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I have a mild love affair with my broiler. It’s an unspoken appreciation for the simple kitchen gadget that too often goes ignored. Some use the broiler drawer for storage, others never bother to see if it opens. I use my broiler for cooking brilliance.

A broiler works very much like a grill; instead of flame below, the flame sits on top. Any recipe you see for a grill — guess what? — can also be made in the broiler. Shrimp, zucchini, tomatoes, hot dogs, burgers, you name it. This nifty little oven setting is your flame friend.

When in a pinch — or just looking for a super easy cooking experience — look to your broiler. Nearly any vegetable can be tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and in minutes, be broiled to perfection. In a snap, you’ll have slightly browned bites perfect for a side dish, salad or sandwich topper. My favorite five minute recipe: Place asparagus — tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper — on a baking sheet. Pop it under the broiler. After two minutes, turn and broil the other side. Two minutes later, eat awesome asparagus.

This method applies to a number of ingredients — toast is ready in seconds, fruit can be charred for a carefree dessert, lamb ribs are seared to perfection.

meat

The broiler also works for heartier items like chicken breasts or steaks. For a simple after-workday meal, smother a skirt or flank steak in soy sauce, honey and garlic and pop it under the broiler. Cook for about three minutes on each side then let rest, slice, and eat.

You can even cook an entire meal at once. Toss a quick cooking protein — like shrimp or scallops — in with shucked corn, tomatoes, green beans, or parboiled potatoes. Season with garlic, old bay, rosemary, whatever fits your fancy. After three minutes on each side, you’ll have a complete meal for your family. You can thank me later.

It’s so easy, anyone can do it. But if you’re new to it, keep a couple of things in mind: Be aware how far away your pan is from the heat source. Anything 2 to 4 inches from the flame will brown (or burn) much more quickly. Keep a close eye on anything cooking at that level. The temperature around the flame is about 550 degrees Fahrenheit (gas broilers have an extra oomph—high broiling temps get to 600 degrees). So if you’re looking to cook your items a bit more slowly (say, a thick cut of meat), aim for 4 to 6 inches away from the top. A good rule of thumb? Every rack level down reduces the heat by 50 to 75 degrees. And don’t forget to give the inside time to warm before the outside gets too crisp.

The day I discovered the many uses for the broiler, I tossed out my toaster, ditched my microwave and celebrated the stellar, multi-purpose cooking hardware I’d had by my side all along.

Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:

 

The things we’re grateful for linger long after the turkey’s been digested. To remind ourselves that celebrating life’s little joys is really where it’s at, The Loop’s calling out the everyday things that give us heaps of pleasure. Starting October 10, we’ll publish one new story daily about a thing, moment or experience that gives us the warm and fuzzies.

You’ve probably got plenty to be thankful for, too, and we want to know about it! Share what you’re most grateful for on Facebook here or via Twitter using the hashtag #12DAYSOFTHANKS (we’re @theloopca) or join the conversation on Hubub. Happy Thanksgiving!