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Grilling is America’s favorite past time. They keep the heat out and add smokey flavor. However, not all of us have access to a grill. For a good alternative, you can use a grill pan, specifically a cast iron grill pan. Because these pans are casted instead of stamped, the grill marks are more substantial than aluminum or stainless steel pans. The Best Cast Iron Grill Pan has ridges that keep food away from the grease. However, there are cases where smaller grill marks are better.
Why is Cast Iron Better?
As stated before, cast iron grill pan are casted. What that means is that they use a sand mold. Because they use a mold, they can make any shape they want. This usually means bigger ridges on the grill pan. With a stamped pan, they get a sheet of metal and stamp it out via a hydraulic press. There is usually a limit on the amount the metal can be stretched. Make it too thin and the sheet will tear. Make it too thick, then shaping it will be difficult.
Since Cast Iron Grill Pan can be shaped however manufacture like, they can have really tall ridges. Having a tall ridge will keep food up and away from the grease. It will also produce more pronounce grill mark. perfect for chicken breast, burger and grilled vegetables.
Having said that, tall ridges are not always desirable. In cases where you want to make panini sandwiches, small ridges are better. Tall ridges will tear sandwiches apart. Plus, the accompanying press will fit better as well. Smash burgers can also be done better on smaller ridges pan. Although they will look a little odd.
How to use a Cast Iron Grill Pan?
Using a grill pan can be a bit of a challenge. They take forever to cook food. Since there is so little surface area, food takes forever to cook. With a traditional grill, the charcoal acts as a furnace to cook food. With the grill pan, only the fins will heat up your food.
I recommend that you still with lighter foods like vegetables. They cook quickly and will retain its texture. This help prevents overcooking food. With food like steaks and chicken breast, I recommend a sear and finishing it in the oven. With things like steak, its fine to be under cooked. However for chicken and pork, it needs to be cooked all the way.
For panini sandwiches, you can heat both the pan and the press. Butter the pan and add some butter on top of the sandwich. Once hot, put the sandwich in and press. After 30 second to a minute and check the color.
How to clean a Cast Iron Grill Pan
Cleaning is a bit of a hassle, especially the models with the tall ridges. I find that the best way to clean is to add water to a hot pan. However, most manufacturer recommend against this. It can damage your pan, but my experience says otherwise. Do it at your own risk.
If you want to avoid the method above, these pans can benefit from a long soak. Once soak, use a short bristle nylon brush. OXO makes a good one. Its stout and wont flex as much as the other one. This lets you really get the stubborn stains.
Seasoning your Pan
Seasoning isnt really that big of an issue. Since the contact area is so small, most food wont stick. However, maintaining the seasoning is good for protecting the pan. If it gets stripped, it can start to rust. For enamel cast iron grill pan, its not that big of an issue. The bare cast iron models does.
To season your Cast Iron Grill Pan start with a towel. Dip it in oil and run a thin coat through the pan. Then bake it in the oven at 350 for half an hours. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Best Cast Iron Grill Pan List
Below, you will find a list of some of the Best Cast Iron Grill Pan. There are quite a few option on the market, choose one that best suits you.
STAUB Cast Iron Square Grill Pan & Press Set (Best Overall)
Staub is one of the Best Cast Iron Grill Pan on the market. With ridges that is at least 4-5 mm tall. You get the best grill mark and it keeps the food away from the grease. The beautiful color rivals that of Le Creuset. Best of all, the press also has a accompanying panini press. The only issue is that the tall ridges can tear the sandwich.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Square Skillet Grill (Best For Sandwiches and Burger)
Le Creuset Grill pan ridges a bit lower but they are perfect for sandwiches and burger. They are just tall enough to give food that grill mark without tearing. You can also do smash burger with these pans. Just smash it in when grilling. You do need to buy a Separate Grill Press in order to make sandwich. The helper handle is also wider and more comfortable than the one by Staub.
Lodge Manufacturing Company Lodge Cast Iron 10.5-inch Square Grill Pan (Best Buy)
Lodge is america oldest cast iron manufacturer. It strikes the balance between staub and le creuset. The ridges fall right between these two manufacturer making it more versatile. Since its bare cast iron, it also sear better than the other two. Plus whats best about this model is that its quite a bit more affordable than the other two. The only bad thing is that there is no accompanying press for sandwiches.
Cast Iron Grill Pan are the go to choice for indoor grilling. Aluminum or stainless steel model has ridges that are too small. Plus the cast iron models are great at holding heat. Staub has the biggest ridge of the three models. They are best for defined grill mark. However, for sandwiches and burger patty, I recommend Le Creuset. For a combination of the two and at a much more affordable price, you cant beat lodge. Its what I recommend most people. It just lacks the press.
Love Korean BBQ, check out our article on the Best Korean BBQ Grill.