Ask the Expert: Cleaning Your Grill Pan

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Q: I HAVE A HARD TIME GETTING MY: CAST-IRON GRILL PAN CLEAN. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO DO IT?

A: If you’re like us, you’re no stranger to pulling out this trusty pan in the summer months (and beyond). We freely admit it can be pesky to keep clean, so here’s the 411 on keeping it in tip-top shape.

PROPER GRILL PAN USE

Before you think about cleaning your pan, first think about using it properly. It’s improper use that turns them into cleaning nightmares.

MODERATE HEAT

Staying away from high heat when cooking meats in a grill pan is crucial. Because there is less contact with the iron, foods take a bit longer to cook. If your heat is too high, the outside begins to burn long before the inside is done. Medium to medium-high heat will produce beautiful grill marks, will give the spaces between the grill marks time to brown, and will give meats ample time to reach your desired degree of doneness internally. A good rule of thumb is the thicker the meat, the lower the heat.

PREHEAT YOUR PAN

When cooking in a grill pan, you’ll most likely need every inch of space on the cooking surface. Adequately preheating your pan will help the grates in the outer areas become hot enough to cook and sear properly. A solid 7 to 8 minutes and sometimes even longer is needed before use.

LIMIT YOUR USE OF SUGAR

Sugar and hot cast iron don’t always mix well. When using grill pans, wipe or brush off any sweet or sticky marinades from your food before you add it to the pan. On a regular grill, it’s normal to finish foods with a brush of sauce, but in a grill pan, it can be very tricky to avoid burning and sticking. If you do use sauce, keep your heat lower, and wait until the very end to add it.

BEST CLEANING PRACTICES

After using a grill pan, let it cool until it’s warm to the touch. Fill it with very hot water, and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Do NOT boil water in your grill pan. Our go-to tool for cleaning is a non-scratch scouring pad. Folding the pad to fit in between the grates works very well for most grill pans.

If you want a specialty tool, Lodge’s polycarbonate pan scrapers are shaped to fit the grates of their pans, and they work on many other brands of grill pans as well. For tougher situations, it’s useful to add a bit of kosher salt when scrubbing with the scouring pads. If you follow the advice of avoiding extreme high heat and sugar, these should be the only tools you’ll need. Depending on how dirty your pan is, you might need to use some hot soapy water at the end. But, get the pan as clean as possible before using soap, and use it sparingly.

After cleaning, oil your grill pan lightly; wipe off all the oil, and return it to a burner, upside down, on medium-high heat until it smokes lightly. This acts as a mini seasoning session and helps to repair any seasoning that was damaged during cooking and cleaning. Let the pan cool completely before storing it.