Indoor Grilling: Tips and Recipes

With an indoor grill, you can whip up healthy grilled food no matter what the weather.

From the WebMD Archives

After a summer enjoying your favorite grilled foods, it's hard to give them up, isn't it? You can get a nice grilled flavor without the outdoors fuss with my favorite fall appliance -- the indoor grill.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt heard of at least one particular brand of indoor grill -- the George Foreman grills. These two-sided electric grills have detachable, nonstick plates (top and bottom) with raised edges that make the traditional grill marks. This type of grill has been around for about 10 years, each year bringing new models and new improvements.

If you're looking to buy an indoor grill, there are basically two things you need to know: whether it makes a difference to you if the temperature is adjustable (some grills have only one heat setting), and how much grilling space you need. Some grills have enough space to cook for four, others with enough to prepare just two servings.

There are two styles of electric grills to choose from: The open grill, on which the food is cooked from the bottom and needs to be flipped, and the contact grill, where the lid cooks the topside of the food. Here are some details about both:

1. Open Grill Style. If you get this type of indoor grill, make sure you choose one that comes with a lid (most of them do). It gives you more grilling options and keeps the smoke and steam contained. Some examples of the open grill are the DeLonghi Alfredo Healthy Grill BG24 and the DeLonghi Perfecto Indoor Grill, the Sanyo Smokeless Indoor Grill, and the BonJour Power 1800 Reversible Grill and Griddle.

2. Contact Grill Style. Make sure the top and bottom grill pieces detach easily so you can easily wash them by hand or in the dishwasher. And here's a bonus: a contact grill easily doubles as a panini sandwich maker. Some brands include Cuisinart Griddler GR-4, George Foreman, Hamilton Beach MealMaker Express Grill, and the Krups Universal Grill and Panini Maker.

The contact grill is particularly good at cooking:

  • fish fillets
  • steaks
  • pork chops
  • hamburgers
  • vegetables

Is Indoor Grilling Safer?

You may have read that outdoor grills can produce chemicals (heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that increase your risk of certain cancers. And the smoke from burning coals and dripping fat just add to the danger.

Think about it -- using an indoor electric grill eliminates the burning coals, the smoke, and the dripping fat that cause those nasty flare-ups.

Is Indoor Grilling Healthier?

Most contact grills are designed with a slant so liquids drip from the food, off the grill, and into a tray. But I've found that it's mostly watery juices from the meat or vegetables I'm grilling that end up dripping off. If you start with lean meat, there will be precious little fat collecting in the tray.

And I've got to say if you're grilling meat with some visible fat in an outdoor grill, the same amount of "fat" is probably going to drip off there, too. There just isn't a tray to show you how much liquid melted off.

Indoor Grilling Recipes

Here are a handful of recipes to help you think outside the indoor grilling box. There's a rub for pork chops, an easy rendition of an old favorite (chicken Parmesan), and a new way to cook up portabella mushrooms.

Sweet & Spicy Pork Chops

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members:Journal as 1 serving "lean meat without added fat"

You'll have about 5 teaspoons of the rub left over for another time. If you don't want to use Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, use 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar instead.

2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound boneless pork top loin center cut chops, extra-thin cut (1/3-inch thick)

Canola cooking spray

  • Preheat indoor grill according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Add the brown sugar blend, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and salt to a small cup and mix with small spoon to blend well.
  • Coat both sides of 4 pork chops with canola cooking spray and lay them on the bottom plate of the grill. Spread a teaspoon of the rub over the top of each of the cutlets on the grill. Lower the top (if using a contact grill) and cook for 3 minutes (4 minutes if you like them well done).
  • Repeat previous step with the remaining chops. Place leftover rub in a plastic bag or small covered container. Serve pork chops in sandwiches, as an entrée, or in a main-dish salad.

Yield: 4 servings (two thin cutlets per serving)

Per serving: 180 calories, 24 g protein, 4.5 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 178 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 37%.

Garlic and Herb Portabella Mushrooms

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members: Journal as 1/2 cup "vegetables with 1 tsp fat"

4 portabella mushrooms, stems removed, rinsed and dried well

3 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons diced shallots (freeze-dried diced shallots can be used)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons finely diced fresh basil (freeze dried can be used)

1 1/2 teaspoons finely diced fresh chives (freeze dried can be used)

Salt and pepper as desired (optional)

  • Preheat indoor grill according to manufacturer's directions.
  • Place the mushroom caps, round side down, on a plate. Add the olive oil, shallots, garlic, basil and chives to a custard cup and stir with a small spoon to blend well.
  • Spread the olive oil herb mixture evenly over the tops (the flat side) of the mushrooms with the small spoon.
  • Place mushrooms, flat side up, in grill and lower the top (if using a contact grill). Cook about 5 minutes. Serve as a side dish (sprinkle with grated cheese if desired) or as the filling in a sandwich.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 50 calories, 2 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 3.6 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 3 mg sodium (more if salt is added). Calories from fat: 60%.

Quick Fix Chicken Parmesan

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members:Journal as 1 serving "lean meat with 1 tsp fat"

2 large (or 4 small) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper as desired

1/3 to 1/2 cup bottled marinara sauce or pizza sauce

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

2 ounces thinly sliced or shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  • Preheat indoor grill according to manufacturer's directions.
  • If using large chicken breasts, cut in half so they are half as thick, to make 4 thin breasts. Lightly coat both sides of each breast with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper as desired (I used about 1/4 teaspoon).
  • Add chicken breasts to the grill and lower lid if using a contact grill. Cook for about 6 minutes or until chicken is nicely brown on the outside -- and moist and fully cooked on the inside.
  • Place chicken breasts on a foil-lined toaster oven pan (if using toaster oven) or cookie sheet (if using the regular oven broiler). Top each breast with 1 1/2 tablespoons of marinara or pizza sauce, then 1/2 tablespoon of Parmesan and 1/2 ounce of thinly sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese (1/8 cup). Broil in toaster oven or regular oven until cheese is nicely melted (about 2 minutes).
  • Serve as an entrée or serve on a toasted whole-wheat bun as a sandwich.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 216 calories, 31 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 81 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber, 239 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 35%.

Amaretto & Spice Nectarines

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members: Journal as 1/2 cup "canned fruit or frozen sweetened" + 1 teaspoon sugar OR 1 portion fresh fruit + 1 teaspoon sugar

2 nectarines

4 teaspoons amaretto liqueur

1 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 to 1/3 cup light vanilla ice cream (optional)

  • Preheat indoor grill according to manufacturer's directions.
  • Cut nectarines in half and remove the pit. With a small serrated knife, cut into each half from the flesh side, going halfway to the skin, in a tic-tac-toe pattern.
  • Drizzle a teaspoon of amaretto over each half. Lightly coat the top and bottom of nectarine halves with canola cooking spray and place skin side down on bottom plate of your indoor grill.
  • Lower the top of the grill (if using a contact grill) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove peach halves, placing two on each dessert plate. Sprinkle the top of each half with a fourth of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each serving with a cookie scoop of light vanilla ice cream, if desired, or enjoy as is.

Yield: 2 servings

Per serving: 114 calories, 1 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 0.7 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 1 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 5%.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2007 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.