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I have a significant problem - our broiler is flat out dangerous. The oven/broiler came with our house. Every single thing we've put under it has been burnt (it says it's 550, but I think it could be far hotter). A few minutes ago I put lobster mac and cheese under it for less than 90 seconds to brown up the top.

It started a fire, ruining the dish, filling the house with smoke, and causing us to dump some water we luckily had nearby on the dish to put out the foot high flames (cracking the glass dish, awesome!). If that hadn't worked, I would have had the fire extinguisher.

We're ok, but I will NEVER touch that damn broiler again.

So, that leaves me just using our oven, once I can get the smoke smell out. Should I just crank it as high as the oven can go (500 degrees)? Is it supposed to be lower? I know the addage is that a broiler is "an upside down grill" but grilling can be anywhere from 350 to 600 degrees depending on the grill, so that's a pretty bad comparison.

Any help would be appreciated. I'm kind of frazzled at the moment.

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    How close to the element are you putting things? Was it potentially splattery, greasy mac and cheese? – Cascabel May 22 '14 at 23:03
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    Broiling isn't just about temperature, it's the radiant direct heat and it might take a huge ambient temperature to get close to that. It might be worth looking into replacing or repairing the broiler element, they're fairly cheap ($15-25) and usually can be replaced without much hassle (unplug everything first!). Also, you could try it again with the food much lower in the oven and the door open to watch (with extinguisher handy just in case) – Doug Kavendek May 23 '14 at 3:29
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    Cooking fires can usually be put out by covering them with a lid, a plate, a cookie sheet, or whatever else is handy. Don't use water; if there's a significant amount of grease in the fire it will spatter and make things worse. – Pete Becker May 23 '14 at 11:49
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    When you put something under the broiler, do you stay and watch it or do you set a timer and walk away? Specifically with the mac and cheese, I have to imagine if you were watching it you could have pulled it out prior to the fire. In general, it's a poor idea to leave your food unattended under a broiler, especially when you know that it's excessively hot. – derivative May 23 '14 at 12:42
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    100% agree with derivative -- when broiling you really need to keep an eye on things ... it only takes a few seconds to go from 'golden brown & delicious' to 'charcoal' (with or without flames). I keep the door open because the broiler typically gets so hot it'll cause the oven to shut off, so you need to vent the excess heat. – Joe May 23 '14 at 15:53
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Assuming you cannot fix the oven (which would be my first recommendation as much for safety as anything else), then for browning things on the top I'd suggest using a cook's torch, which is the same thing as a plumbing torch except it's flashier.

Of course you'll want to make burgers, steaks, fish, etc as well. Baking these will not get you nice toasted brown bits no matter how hot you set your oven, so frying is your next best option although in some cases you could use the torch there as well.

You could your too-hot broiler question on the diy forum to get ideas on fixing it.

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You could try leaving the oven door open just a crack to help circulate the heat a little better

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From what you say, it sounds way too hot. I don't know about temperatures, and it seems odd to try to measure, since the element will be "very hot" and the actual temperature you get will depend on distance. But in my experience, most broilers especially at a healthy distance of 3 inches from element to food will take a minute to really brown the top of an already cooked dish, and after that it'd more likely char than ignite. And things like broiling peppers (with plenty of turning) can take 5-10 minutes.

I think some of the suggestions in the comment are your best bet. First just try cooking something and watching carefully, to see how long it takes to brown. Maybe you had a fluke - some unexpected spatter. (I know you said no, but mac and cheese can have plenty of goopy stuff that'd be just right for a big bubble or glob to pop up and catch.) Maybe it's not actually as bad as it sounds. But if it is you might be able up fix it somehow.

Failing that, I think GdD might be right about the torch. You could try cranking it all the way up - 550F on the top rack will definitely brown things - but it won't be quite the same, and you'll probably cook the bottom too much on some dishes.

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