You can still get the perfect char without the full-size grill.

By Megan Soll
May 21, 2020
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For those of us without a large backyard (or any outdoor space at all), grilling season can be a giant tease. When the weather is inclement with rain or even snow, grilling might seem like an impossibility, as well. Trying to achieve the perfect char, smoky flavor, and idyllic grill marks doesn’t come easy when you’re working with a stovetop or oven. However, there are plenty of ways to bring grilling and smoking indoors, without leaving your kitchen in a plume of smoke.

Credit: Clockwise from top left: Williams Sonoma/ Wayfair / Target / Crate and Barrel / Target

Even a full size pork shoulder or rack of ribs can be done to tender perfection without a smoker (hello, sous vide immersion circulator). The most delicate vegetables and skewers can work just as well under the broiler, in the right pan. Below are all of the tools and tricks to grilling with limited space.

Try a Standard Grill Pan

Credit: Williams Sonoma / Crate and Barrel

A grill pan will mimic the raised edges of a gas grill, so your burgers don’t end up soaking in their own juices and overcooking instead of getting a proper outer sear. Go with a classic square nonstick from All-Clad or opt for the larger enameled cast iron upgrade from Le Creuset which will work on any cooktop surface. Both pans can go in the oven and dishwasher.

All-Clad HA1 Hard-Anodized Nonstick 11" Square Grill, $50 at  

Le Creuset Cast Iron Skinny Grill, $100 at

Invest in an Electric Grill for Minimal Mess

Credit: The Home Depot / Sur La Table

These griddles can sit right on the countertop, and will collect the grease for easy disposal and cleanup without covering the stovetop in a mess. The Delonghi’s lid prevents unwanted smoke and splatter, and it keeps food warm after cooking if needed. The larger upgrade, the Philips Smokeless Grill, does as advertised and keeps the smoke to 80% less than other indoor grills while browning food to the ideal sear and temperature.

Perfecto Healthy 192 sq. in. Black Aluminum Indoor Grill with Lid, $60 at

Philips Smoke-Less Grill, $220 (was $379) at

Save Space with a Reversible Griddle

Credit: Williams Sonoma / Le Creuset

Use these versatile tools as a grill on one side and a makeshift plancha on the other. Lodge makes one of our favorite options in cast iron, which takes up two burners on a stove, has a drip tray on either side, and can work on all cooktops. Le Creuset makes an even larger version, and the enameled cast iron surface will do everything from pancakes to delicate fish. It’s also dishwasher-safe.

Lodge Chef Collection Cast-Iron Double Burner Reversible Grill/Griddle, $70 at

Giant Reversible Grill/Griddle, $250 at

Use a Sous Vide

Credit: Target / Sur La Table

For big cuts, whole roasts, pork shoulder, or ribs, a sous vide is a great way to cook meat to a tender level without actually smoking it over several hours. A sous vide can be used indoors all day long without heating up your kitchen; it cooks the meat in a sealed pouch in a water bath. The ideal move is to get the meat just shy of perfectly done and then finish it off with a nice sear on a cast iron or grill pan, or a short bake or broil in the oven to get to that crispy outer layer. Anova and Joule are both great brands.

Anova Sous Vide Nano Precision Cooker, $100 at 

The Joule by Breville, $250 at 

Sear Meat on a Cast Iron

Credit: Sur La Table / Target

Speaking of that cast iron sear, these tools will get that outer char with an even spread across all ends. Go for the versatile and simple Lodge or the pre-seasoned enamel from Staub.

Lodge 10.5" Cast Iron Square Grill Pan, $21 at

Staub Pure Grill, 10.5", $100-$120 at

Infuse Flavor with a Smoking Tools

Credit: Target / Food52 / Williams Sonoma

If you’re mastered the grill pan sear but are still looking for a little extra depth of flavor, there are a few shortcuts to that smoked taste without the actual smoker itself. Liquid smoke is a great way to add in heat and flavor to marinades and cooked foods. If you want something a little extra, invest in a smoking gun that can infuse food and drink with actual applewood and hickory flavoring without heating up your living space. If you’ve got the storage space and some outside access but don’t want to invest in a full-blown smoker, the stovetop version can whip up a batch of wings or a small rack of ribs just as efficiently. Beware when releasing the smoke indoors, any aggressive smokiness or spice will end up in the air. But it will be worth it for those tender, smoky chicken wings.

Breville Smoking Gun, $100 at

Colgin Hickory Liquid Smoke, $5 at

Nordic Ware Indoor/Outdoor Kettle Smoker, $96 at

Create a Mini Griddle Station

Credit: Macy's / Target

If you’re missing the taste of smash burger patties and want something that won’t take over your stovetop, these griddles are all customer favorites from each price tier. George Foreman’s classic nonstick grill is just $40 right now, has a small footprint, and is great for everything from burgers to melts and paninis. Looking for a more traditional griddle style? Fry eggs right next to your patties or pancakes on a miniature Blackstone.

George Foreman 4-Serving Non-Stick Classic Contact Grill, $40 (originally $50) at

Blackstone 17" 1650 Table Top Griddle Station, $80 at or

Use Portable Charcoal Grill for Tabletops

Credit: Wayfair

These little charcoal grills are practically pint-sized and portable, which means you can set them up at the park, in your small backyard, or even at the beach. Instead of leaving your group to check on the food, the grill can be in the middle of the action with 360-degree access. Go for the smaller 13-inch version or opt for the upgrade from Berghoff at 16-inches, with a deeper interior to keep the charcoal going for longer.

13" Portable Charcoal Grill, $76 (was $142) at

16" Cohan BBQ Portable Charcoal Grill, $260 (was $335) at

Invest in a Dutch Oven That Can Do Both

Credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

This large Dutch oven from Le Creuset is now only available at Bed Bath and Beyond, and it’s understandably popular. The lid converts into a grill pan, making the entire pot both an oven, a grill, and even a bread cloche. The price is an investment, but we’ve never regretted a single Le Creuset purchase ourselves, and the large size makes it perfect for big batches of stews, soups, even whole chickens. It’s durable, dishwasher-safe, works with every stovetop style, and will be a staple in your weekly cooking for all seasons.

Le Creuset 7.75 qt. Oval Oven with Reversible Grill Pan Lid in Flame, $389 at

Opt for Other All-In-One Tools

Credit: Williams Sonoma / Crate and Barrel

If you’re looking for one tool that does it all indoors, electric griddler combos are a great fairly-affordable option. Cuisinart’s griddler has interchangeable plates for griddling or grilling, and the floating hinge means it can deal with even the most stacked sandwiches and evenly press large burger patties. De’Longhi’s reversible nonstick griddle also has an adjustable heating element that cooks from 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Both are worthy investments for indoor grilling needs.

Cuisinart Griddler Grill, Griddle & Panini Press, $80 (was $185) at

De'Longhi 2-in-1 Grill and Griddle, $100 (was $140) at