Archive for the ‘Random Grill Pans’ Category

Many people use the phrases “Stovetop Grill” and “Grill Pan” interchangeably; however, there are several other ways of grilling on your stove that do not involve using a grill pan.

There is a product available which is a true stovetop grill called the Minden Master Range Top Grill.  I think you can pick it up on Amazon for about a hundred bucks.  This is an actual grill that fits over a burner on your gas stove.  There grill grates are supposed to be far enough away from the flames that things don’t burn and there is a drip pan of sorts that keeps grease from falling onto your stove.  It looks like this guy even comes with a lid.  I’ve never used this myself but the comments on Amazon indicate that it smokes like a chimney.  It might be worth a try if you can open your windows and get some serious ventilation going.

A second stovetop grill is the Chefmaster Smokeless Stovetop Barbecue.  This is a two piece, slightly domed aluminum grill designed to have the grease from your food drain downward into a rimmed water lined reservoir.  You can probably pick one up for about $35 but please don’t.  I have used this quite a bit and it really is awful.  The grill has very uneven heat, has almost no non-stick properties and leaves pathetic grill marks.  Don’t waste your money on this guy.

A third option for a stovetop grill is the wide selection of electric grills that are available.  Several manufactures make a single contact grill where your food is essentially sitting on top of a heating element.   If you go with a grill like this make sure you get one that comes with a lid.  I’m not sure why some companies don’t offer a lid for their grills but it seems pretty obvious you would want one to both speed cooking and reduce the amount of splatter mess in your kitchen.  The double contact grills are pretty popular where your food gets cooked by a heating element underneath and on top of your food.  This is your typical George Foreman type grill.  Some benefits of the double contact grill are that your food cooks faster and that the top element acts as a lid reducing splatter.  One downside of these grills is that all of your food must be of the same thickness to benefit from the dual contact.  There are lots of options to choose from for dual contact grills.

A grill pan makes a great stovetop grill but isn’t the only option you have for grilling indoors.  If you just can’t get into the groove of your grill pan go ahead and try one of these other options.

 

Enameled cast iron is made by coating raw cast iron with a glass dust, then firing the piece at approximately 1400F.  At this temperature the glass powder melts and fuses into a smooth surface covering the cast iron.  By including different metal oxides with the glass dust it is possible to incorporate colors with the enamel finish.  The extra time and material required for enameling means a good enameled cast iron grill pan will always cost more than its seasoned equivalent.

The cooking surface in an enameled grill pan is essentially a very tough form of glass giving the pan exceptional resistance to chemical attack.  That is, they don’t rust!   Although the surface is very tough it is still glass and is subject to cracking and chipping if roughly handled or scraped with metal utensils.

An important detail about enameled grill pans is that they are not inherently non-stick.  This is a point of major frustration for many people who shell out the extra money for an enameled grill pan over a seasoned one.  Manufacturers of enameled grill pans instruct users to make sure their food is lightly oiled before adding to the pan as this will help with food release.

The trick to using an enameled grill pan is to let it get dirty.  Le Creuset instructs that over time a Patina, an oily brown or black residue, will form on the grill surface which will enable truly fat free cooking.  Really all we are saying is that like cast iron, enameled cast iron will need to season to become truly non-stick.  So, use your grill pan often with lightly oiled food and gently clean it after each use.  Clean it enough to remove bits and flecks of food but not so much that it looks brand new.  One manufacturer summarizes the process very well by instructing users to “respect the Patina”.

Other manufacturers of enameled cast iron grill pans will go ahead and coat the enamel with a non-stick polymer.  I believe GreenPans, makers of the Martha Stewart and Todd English grill pans, uses a coating of Thermolon.  Another manufacturer, Staub, has the interior enamel be black so people don’t get concerned about discoloration.

The major benefits of enameled cast iron over seasoned cast iron are appearance and care.  Some people just love the look of enameled cast iron and I can see their point.  Personally I think Les Creuest cookware is beautiful.  Additionally, if you don’t get enameled cast iron completely dry it is not going to rust on you like seasoned cast iron will.

 

Clad aluminum cookware is a product of significant manufacturing and metallurgical advances within the past fifty years.  Three wonderful properties of metallic aluminum are the ability to transfer heat at an amazing rate, its extreme light weight and its ability to be easily formed and shaped.  These properties make aluminum an ideal metal from which to construct grill pans.  The major flaw with aluminum is that when heated it easily warps and deforms, obviously something you want to avoid with cookware.

In order to take advantage of the good while minimizing the bad, a process was developed in which aluminum was sandwiched between other metals (stainless, copper, etc.).  Once the aluminum was “clad” by other materials the sheets were rolled or pressed together, formed into desired shapes and coated with non-stick surfaces.

In the comparative grill pan study undertaken by Cook’s Illustrated in 2006 they believed that clad aluminum pans had a distinct advantage over cast iron pans.  They stated that clad aluminum pans were able to transfer heat from the grill to the food faster than could cast iron.  They found this to be especially true of clad aluminum pans that had been formed by stamping as this process made hollow grooves underneath the grill ridges which allowed better contact between the grill ridges and the heat source.

The Cook’s Illustrated logic was that faster heat transfer results in better grill marks.  Better grill marks result in food releasing easier.  Easy releasing food results in less food being stuck on the grill which results in easier clean up.

Most people will find the major benefit of clad aluminum over cast iron comes from the weight of the pan.  On average, a cast iron grill pan will weigh ten times that of one made of clad aluminum.  A second benefit of clad aluminum is that you can soak it in warm soapy water overnight, something you would never do with seasoned cast iron.

 

Well seasoned cast iron has incredible non-stick properties that are similar to Teflon. Properly maintained cast iron will last for decades.  When you combine this with the fact that cast iron is incredibly cheap, you see that it is an excellent and inexpensive addition to your kitchen.

The downside of cast iron is that is does require more maintenance and care than most casual cooks are willing to provide and that it is very heavy.  If you are in the habit of throwing everything in the dishwasher or even of putting your pots away when they are still damp then these pans are not for you.  As far as weight is concerned this is even more of an issue if you have an induction or flat topped electric range.  If you drop a twelve pound pan onto your range how much damage do you think it will do?

Raw cast iron becomes seasoned through the absorption of oil into the pores of the pan.  It is the process of seasoning which makes cast iron a natural non-stick surface.  It is easy to distinguish between raw cast iron and seasoned as raw iron appears grey or brown and metallic while seasoned cast iron is jet black.

There are different levels of seasoning.  Although cast iron grill pans are marketed as seasoned they have typically only been through a single seasoning step.  As the grill pan gets more and more seasoned the non-stick properties of the grill will improve.  There are several things you can do to improve the seasoning of your grill pan.

Season the grill pan again: You can season the grill pan yourself a few times.  The procedure is pretty straightforward.  Lodge makes great grill pans and recommends coating the entire pan in vegetable oil (or rubbing with shortening) and placing the pan in the middle rack of an oven with a larger pan on the lower rack to catch dripping oil.  Heat the oven to 350F and hold for 1 ½ hours.  Turn off the oven but leave the door closed.  After the oven has completely cooled remove the grill pan, wipe it clean and repeat the process.  After two cycles of seasoning you should notice that the grill pan has significantly darkened.

Use your grill pan: Increased seasoning happens as the iron is exposed to oil at high temperature.  As long as your food is slightly oiled, the more you use your grill pan the better the seasoning should become.

Protect the seasoning: There really is no reason to work on improving the seasoning if you don’t protect it.  There are a few key things to keep in mind for protecting your grill.  The first rule is to never scrub your grill pan with abrasives, do not let anyone touch the grill with anything resembling an SOS pad.  The second rule is to avoid soap if possible. Once well seasoned the pan should clean easily with warm water and a brush.  If soap must be used it is preferable to use a mild (cheap) soap like Ivory instead of an Ultra Grease Cutting type soap.  Remember, you just want to remove food particles, not the underlying oil based protective coating.  Lastly, once the grill has been cleaned make sure it is wiped completely dry to prevent any chance of rusting.  A very light coat of oil is not a bad idea at this point.

Cleaning considerations for seasoned cast iron grill pans: Ideally you will clean your grill pan by adding hot water to the pan while the pan is still hot.  Hitting the grill with a stiff nylon brush while the water boils will dislodge most if not all of the grill crud while not damaging the seasoning.

You will note that the above procedure really isn’t possible with a reversible griddle/grill as the water would spill out all over the stovetop.  Your best bet with the reversible grills is to use a squirt bottle and do targeted spraying.  Spray a crud laden area of the grill and while the water steams quickly scrub it with a brush.  This is a little tedious but is still better than trying to deal with the crud once the grill has completely cooled.

Below is another approach to cleaning your cast iron compliments of Alton Brown; use salt! I’ll let you watch the video for details.

 

My first suggestion on the Grill Pan Tips page is to lower the heat while you are using your grill pan. To impress the importance of not overheating I have done a cut and paste from the user instructions of three grill pan manufacturers; Lodge, Les Creuest and Greenpan. While the first two companies are familiar to many people the third, Greepan is not. Greenpan is the maker of grill pans for the Martha Stewart and Todd English line of products.

• Use only low to medium heat settings for all pre-heating and cooking. The efficiency of the material is such that searing temperatures are achieved on medium settings within a few minutes. Heating the surface a little more slowly will ensure a thoroughly and evenly heated surface. (Les Creuest user instructions)

• Before cooking, apply vegetable oil to the cooking surface of your pan and pre-heat the pan slowly (always start on low heat, increasing the temperature slowly). (Lodge user instructions)

• Use only MEDIUM and LOW heat settings. DO NOT pre-heat on high heat settings. MEDIUM and LOW heats will provide the best results for the majority of cooking, including frying and searing. Allow the cookware to preheat gradually and thoroughly, as this will give the most even and efficient cooking results. Once the cookware is hot, almost all cooking can be continued on lower settings. (Greenpan user instructions)

• DO NOT pre-heat the grill on a high heat and then reduce to medium or low for cooking. Cast iron is a very efficient material and retains heat well. If over-heated it will retain that heat for a long time and this method of use may contribute to poor cooking results and the food sticking to the surface of the grill. (Les Creuest user instructions)

• At no time should the grill’s surface be smoking hot. This very high temperature is far from ideal for good grilling and may result in the outside of the food being over-browned and over-cooked before the center is cooked correctly or to your taste. If the surface is smoking, lower the heat immediately or, carefully remove the grill from the heat source to cool down before proceeding. (Les Creuest user instructions)

• Cast iron retains heat so well that if your cookware is overheated, it will contribute to poor cooking results. At these high temperatures, fats will burn extremely fast, damaging the surface of the coating permanently, leading to loss of the non-stick properties and discoloration of the cooking surface. (Greenpan user instructions)
The last comment by Greenpan refers to permanent damage to the non-stick polymer (Thermalon) that coats their grill pan and not to the enamel itself.

Seriously, turn the heat down a little.

These mushrooms are tasty and easy to make but make sure you do not skimp on the marinade time.  I like a pan with no or very low sides for this as it makes reaching in and flipping the mushrooms pretty easy.

  • 4 portabella mushrooms
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4 TBS minced or grated onion
  • 5 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

Wipe the top of the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to clean.  Remove the stem and discard or save for other uses.  Mix the oil, vinegar, onion and garlic.  Place the mushrooms cap side down and distribute the marinade equally into the cavities of the mushrooms, reserving one tablespoon of the marinade.  Add the remaining tablespoon of marinade to a wide shallow bowl and stack the mushrooms on top of each other, cap side down, in the bowl.  Allow the mushrooms to marinade for at least an hour.

Preheat your grill pan on medium low for five minutes.

Drain the marinade from the mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Place the mushrooms onto the grill pan cap side up and grill for five minutes.  Flip the mushrooms after five minutes so the cap side is now down and grill for another five minutes until the mushrooms are done.

I like to finish with the cap side down so I have the option to get creative and add breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes or anything else that strikes my fancy to the inside of the cap during the last five minutes of grilling.

The mushrooms can be treated like a burger and served on a bun with tomato and lettuce.  I also like to serve them as a side dish so I get the visual benefits of the nice grill marks.

This recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a margarita marinade.  The thighs take up a lot of room while cooking so you will need to either use a double burner grill pan or work in batches with your single burner pan.  The thighs grill up pretty quick so working in batches shouldn’t be a problem.

  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz good tequila (Sauza, Patron, etc)
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

Trim any large deposits of excess fat from the chicken thighs and place in a 1 quart zip top plastic bag.  Add the lime and orange juice along with the tequila to the zip top bag, set the bag into a large bowl and then into the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove the thighs from the marinade and pat them dry with a paper towel.  Lightly oil the thighs (a quick spray with a non-stick cooking oil would work fine) and season with salt and pepper.  Allow the oiled chicken to rest at room temperature for about fifteen minutes.

Preheat your grill pan on medium low for five minutes.

Add the thighs to the grill pan and cook four minutes per side flipping only once.  Make sure than when you add the thighs to the pan that the entire side is exposed to the grill. I have found that if you start with the side of the thigh that would have been the “skin side” down that the grilling is much easier.  The “bone side” of the thighs is often pretty mangled and all the loose dangly bits can stick to the grill easier than the relatively smooth surface provided by the “skin side”.  By the time it is time to flip the “bone side” has usually firmed up a little.

After the thighs have grilled for eight minutes remove them from the pan.  The thighs are great when topped with salsa and served with sides of yellow rice and refried beans. You could also slice up some onions and peppers, coat with oil, salt and pepper and grill them up for a chicken fajita dinner.

This recipe is an adaptation of a Filet with Cabernet Sauce recipe from Epicurious. For this recipe you would want a 10-12 inch grill pan with low to medium sides.

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 filet mignon steaks (about 1 ½ inches thick)
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 2/3 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

45 minutes before you want to serve, lightly oil both sides of the filet and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Allow the filets to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Once the filets have had 30 minutes to warm, preheat your grill pan over medium heat for five minutes.

Place the filets into the hot grill pan and do not touch them for five minutes.  After five minutes the filets should have developed a nice set of grill marks and should release easily from the grill pan.  Turn the filets over and do not touch them for another five minutes.  After the filets have grilled for approximately ten minutes total remove them from the grill pan and let them rest on a platter while you make the sauce.  Five minutes per side should give you a steak cooked to Medium.  Medium Rare would be a little less than four minutes per side while Well Done would be about seven minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the grill pan along with the chopped shallots and sauté for about a minute.  Stir in the mustard, capers and wine making sure that you are using the liquid to release the frond (a nice word for grill crud).  You are building a sauce and cleaning your grill pan at the same time in this step.  Let the mixture simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened.  Add the remaining butter and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the rested filets and serve immediately.