Broiler Cooking 101: Tuna Melt

Do you broil regularly, or are you intimidated by it? I know so many GREAT cooks, probably like some of you that don’t understand broiler fundamentals. They avoid broiling because they’re afraid of burning food beyond recognition, rendering it an inedible piece of leather, smoking up the kitchen, and setting off multiple smoke detectors whose high-pitched frequencies inevitably propel innocent pets and children in the room to take flight. I’ve thought very seriously about writing a cookbook devoted to broiling because it’s such a versatile oven setting. Once you understand and master it, it’ll become a flexible tool in your cooking arsenal like no other.

I’ve learned a lot about broiling early on in my career in my showroom chef days at Wolf-Subzero, where I learned to love it. Let’s start by defining what it is and work toward controlling the heat, which is an integral part of successful cooking. Broiling applies direct, intense, radiant high heat (at about 550°F) to one side of food, similar to the way a grill does (imagine your outdoor grill turned upside down).

A typical broiler is located on the top of an oven or in a separate drawer under it. If you’re one of the lucky ones, your oven may have a couple of broiler settings ranging from high to low. For this post and recipe, the broiler should be set to high. Some ovens require the door to be slightly ajar to provide adequate airflow, which feeds the flame; others don’t. Some broilers require preheating; others don’t. Read your oven’s manual to find specific requirements for your oven. And if you don’t have a manual, remember that you can always Google your manufacturer and download it from their website. Controlling the heat level in the drawer under the oven is a bit more challenging since the shallow space is relatively restricted.

Most recipes using the broil function suggest positioning a rack at the top of the oven, which can be anywhere from three to five inches from the heating element. To better control the heat, I like to position the rack in the center of the oven as well, with the option to move the pan to the top towards the end of cooking time, if needed. Broilers located in a drawer below the oven are a little trickier. You’ll have to be diligent about checking the food often since there’s no option to lower the rack position. If you find things are getting too dark before it’s done, cover it loosely with foil and continue to cook, but check the food frequently to avoid overdoing it!

Here are some process shots of the recipe coming together.

Email me for this recipe.

Questions? I’m always here with answers.

–Chef Diana

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