Think grill pans are a nightmare to clean? Maybe it’s time to rethink the way you use them.
By: Jeffrey B. Rogers
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, a hardcore griller will endure great peril to maintain his reputation of always cooking his food over an open flame. Then, there are the rest of us. At times, we just need a convenient way of getting great-tasting grilled foods done indoors. A cast-iron grill pan is a simple and easy way to get the job done when an open flame is not an option.
My late Uncle Bubba introduced me to cast-iron grill pans more than 20 years ago. If there was one thing he taught me, it was how to get maximum flavor out of foods when circumstances are not ideal. I remember him taking a thick, aged rib eye, pressing kosher salt and cracked black pepper into both sides, and cooking it to perfection on a grill pan with grill marks that would make your knees buckle. I was determined to emulate my uncle’s indoor grilling success. I purchased my first grill pan, got it home, and thinking that regular grills are really hot, I jacked the heat up as high as my meager apartment stove would go. Onward, I went with my first cast iron-grilled chicken breast! The chicken sizzled, my apartment filled with smoke, and my smoke detector sang its all too familiar, piercing melody. And what does every chicken breast cooked on the grill need? A thick, sugary barbecue sauce. I brushed the sauce onto the chicken, not really caring about how much spilled into the bottom of the pan. Oh man! At that moment I was Uncle Bubba. After plating the chicken with my sides, I sat down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I cut into a gorgeous chicken breast that, to my dismay, was still really raw. To add insult to injury, I was left with a grill pan that was a burnt, sugary mess.
Unfortunately, this is an experience shared by so many who dive into indoor cast-iron grilling without a roadmap for success. After more than 20 years of experience, I have gained valuable insight on proper use, cleaning and maintenance, as well as what to look for when purchasing your first grill pan.