Archive for the ‘Random Grill Pans’ Category

Another great lean protein for the grill pan is tofu.  Plain tofu is pretty dang boring; not much to look, mushy texture and not much flavor.  I jazz it up by hitting it with a pretty strong marinade overnight for flavor and color.  For extra color and a bit of contrasting texture I grill it.  The grill marks are a nice visual contrast and they add a little bit of crunch to the surface.  I have a little video of the process at the bottom of this post.

Grilled Tofu

In order to get the marinade to do much good you have to get some water out of the tofu.  I do this by pressing the tofu with a brick for a few hours.  After pressing the tofu gets cut into half inch slices and covered in Stubb’s Chicken Marinade in the refrigerator overnight.

Pat the tofu dry and add it to a pre-heated grill pan.  It only takes about two and a half minutes per side to heat through and get some nice marks.

I ate these plain as shown above.  These would be excellent on top of a warm rice salad or drizzled with dressing and served with some grilled green beans.  You get the idea…I’m not the most creative person in the world, I’ll leave that part to you.  What else would these be good with?

 

Here are some other takes on grilled tofu:

Grilled tofu and asparagus

 

Grilled Mexican tofu

If you are looking for ideas or equipment check out my page on grill pan starter sets!

Eggplant is something I have struggled with for a long time.  I really want to like eggplant but so far I have not been successful.  I won’t bother with a detailed listing of my eggplant failures but suffice it to say that they have been numerous.  However, I am nothing if not persistent and so I decided to give my purple nemesis another try.

One great attribute of eggplants is that they take to the grill very well.  Indeed, eggplant might be the ideal grilling vegetable.  It is easy to slice seven or eight half inch “steaks” from a mature eggplant making it a cinch to use one plant for an appetizer course.  The firm slices hold up very well to the heat of a grill and, if you are grilling outdoors, are large enough that they won’t slip through the grate.  The white flesh of the eggplant is an ideal canvas for grill marks which will develop beautifully over the ten minutes or so that the slices are on the grill.

I made up a basic marinade for my eggplant slices from equal parts canola oil and red wine vinegar with some roasted garlic, salt, pepper and paprika thrown in.  There are undoubtedly much better marinades for eggplant out there and if anyone would like to share theirs I would love to give it a try!  I let the slices soak for about thirty minutes at room temperature and then patted them dry.  I let my cast iron grill pan pre-heat for about five minutes over medium heat until a few drops of water sizzled as soon as they hit the pan.

I grilled the eggplant for five minutes on each side and took the opportunity to do a demonstration on grill marks.  After the slices had been in the hot grill for three minutes I rotated them ninety degrees and grilled for another two minutes to get the classic cross hatch pattern.  You can see that the pattern is present but rather weak.

Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant

I then flipped the slices and let them grill another five minutes without moving them.  You can see that the sides that got the full five minutes of undisturbed grill contact have much sharper grill marks.

Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant

In order to get the best of both worlds, a highly defined cross hatch, I find I have to grill something for about eight minutes on a side; four minutes of grilling, rotate 90 degrees and another four minutes of grilling.  I then will flip my food to let it finish cooking. Unfortunately for most foods this results in food that is over cooked on one side.

So how did the eggplant turn out?  It was okay; nothing spectacular but definitely a step in the right direction.  I might try peeling it before grilling next time.  I will also cut back on the vinegar content of my marinade and add some herbs.  Any other suggestions?

 

I came across an interesting grill pan the other day and thought I would share some pictures.  I really have no idea where this pan came from, it literally showed up in my collection of pots and pans a few weeks ago; someone who is familiar with my obsessions must have snuck it in just to see if I would notice.

This is an older pan manufactured by Roch Guss.  The pan is 10.5 inches, has sides about an inch deep, a wooden handle and a spout on one corner.  The pan is made with clad aluminum but I am unsure about the non-stick coating.

The design of this pan is very odd; specifically, what is up with the spout on the corner?  The only possible reason for this feature (that I can think of at least) is to pour the fat off from whatever you are grilling.  I’ve got to say, if you are grilling something that has so much fat that you actually need a special spout to pour it off then you have already lost at the game!  Initially I thought the spout might be related to the utilization of a braising liquid but I don’t think that makes much since given the absence of a lid (hard to slow simmer on the stovetop without one) and the presence of the wooden handle (not sure that I would put it in the oven).

A funky old grill pan

Funky design aside, I found that this is an excellent little pan and am pleased to add it to my arsenal.  I broke the pan in with a standard pressed fried egg and cheese sandwich and followed up with a few quesadillas.  The pan put out some very nice grill marks and was easy to clean despite an abundance of melted cheese.

I am sure that you could find a pan like this for a few bucks at a flea market or a garage sale.  There is nothing fancy about this pan and it works great.  There is no need to spend big bucks on kitchen gear unless you want to.



If you are looking for ideas or equipment check out my page on grill pan starter sets!

I might have a new favorite use for my grill pans; quesadillas! I have been making quesadillas for my kids for years but it never popped into my head to make them with my grill pan until a few weeks ago.  I wanted to play around with them a little before I posted but now I have a few insights to share.

Grill Pan Quesadillas

As far as the general construction of the quesadilla I prefer using a single large tortilla folded over into a half moon with a cheese filling in the middle.  I have tried putting the filling between two small tortillas but found that the hassle of flipping them wasn’t worth the effort.  For the filling let your imagination go wild but keep your audience in mind.  For my kids I stick with cheese and diced chicken.  For adults some good additions include jalapenos, black beans, smoked pulled pork and caramelized onions (not all at the same time of course!) My secret tip is to apply a thin layer of refried beans onto the tortilla before adding the cheese.  You wouldn’t expect this to make much of a difference but it really pushes a good quesadilla into the realm of greatness.

My family is bi-polar as far as tortillas are concerned.  Half of us are fans of flour tortillas and half of us insist upon “low carb” tortillas due to our expanding waistlines.  A BIG LEARNING is that flour tortillas will easily get beautiful grill marks.  In contrast, I don’t think I could put grill marks on a low carb tortilla even if I used a blowtorch!  I haven’t tried this with corn tortillas but I suspect they would turn out great.

As far as grilling the quesadillas it is as simple as you might expect.  Preheat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium heat for a few minutes and add the tortilla to the pan.  Gently press the tortilla with a spatula to encourage good contact with the ridges on the pan.  After three minutes or so, flip and repeat.  Although I lightly oil my pan I do it because I think it helps the tortilla brown up better, not to help with sticking.  I am not sure that the oil really helps with the browning but it is an old habit that works for me.

I was very impressed with how well the flour tortillas took up the grill marks.  My kids very much prefer these over my standard quesadillas.  Compared to quesadillas made in a regular frying pan these look much nicer and have a better “crunch factor”.

If you are looking for ideas or equipment check out my page on grill pan starter sets!

I made a grilled ham and egg sandwich with cheese for lunch and it turned out pretty good.  The egg was hard fried and placed upon some deli ham and toped with American cheese.

The grill pan was preheated for five minutes then the sandwich was grilled on each side for 3 minutes.  I used a foil wrapped brick to press the sandwich.

I used a wheat burger bun for the bread.  You want something with substance to stand up to the pressing.  Regular white bread usually falls apart on me.

 

Ham and egg sandwich grilled in a grill pan

Ham and egg sandwich grilled in a grill pan

It was raining cats and dogs a while back so it was back inside to the grill pan for some steak.   I picked up some pretty New York strip steaks at the store.  I really prefer ribeyes but they are fatty enough to cause the kitchen to smoke up if you cook them on a grill pan.

I hit the steaks with some salt and pepper and let them rest on the counter for 30 minutes and preheated my grill pan for 5 minutes over medium low heat.

The steaks were cooked for 6 minutes per side and were slightly rotated after 4 minutes to get a little cross hatch action.

Grill pan New York strip steak

Grill pan New York strip steak

The 12 minutes of cooking took these guys to “medium well”.  Pretty good eating.

I did these steaks a few weeks later.  Pretty much the same routine; salt, pepper and rest at room temperature.  Then into a preheated grill pan for 5 minutes a side (took it to the medium side of medium rare).

More Steaks!

More New York Strip Steaks!

Below is a video of a different approach to using this pan for a New York strip.  This is actually a product demonstration from Lodge Cast Iron.  I was a little amazed when I watched this.  They add oil to the pan, which causes a lot of smoke, and finish the steak in the oven.  I am not a fan of the approach but I guess it works for some folks.

 

If you need a little more inspiration check out the video from Jamie Oliver.  I have not used one of his grill pans before but I think they look neat.  I like the bulls eye that turns red when the pan is the right temperature.  I always enjoyed watching Jamie so I was tickled to find his video on cooking the perfect steak in a grill pan.

 

I prefer using a grill pan for cooking shrimp over an outdoor grill.  Shrimp cooks so fast that it doesn’t really have time to benefit from a charcoal fire.  If you cook these guys on an outdoor grill you have to use skewers or risk losing the shrimp between the grates.  A grill pan lets you easily get some nice grill marks on your shrimp without the hassle or risks of an outdoor grill.

I started with a half pound of peeled and deveined 30 count shrimp.  I marinated the shrimp for thirty minutes in a mixture of the juice of two lemons, a tablespoon of hot sauce, a tablespoon of minced garlic, ½ cup chardonnay and ¼ cup olive oil.

I drained the marinade and patted the shrimp dry with paper towels.  I added the shrimp to a pre-heated cast iron grill pan and cooked them for about three minutes per side.  The shrimp took some nice grill marks, did not stick to the pan and did not smoke up the kitchen.

I used the shrimp to top off some seasoned rice although they would also be excellent over pasta.

Grill Pan Shrimp

Grill Pan Shrimp

 

I spent some time looking through the Lodge catalog the other day and was surprised at how many grill pans they offer.  You would think that a phrase like “Lodge cast iron grill pan” would be pretty specific but apparently it is not.  I have added all of these pans to an Amazon product wheel below so you can see them side by side.  It is a pretty slick tool that lets you “wheel around” and see the different items.

Lodge offers three 10 inch grill pans; round, square and enameled.   The enameled pans are available in blue, red, green and brown.  These are the enameled versions of the square pan.   The 10 inch pans are okay but I feel they are a little small.  You could grill two pork chops at a time without over crowding the pan.  I am also not a fan of the enameled pan.  The enameled pans are easier to care for and come in different colors but they lose the non-stick properties of cast iron.  I don’t like that trade-off.

Lodge offers two 12 inch grill pansand both of them are extremely nice.  I have already written that my favorite is the 12 inch square pan.  The size is just right and the low sloping sides make for the perfect balance between easy flipping and easy cleaning.  Lodge also offers a 12 inch round grill pan from their Signature Series.   The Signature Series differs from the Pro-Logic series in that Signature items have stainless steel handles.  Personally I think the combination of cast iron with stainless looks sharp.  This guy is pretty and I would not mind having it in my kitchen at all!  In addition to looking good the handle is designed to stay cool while the grill pan gets hot.  This is an extremely nice feature that you can only really appreciate if you have ever grabbed the handle of a hot cast iron pan.  Like cast iron, the stainless handle is also oven proof.  If you have the extra money the Signature pan would be something to seriously think about.

Lodge also offers two versions of the double burner reversible grill/griddle pan.  If you are in the market for a double burner pan make sure you measure your stove first and avoid my mistake.  One of these grills is 16.75 inches long while the other is 20 inches long.  Both grills have a nice edge on them which provides a little bit of depth (should help with cleaning).  I was surprised when I looked at the shipping weight for the double burner grills, they are much lighter than I expected.  My cast iron double burner grill (from Cajun Cookware) weighs at least 25 lbs and is a bear to handle.  The Lodge 20 inch grill only weighs 16 pounds while the 16 inch grill only weighs 10 lbs.  The 16 inch double burner grill pretty much weighs the same as my 12 inch single burner pan.  Weight is a major consideration for these grills.  I am surprised they were able to cast something this size and keep the weight down in the manageable range.

 

Buying a double burner grill pan requires a lot more thought than buying up a single burner pan.  I didn’t do much thinking when I bought my double burner pan and the end result was frustration and wasted money.

I bought my double burner grill on impulse at an old hardware store while I was actually looking for a shovel.  It was a large cast iron beauty with the reversible griddle.  I have a pretty big five burner stovetop and figured I needed a pretty big stovetop grill.

Here is a picture of the grill in its first (and only) use.

Double burner grill pan in use.

What a beauty! This is why I wanted a double burner grill pan!

 

You can see why I wanted this guy, right?  It has plenty of room for four rib eye steaks and a load of veggies.  It also has a reversible griddle so imagine how many pancakes you could fit on this beast!

This is sold as a 24 inch double burner grill as the grilling surface is 24 inches long.  In actually this is a 28 inch grill because you have to take the two inch handle on either side into consideration.  Why does this matter?  Because of the danged handles, this grill is too large to fit across a front/back burner combination on my stove (the back splash gets in the way) and is too small to reach across my two front burners.

My Double Burner Cast Iron Grill

My Double Burner Cast Iron Grill

Technically it does reach across the front burners but the burners are right at the edges of the grill which means the handles get hotter than heck and the middle has a big cold spot.  It also means that once you are done cooking this grill is going to be sitting on your stove a long time while it cools down.  The handles were too hot to use even when I was wearing oven mitts.

The moral of the story is to make sure you measure your stovetop and understand all of the dimensions of a double burner grill before you purchase one.  This is especially true if you are working with a five burner range.  If anyone is willing to pay the shipping I’ll be happy to give you mine!
Below is an Emeril/HSN video of what I was hoping I would be able to do with a double burner grill pan.

Over on my Grill Pan Tips page I wrote about not using your grill pan for fatty foods like hamburgers if you want to avoid splattering and smoky messes.  This doesn’t mean you can’t grill burgers indoors though, just that you might want to use a different tool.

A double contact electric grill, where the food is cooked by heating elements on the top and bottom, can do a decent job of grilling a burger indoors.  I can’t really make a recommendation as to which indoor grill would be the best as I haven’t used enough different ones.  What I have found is that while an electric grill can make an okay burger you really have to step up your grilling game if you want these burgers to stand out.  A burger cooked on an electric grill will not have the same depth of flavor that you get when your burgers bath in the smoke from juices vaporizing on smoldering charcoal.

I like to think of things in terms of equations:

  • (Good meat) + (Great grill) = Excellent Burger (When we cook outdoors)
  • (Good meat) + (Good grill) = Okay Burger (When we cook indoors)

As our indoor grill choices are limited and are unlikely to ever become great, it is pretty obvious that if we want to make excellent burgers indoors that we are going to have to improve the quality of the meat we are working with.

The easiest way to improve the quality of your hamburger meat is to buy a roast and either grind it yourself or have your butcher do it for you.  There is simply no comparison between freshly ground beef and ground beef that has been sitting in a plastic shrink wrap container for four days.  Any decent supermarket will be glad to grind a chuck roast for you and at most will charge an extra ten cents a pound for the service.  If you want to go even higher end, have them grind a brisket for you instead!  Obviously stay away from the leaner cuts like an eye of round or bottom round roast as burgers made from those would just dry out.

In addition to tasting fresher, meat that has just been ground is cleaner and safer then ground meat that has been sitting around.  Ground meat has a tremendous amount of surface area exposed to the atmosphere which means that bacteria can grow quite rapidly.  Pre-packaged ground beef should always be cooked to well done to insure food safety as bacteria has had a long time to multiply.  By contrast, freshly ground beef can be safely consumed at medium rare.  If you don’t like medium rare then at least try for medium, to benefit from the extra flavor and juiciness.

If you want to grill burgers indoors I suggest you use a double contact grill and compensate for the lack of grill flavor by grilling freshly ground meat to medium or medium rare.