Worthwhile Gadget: Grill Pan

My wife and I got married because we love each other and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We also coveted a grill pan. It was the first thing we added to our gift registry, and three years later the reversible grill pan/griddle gets used at least once a week.

This week I’m writing about dishes that celebrate the start of summer, including some of my grilling favorites. I’ve actually been preparing those dishes inside, on my handy grill pan. Is the flavor the same as if I had been cooking on a charcoal grill? No. But my grill pan does leave beautiful grill marks.

I use my grill pan and griddle for everything – from cooking a bunch of asparagus to preparing tortillas. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Trick No. 1: Buy a cast iron grill. If you’re going to invest (and yes, that is the right word – my grill pan costs more than a Weber grill) in a grill pan, go for cast iron. It holds heat much better than aluminum. You’ll actually be able to cook on the entire surface of the grill, not just the part over the two burners.

If you read some of the online reviews of the grill pan, it sounds like a horrible product. “Everything sticks and it is nearly impossible to clean,” one reviewer writes. That’s because this person isn’t following Trick No. 2: Don’t clean your grill. More specifically, don’t clean your grill with soap and scrub until it’s clean. That just removes the oil and seasoning that builds up to make your grill naturally stick-resistant.

Instead, simply soak the grill in hot water once you’re done cooking (and the grill has cooled down). Using your fingertips, brush away the gunk that has loosened. Let the grill dry and put it away. Sure, it might not be perfectly clean, but it’s not supposed to be!

While you are preheating the grill, pour a line of vegetable oil down the entire length of the pan, then use a paper towel to spread it and soak up the excess oil. This also removes extra burned-on gunk that may have loosened.

How do you keep food from sticking? Follow Trick No. 3: Lightly oil the grill each time you use it. Let the grill pan warm slightly, then pour about a tablespoon of oil on the pan. Use a paper towel to spread the oil and soak up any excess. There shouldn’t be any standing oil – this will just smoke and potentially cause flare-ups.

So, is is this heavy (10.6 pounds) and expensive ($170) item a worthwhile kitchen gadget to have? I definitely think it should be on every engaged couple’s gift registry. It’s a luxury, but it also makes grilling a much easier year-round activity.

My wife and I haven’t had any second thoughts about getting married, or getting a grill pan.


  • Robert

    When you get to it, I’ll be looking forward to your piece describing the most effective way to season cast iron cookware, including mistakes to avoid, and commenting on the advantages/disadvantages of cast iron relative to more modern, and more heavily-marketed, “high-tech” cooking surfaces.

  • Sam

    I’m curious how you’d compare the taste and effect of grilling on a grill pan to broiling in an oven.

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      Similar, but certainly not exactly the same. When cooking with a grill pan you’re using direct contact heat, with broiling, you’re not. You don’t get the same char effect. Plus, when broiling you have to bend down and open the oven repeatedly, with the grill pan you don’t.

      • Sam

        Thanks for explaining. Maybe a grill pan is worth it.

  • Nicole

    Ok, but what about when you flip it over to use the flat side?  I am terrified the crud on the grill side will ignite or something when I’m making pancakes.  It always starts smoking.  Hasn’t lit up yet… but there’s always the possibility, right?? 

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      I kind of like that … I think of it as building up the patina. However, you really shouldn’t have a lot of smoking. That means you probably need to clean the grill side more thoroughly. When I’m done using my grill pan, I let it soak for an hour or so (no soap, just warm water), then scrub it lightly.

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