When you read this you may think, that’s a recipe? Yes, it is! Skewering the asparagus spears together into a ‘raft’ makes them easier to flip and easier to cook evenly. Trust me, you’ll thank me once you’ve tried this. Be sure to use great-quality olive oil and great-quality salt — you will have an exponentially better final product.”
- 2 bunches of thick asparagus spears (about 24)
- 4 wooden skewers
- .25 cup olive oil
- Flaky sea salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Snap the ends of the asparagus where they break, then trim all the stalks to the same length. Line half the spears up side by side, and thread 2 skewers through the aligned spears to hold them all together like a raft. Repeat with the remaining spears and skewers.
- Place the “rafts” on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the rafts with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the rafts for 10 minutes. Turn the rafts over and roast for another 10 minutes, or until tender but still crunchy. Pile the rafts onto a warmed platter and let your guests slide a few spears onto their plates.
Milwaukee Beer-Braised Bratwurst Sandwich with Pittsburgh-Style Slaw
“In Green Bay’s Lambeau Field stadium, there is a restaurant called Curly’s Pub, named for the great Packers coach Curly Lambeau. Tailgating culture is extremely strong in the great state of Wisconsin, and the sovereign meat product of a Wisconsin tailgate is the bratwurst. At Curly’s Pub, I saw the brats braised slowly with beer and onions, which added a depth of sweetness and flavor. The slaw is inspired by the great Primanti Bros. restaurant in Pittsburgh. Slaw appears on all their sandwiches (along with French fries, of course). It’s got a wonderful bracing acidity and is more of an Italian salad than your traditional mayonnaise-based picnic slaw.”
Ingredients for the slaw:
- 1 pound green cabbage, shredded
- .25 cup sugar
- .5 tbsp kosher salt
- .25 tsp celery seed
- .25 cup vegetable oil
- .25 cup apple cider vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Brats:
- 4 bratwurst links
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 12-ounce bottles of beer
- 4 hoagie rolls, toasted
- Spicy mustard to taste (optional)
- Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt, and celery seed in a colander set over a bowl. Let stand for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours to let the cabbage fully wilt and release its juices
- Transfer the wilted cabbage to a clean bowl (discard any remaining liquid). Add the oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste.
- Put the brats and the onion in a large Dutch oven and cover with the beer. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the brats are fully cooked, about 20 minutes.
- Stuff the toasted rolls with the brats and onions. Top with the cabbage slaw and some spicy mustard, if using, and serve.
On the grill:
- Put the brats and the onion in a large pot and cover with the beer. Place directly on the grill, over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Remove brats from the beer and onion bath and place directly on the grill, grilling until fully cooked. Tip: If you prefer to keep the sausage moist and juicy, transfer the brats from the pot to a cast-iron pan on the grill and cook until fully cooked.
Elote (Corn on the Cob)
“This is, without question, my favorite Mexican street food. It’s kind of amazing how adding just a few elements to the corn creates a sensation that is so balanced and yet hits your palate on every level: sour from the lime, creamy from the Cotija cheese and mayo, and a little bit of a bite from the garlic, with the savory perfume of paprika setting off the sweet corn itself. Feel free to experiment and add embellishments like toasted pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds.”
- 4 ears corn, shucked and silk removed, but with a partial stalk kept on as a handle
- .5 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- .5 cup Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise (or your favorite mayonnaise)
- .5 cup grated Cotija cheese
- 4 tsp paprika
- 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the butter with the cilantro and garlic until well combined.
- Preheat a grill or a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat.
- Grill the corn until hot and lightly charred all over, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Coat the ears in the seasoned butter. Wrap each ear in aluminum foil and place the corn on the grill for another 2 minutes.
- Unwrap the ears and spread them evenly with the mayonnaise. Sprinkle with Cotija cheese, dust with paprika, and serve hot with a lime wedge to squeeze over the top.
Armed with Richman’s advice and recipes, you can turn your urban abode into the city’s cookout hot spot this summer. To hear more about Richman’s culinary travels, check out his book America the Edible: A Hungry History, from Sea to Dining Sea or follow him on social media to stay up to date on his latest adventures.
All recipes courtesy of Straight Up Tasty by Adam Richman. Clarkson Potter, 2015.
Article originally published October 2, 2017. Last updated January 2020.
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