Using Charcoal For Indoor Grilling – Can You? Should You?
Don’t you just hate it when you got all the barbecue things ready for the weekend, and all of a sudden a storm pulls in? It’s the worst! You are left with a bunch of charcoal, prepared food, marinated meat, and refreshing drinks – not to mention the disappointed guests that may still arrive.
So, can you use charcoal indoors on the grill? And if you can, does that mean you should? Despite the shocking number of people that say yes, you should never use charcoal indoors – even if you do leave all of the windows and doors open.
Charcoal produces deadly carbon monoxide gas that is smokeless and odorless. So, even if you think you are providing enough ventilation, you may not realize you’re poisoning yourself until it is too late.
In today’s guide, we will go into more depth to debunk the common claims made for this technique. But don’t worry.
We will also provide you with much safer alternatives for indoor grilling.
Now, your barbecue can still continue, but just without the use of charcoal. Trust us, you’ll thank us when you don’t end up in a coma due to CO poisoning.
Is It Safe To Use Charcoal For Indoor Grilling?
This is not a topic that we want to beat around the bush with. Under no circumstances should you EVER use charcoal or a charcoal grill inside your house.
Unfortunately, there are way too many people that want to say otherwise just for the sake of doing so.
But the fact of the matter stays the same: it’s too dangerous, and you could kill yourself in the process.
So, Why Is Charcoal Not Safe To Use Inside?
Charcoal is a hard black material that is made up of the solid form of carbon with fragments of wood, bone, or other organic materials.
There are, of course, MANY different types of charcoal these days, but this is arguably still the most common form.
When charcoal is burned, it releases heat without any odors or smoke.
This is what makes it a popular material for cooking.
The ingredients can simply cook without changing flavor or color at all. This is different than using wood as a heat source, which releases smoke, flavor particles, and odor particles.
Unfortunately, while no smoke or aroma is released, charcoal still releases carbon monoxide (CO) as it burns.
Now, this is not the end of the world if you are outdoors.
But if this deadly gas is concentrated in a small area and cannot escape, you could experience symptoms pretty quickly and die within hours, possibly even minutes.
Let’s Bust Some Unfounded Claims
Now, as we’ve already explained, there are a shocking amount of people that desperately want to believe you can use a grill inside.
Unfortunately, instead of just putting themselves at risk, they spew this nonsense all over the internet, making other people believe the same.
And hey, we kind of get it! Not everybody can afford an indoor grill. And what about satisfying your steak cravings in the middle of a snowstorm?
But is your life worth a piece of steak?
Let’s look at some so-called solutions and why they won’t work.
Claim 1: Open The Windows And Doors
Some writers claim that by simply opening the windows and doors, you will allow the draft to “blow away” the carbon monoxide.
But here’s the thing; The amount of airflow required to safely “get rid” of the CO gas is not what you can achieve indoors.
You will need to use a big industrial fan, and even then it may still not be safe!
The build-up happens so quickly, and you will never be able to effectively remove the gas from a room, even if all the windows and doors are open.
The only way to safely grill with charcoal is outdoors, where there are NO obstacles that will restrict the CO gas from dispersing.
Claim 2: Only Use Charcoal Inside On Windy Days
Again, the airflow inside a room, even with industrial fans, may not be enough to effectively remove all of the CO gas to make it safe for you and your family.
Plus, the problem with wind is that it doesn’t flow in a consistent direction.
So, one gust of wind may help direct the CO gas out of the room. But another can just push it back in.
Claim 3: Place The Grill Close To The Door
Some gas will go in, and some will go out. But there is no way to safely prevent the gas levels from roaming indoors and causing poisoning.
Again, just place the grill outdoors. If you are worried about rain or snow or a storm, then either don’t grill at all or use an umbrella over it.
You can also use a grill under an open canopy or gazebo. Just please do not use it anywhere that has more than 1 wall.
Are There ANY Types Of Charcoal That Is Safe To Use Indoors?
Nope. Don’t do it. It is not worth the risk!
This is the fourth claim that we haven’t discussed yet. People say “Only use this charcoal” or “Only use that charcoal.”
But at the end of the day, charcoal is charcoal. And again, unless you understand it on an expert level, you will never know what truly goes into making it.
This goes for all types of charcoal in all of their forms.
The only material that you could burn indoors is wood. And even then, only specific types of wood.
Some species are poisonous when burned and could release toxins that can kill you. Others release carcinogens that have a high probability of causing cancer.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Not Something To Mess Around With
Because this gas has no odor of flavor, it’s exceptionally deadly. That’s why it is far safer to not grill indoors at all, rather than to grill and take the risk.
Without equipment, there is no way to detect the presence of this gas with your senses alone.
Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when it starts building up in your blood.
The gas replaces oxygen in your red blood cells which then causes some serious tissue damage, eventually leading to death.
If you are lucky and haven’t been exposed for too long or too high levels of CO, you may only experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or slight nausea.
More severe symptoms include feeling weak, confusion, chest and muscle pain, and shortness of breath.
Can You Buy Indoor Grills?
Now, if you are feeling a little disheartened by this point, don’t be. Because while you cannot or should not use your outdoor charcoal grill inside, there are grills specifically designed for indoor use.
These are also commonly called smokeless grills. They work with electricity, which is how they produce the same amounts of heat and cooking steam that outdoor charcoal, wood, and gas grills do.
Indoor smokeless grills are great for many reasons. Other than, of course, not poisoning you!
These grills are often a lot smaller. This not only makes them easy to store but easy to use on your countertop.
There are also tons of different models available, which allows you to buy exactly the size that you want, the grill plates that you want, and the settings that you want. And even better, you can find models that work for you at different price points.
Furthermore, an indoor grill does save money long-term.
The maintenance is almost nonexistent it uses less electricity (in cost) than charcoal. And it’s super easy to clean.
Last, but not least, we love indoor grills because you can still use them outdoors. Sure, their size is a little restricting.
But, if you are new to grilling or don’t do it often, it’s a multi-functional, more budget-friendly grill option for your household.
Alternatives To Using Charcoal For Indoor Grilling
So, if you want to grill inside your home, here are some of the best alternative methods you can use.
1. Purchase An Electric Grill
First up, the electric grill. It’s hands-down the best solution that will yield the most accurate grilling results.
Obviously, these appliances work a little differently from outdoor gas, wood, or charcoal grills. But none of them will produce any type of gas, let alone carbon monoxide. Plus, they are pretty easy to figure out.
If you want to buy one for yourself, this one is my favorite and you can pick it up on Amazon.
2. Use The Broiler In Your Oven
A broiler is a tool that is very similar to a grill. The main difference is the design and how they work.
A grill produces heat from the bottom, whereas a broiler produces heat from the top, where the heating element sits in an oven.
This mainly affects the way the item cooks and caramelizes. For one, you won’t get the grill marks your grill creates.
Other than that, you will still get delicious and even sear on your cuts with arguably less effort.
How To Use A Broiler As A Grill
First, you need to make sure your oven has a broiling setting. If it has a broiler drawer, it won’t work as well.
Place the special broiling rack or plate about 6 inches from the broiling element.
The exact space between these two depends on how quickly you want the ingredients to cook and get color.
Add the food to the broiling pan. Make sure to leave some space between them so they cook evenly and get color all over.
Broil the ingredients for 8-10 minutes. You can flip the ingredients when half the time has elapsed.
It is crucial that you leave the oven door open slightly. If you don’t, it may cause an explosion or ignition.
If the ingredients are cooking too quickly, lower the rack (place it further away from the heating element).
3. Griddle Pan
This is a tool you’ve likely seen before. Usually, griddle pans are made from cast iron or cast aluminum.
Either way, the materials are very sturdy and extremely durable. All this enables them to handle the intense heat for long periods of time.
It is best to buy a square or rectangular griddle pan. You can utilize the space better. Griddle pans obviously have ridges and grooves which help mimic the look that your outdoor grill plate creates.
Always buy a griddle plate with a sturdy handle to make maneuvering it easier.
How To Use A Griddle Plate
If you don’t have a pre-seasoned griddle plate (or haven’t seasoned it in a while), do so first.
Then, heat it over medium-high heat. It has to be hot before you use it. Otherwise, you won’t get the griddle marks that you want.
Once heated, add your ingredients and leave them to cook for as long as it takes. Only flip the food once. This helps create clean lines that make the food aesthetically pleasing.
4. Use A Skillet
Unfortunately, a skillet also won’t help give you griddle marks. However, it does create a beautiful sear that mimics what you would get on a flat griddle plate.
When using a skillet as a grill, always buy a cast-iron skillet.
It heats up a lot easier, retains the heat better, and creates a better sear.
Other than that, cast iron is simply a much sturdier and more durable material than any other.
You can use a cast iron skillet in a similar way you can a griddle pan.
5. Indoor Smoker
Before anyone jumps the gun, we know a smoker isn’t the same as a grill. However, one thing that makes a charcoal or wood grill unique is the smoky flavor that it adds to the food.
So, if that’s what you are chasing, and pretty much only that, you can use an indoor smoker.
Again, there are MANY different models you can buy. At the end of the day, the option that works best for you is the one you can afford.
Smokers are pretty simple in the way that they function, so the price doesn’t necessarily show quality. You can get a fantastic model at a very affordable price.
Furthermore, you can buy small hand-held smokers as well. Just make sure you have a container that will hold the smoke and infuse the food.
And finally, you also have the option of creating a makeshift smoker using household appliances. Because at the end of the day, it’s the smoking chips that add the flavor, but the appliance itself.
A last resort method you can try is using a food-safe blowtorch. These can be purchased at baking supply stores or kitchen supply stores. Please DO NOT use heavy-duty blowtorches. They are not safe!
A blowtorch is an easy way to give your food color without needing any special grill plate or appliance.
Most of these are quite small and can easily be stored inside your drawer. Plus, they are cheaper than any of the above-mentioned tools.
How To Use A Blowtorch
The number one rule to remember is that the distance between the flame and food mainly affects the color it will give.
Plus, if you hold it in one spot, it will color much more quickly. But, be careful as it is extremely easy to burn food as well.
Once your torch has been lit, simply glide it across your cooked food. This tool won’t cook the ingredients. It’s only meant to give them color.