Grill Pan Tips
Many people do not understand how to use or care for a grill pan. The end result is that after a few frustrating uses the pan gets stuck in the back corner of the pantry and is never used again. This is a horrible fate for such a great kitchen tool!
Hopefully the tips I have on these pages will help enable you to use your grill pan a little more frequently.
Tip #1: Turn the heat down!! This is the biggest mistake people make. There is no need to ever turn the heat up past “medium”. A well designed seasoned or enameled cast iron grill pan will hold a lot of heat so just give it time (5-10 minutes) to heat up. This advice is given by both Le Creuest and Lodge on their websites but is still routinely ignored. A clad aluminum pan is not as heavy as cast iron and will not need as long to preheat. A well designed aluminum pan will transfer heat to the food very efficiently so again, you don’t need to crank up the heat on the pan. I know, you are thinking “grilling” so you think you need big flames. You don’t.
Tip #2: Understand your food. When exposed to high heat, fat smokes and sugar burns. Two of the largest issues with grill pans are that they smoke up the kitchen and can be a pain to clean. If you want to reduce the smoke then grill chicken and peppers not burgers and brats. If you want your grill pan to be easier to clean then don’t use sugar based marinades and sauces. By the way, go back and read Tip #1 because you probably still have the stove turned up too hot which just makes this whole fat and sugar thing worse.
Tip #3: Prepare your food. Your grill pan wants food that is warm and dry, not cold and wet. You are going for serious grill marks here. A wet piece of food is going to steam, not sear. A cold piece of food can sear but has to suck more heat out of the grill for it to happen. This is just like regular grilling; let your food warm up on the counter for 30-40 minutes.
Tip #4: Cleaning tip #1. The number one complaint about grill pans is that they are hard to clean. Grill pans are easier to clean if you soak them. Seasoned cast iron grill pans get “soaked” by adding hot water to the still hot grill pan and getting a scrub with a stiff nylon brush. Enameled cast iron grill pans can be treated similarly but you can also throw in a little baking soda. Coated aluminum grill pans can simply be soaked in the sink with warm soapy water. Note that there is no easy way to soak the reversible grill/griddle pans or the larger two burner grills which is why I don’t use them!
Tip#5: Cleaning tip #2. Stop scrubbing so hard! I groan when I read comments about people having to work and scrub hard to get their enameled pans really clean. An enameled grill pan is supposed to get dirty! Les Creuest specifically states that it is normal for an oily brown or black film to form on their grill pans. They refer to this oily film as the Patina which will eventually make the pan truly non-stick. Please, give the Patina a little respect and stop scrubbing it off!
So there you go, a little bit of help to get you on your way. With a little thought and practice you will get the hang of things. Grill pans really are fun once you know how to use them.