The 10 Best Grill Pans
This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in April of 2015. The right pan can put attractive and tasty grill marks on burgers, steaks, sandwiches, and vegetables in the comfort of your home kitchen without forcing you to stand outside in front of a smoky grill. They're made from a variety of materials, offer different levels of nonstick properties, and are safe to varying temperatures. One of these should be in every cook's arsenal. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 22, 2021:
Very few changes to the category this time around. The Calphalon CI8111R replaced the Calphalon Contemporary, and while they're somewhat similar, the enameled CI8111R is larger, retains heat better, and offers more overall value than its slimmer relative. The Curtis Stone DuraPan is no longer available, so in its place is the NutriChef NCGRP59, which is just a touch smaller, but also a bit less expensive. The Lodge L8SGP3 is still our favorite thanks to its essentially unrivaled heat retention, and the All-Clad HA1 is the best choice if you plan on using it frequently and want something that's less cumbersome than cast iron.
March 19, 2020:
Grill marks are an important part of cooking not only because they help to add that classic, charred flavor, but also because they make food look good. Generally speaking, a grill pan is like a normal skillet, but has ridges inside that simulate cooking on a grill. That said, there is a subset of "grill pans" like the Weber Style 6435 that actually rest on top of actual grills so you can cook delicate foods without damaging them; if you're looking for one of these, you might also consider getting a grill mat, which serves that exact same purpose.
If you are, in fact, looking for a way to apply grill marks without using an actual grill, most options are made from one of two materials: cast iron or aluminum. A lot of people prefer cast iron because of its vastly superior heat retention, which makes it easier to get well-defined marks. The Lodge L8SGP3 is one of the most popular such options, and it's relatively affordable, but if you want something really nice and can afford a much higher investment, the Le Creuset LS2021 is absolutely a premium piece of equipment.
On the other hand, there are some good advantages to aluminum models. First off, they're lightweight. More importantly, though, they have noticeably better nonstick characteristics due to the anodized coating they have, which doesn't use any potentially harmful substances like Teflon or PFOA. The All-Clad HA1 is one of the best made, and though it's a bit pricey, it should last quite a long time and it's actually pretty easy to care for. The Cooks Standard 02540 is very similar, but its not quite as thick and so won't retain as much heat. The Curtis Stone DuraPan is a bit different from the rest because it's actually a double-burner griddle, so it's able to prepare more food at once than many others. The MasterPan MP-139 has a folding handle that makes it more compact than most, and the Calphalon Contemporary has a partial lid that acts as a panini press.
Then there are the Gourmex Toughpan and Tramontina 80116, two of the few we found (aside from the Lodge) with magnetic bases, which allows them to work with induction ranges. The Tramontina is oven-safe but not nonstick, and the Gourmex is nonstick but not oven-safe.
Grill Pan Buying 101
Many grill pans are made of solid cast iron, a classic and effective material indeed.
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.
When not searing a fillet, a grill may just be at its best, however, when cooking a bread-based dish.
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.
If it's too late to catch the mess before it cools and settles into place, you can always use heat again later.
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.