7 Best Grill Pans | March 2017
- includes a full lifetime warranty
- professional-grade nonstick surface
- 12" diameter accommodates lots of food
- safe for ovens up to 500 degrees
- won't discolor, scratch, rust, or chip
- features dual pour spouts
- browns evenly while locking in juices
- riveted ergonomic steel handle
- safe to wash in the dishwasher
- helper handle for easy carrying
- impermeable enameled cast iron surface
- available in a variety of stylish colors
Grill Pan Buying 101
Grill pans are pleasantly versatile cooking tools for two reasons: they can be used on most grills, easily standing up to the heat produced by a bed of hot coals or gas burners, and they can be used in place of a grill, cooking food that will have much the same flavor as though it were prepared over flame despite a stove's burner providing the heat.
We will focus on these pans in the latter role, which is indeed their primary function in most households. With a good grill pan, poor weather, the cold, or simply the lack of an outdoor grill is no longer an obstacle to creating great-tasting grilled foods at home. (But of course always feel free to use a grill pan on an actual grill; indeed they are ideal for foods too small for the grill's grate, such as pearl onions, try-tip chunks, or garlic cloves.)
Most grill pans have a few common characteristics, and these are worth enumerating before discussing the aspects that differentiate varied models. A grill pan must have a series of thick ridges along its bottom; these help to keep cooking meats (and/or vegetables) up off the bottom surface of the pan, preventing the entire surface of a fillet from searing while still providing close proximity to heat that allows the interior of the meat to cook well enough for ideal food safety and flavor. These thick ridges also impart the sear marks that you expect from grilled foods and that add the smoked flavor you love in foods cooked atop a standard grill.
All grill pans worth your consideration will also have a thick, sturdy handle. Some can help keep your hand well back from the heat source, allowing you to maneuver the pan as needed, while some grill pan handles are rather short and tend to heat up quickly, potentially necessitating the use of gloves. These shorter handles make the pan easier to fit into a hot oven, which is ideal for many recipes. Pans that have longer handles can allow you to flip foods or to shake the pan back and forth, keeping fast-cooking foods (such as shrimp) on the move and cooking evenly.
Choose whether you want a short-handled or longer-handled pan based on the type of cooking you prefer. If you will only ever use your grill pan on the stove or in the oven, a short handle is best. If you might use it atop a grill or even over an open wood fire, a longer handle is the smart move.
Next consider whether or not you value a grill pan with built-in spouts, as many feature. These are helpful for draining off oils, grease, and excess fluids, but also may preclude the use of a top that can fully seal the pan and bake foods within it.
The materials used to construct the pan are the last critical consideration to be weighed. Many grill pans are made of solid cast iron, a classic and effective material indeed. Cast iron holds heat well and cooks meats superlatively, but it does require more care and cleaning that other materials. Some grill pans have nonstick coatings on the surface that can help make food release more easily, but which also tend to leave inferior grill lines. For a pan that heats up quickly, consider a pan with an aluminum core. These pans distribute heat rapidly and respond quickly to elevated or lowered heat levels, so if your recipe calls for precise temperature control, this type of pan will respond well.
Beyond Meat: The Versatile Grill Pan
Many people look at a grill pan and think only of a way to cook a steak, pork chop, or fish fillet. Though these pans are ideal vehicles for cooking great cuts of meat, they can also be used for much more. A large grill pan is the ideal vehicle for making a batch of paella, for example, or even for simmering soups or stews.
One rarely thinks of anything but a deep, tall pot when it comes to cooking a soup or stew, but in fact the wide base of a grill pan exposes all the ingredients to heat more evenly than taller, narrower cookware. And most grill pans can accommodate quite a large volume of fluid despite their shallow walls preciously because of their broad bottom surfaces. You will simply need to use extra care when serving or decanting the liquid-based foods, as it is certainly easier to spill using a grill pan than a pot.
When not searing a fillet, a grill may just be at its best, however, when cooking a bread-based dish. These pans make ideal stand-ins for a panini press, especially when the pan comes with a top that apply downward pressure to the top of the cooking sandwich. Such pans are also perfect for making delectable pizzas at home. Grilled pizza is often prepared atop a stove, grill, or even an crackling fire, but these pans are also perfect for baking Chicago-style deep dish pizza at home. If you are interested in making your own deep dish pizzas, do be sure to consider a short-handled grill pan that will easily fit into your oven.
Cleaning the Grill Pan: Tips and Tricks
Grill pans can get quite messy quite quickly. The juices, fats, and oils dripping off of a cooking piece of steak, for example, are concentrated at the bottom of the pan and will congeal quickly after the heat has been removed.
The best way to easily clean a grill pan is to get it soaking in soapy water as soon as possible after you are done using it. If you can't submerge the pan in water, at least pour an inch or so of water mixed with a mild dish detergent into the pan; just be mindful of the steam and spattering hot water that might rise up with the initial pour.
If it's too late to catch the mess before it cools and settles into place, you can always use heat again later. Pour some water (without soap) into the pan and bring it to a boil. Then scrub out all the grease and grit you can with a brush. Next, apply a paste made from a healthy dose of salt and some cool water and keep on scrubbing; that should be enough to break apart even stubborn food deposits. When you're done cleaning the pan, rub its inside down with a bit of vegetable oil if its a cast iron unit, or simply fully dry it if its a nonstick pan.
One other technique to try for a 100% cast iron pan is to place it in the oven and run the appliance's self-cleaning cycle. Just as the oven burns away its own grime and build-up, so too will it clean your pan, so long as it is not covered in oils that can catch fire under high temperatures.