On the Pros and Cons of Grill Pans

We credit Rachael Ray and other TV cooking hosts for the popularity of the stovetop grill pan. They can "grill" food on camera without having to move the entire production crew outside. Brilliant.

But we're apartment dwellers with no outdoor space, as we know many of you are, and let's be honest. A pan with raised ridges does not a grill make. We're going to give you our own thoughts on the grill pan, below...We talk a lot about these popular pans (read about them here or here). But essentially what you are getting is a heavy, cast-iron sauté pan that makes lines on your food. You just can't get the same smoky flavor or fire-charred bits that you get on an outdoor grill.

So, here are our pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The grill marks are nice. Food does look grilled, and the little black dents are satisfyingly crusty.
  • If you have the model that fits over two burners (which we do), you get a lot of surface area. You can cook many chicken breasts, kabobs, or vegetables in one go.
  • If your pan is a reversible one that flips over to be a griddle, you can make pancakes. Or a lot of bacon.
  • The ridges allow fat to flow off the meat, just like it would drip between the grates of a grill, so a burger doesn't sit and boil in its own juices.
  • Most grill pans are heavy and heat evenly -- just like a reliable cast-iron pan.

Cons:

  • No charcoal, no wood chips, no outdoorsy flavor.
  • Often, we find the double burner style pan fits awkwardly over our gas stove grates and the middle can become a cool(er) zone.
  • If you are going to cook a lot of meat over pretty high heat, there's likely going to be a lot of smoke in a small kitchen.
  • Just like in a regular sauté pan, it's hard to cook some meats thoroughly before the outside is dry or burned. Transferring to the oven is an option if your grill pan is small enough, but you can't put a top on like you can close the cover of a grill.
  • Our biggest complaint: We find they are a pain to clean and cumbersome to store.

OK, those are our thoughts. We know we're missing some points, so let us know what you think. And don't forget: If you have questions about grilling, send them to us!

Related: Good Question: How Can I Grill Inside?

(Image: Flickr member kallen1974, licensed under Creative Commons)

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