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I was looking at some recipes online and it said 'Broil 4 in. from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned.'

Does broiling mean a specific temperature? I have never broiled anything before and I was wondering if there is a standard temperature range for broiling?

Incidentally, this is about making garlic toast, but I would like to know about broiling in general.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm going to assume this is an American recipe, as broiling has a slightly different meaning in Australia & the UK.

With broiling, the oven only heats the top element in the oven, and you turn the element or burner up as hot as it can get. It's not a specific temperature, as in most ovens, that would cause it to cycle on & off. (in fact, when broiling, you typically leave the door open specifically so the oven won't heat up so far that it decides to cycle the burner off to cool down).

It's about extreme high heat, from a single side. (top in the US, bottom in the UK and Australia)

You typically need to pay close attention to whatever's under the broiler, as it can go from golden brown to charred very, very quickly.

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There aren't temperature settings, but some ovens do have a "low" and "high" broil setting, I think. –  Jefromi Jun 26 '12 at 2:44
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Electric ovens use top heat broilers. With gas ovens, the heating element is located only on the bottom of the stove. In order to broil, one uses the broiler pan located in the cabinet underneath the stove. This does change the location of the heat to the top, as in your answer, but as the location of the broiler pan in at the bottom of the oven for gas stoves, I thought it important to note the difference. –  Fisher Jun 26 '12 at 12:36
    
In the UK, the broiler is called the grill, therefore broiling = grilling in the UK - nothing to do with BBQ. –  ElendilTheTall Jun 26 '12 at 16:12
    
@Fisher Some gas ovens do specifically have top broiler elements... I own one such model. The operative feature of broiling (or grilling, as they would say in the UK) is that the primary--perhaps effectively only--mode of heat transfer is via infrared radiation. That is why the distance to the heat source matters so much. Energy delivery through radiation decreases approximately as the square of distance. –  SAJ14SAJ Feb 20 '13 at 19:35
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