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Chat Leftovers: An Open and Shut Case

Happy Wednesday, all. Today's Free Range chat should be terrific, with guests Sally Sampson to talk about her homemade fast-food challenge and David Hagedorn joining us to answer questions about his elegant and inventive Rosh Hashanah dinner. As usual, there'll be prizes, so tune in at 1, when we'll will be on hand to answer your questions.

But not all of them. We always run out of time before we can dig our way to the bottom of the question box. Here's one we couldn't get to last week before the hour was up.

Catlett, Va.: My mom taught me to cook. She always said you should leave the oven door slightly ajar when broiling (electric range). Is this correct?

Well, my mother said to leave the oven door closed. And in this case, it turns out that both moms were right.

In general, you broil with the door slightly open when using an electric oven, but you close it when broiling with gas.

I've heard several theories about why it's beneficial to broil with the door ajar. The most common is that if the door is closed, the heat is trapped inside the oven and you're essentially just baking, not broiling. But really, you can't prove that by me. I haven't found that, for example, a steak broiled under an electric coil is any better than a steak broiled under a flame.

As to why you don't leave a gas oven door ajar, that's easier to explain. The control knobs are at the front of the stove, and high heat rising through an open door could damage or maybe even melt them.

Regardless of which kind of range you own, you should always, always check the owner's manual for the recommended broiling procedure. Every manual I found online states clearly what the door position should be. Not only do most electric ranges call for an open door, but their doors have a "broil stop" that allows them to stay ajar at a specific angle. So though I'm not doubting your mother, go dig out out your manual and check it out. It never hurts to be sure.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  September 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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I was also taught to broil with the door open on an electric oven. I believe the reason is much more simple. Once the oven temperature reaches 500 degrees, the element will turn off. You leave the door open the let the heat escape so that the element will stay on the entire time you are broiling.

Posted by: SweetieJ | September 16, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Yes, thank you; that's another common explanation I found. But I also saw rebuttals claiming that in the short time broiling is going on, the oven temp won't get up that high. I have gas, so I can't test that theory at home. (My gas broiler doesn't seem to cycle off during broiling, though. I don't know why an electric range would cycle off at high heat but a gas range wouldn't.)

Posted by: Jane Touzalin | September 16, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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