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cast iron grill pan ok on flat-top stove?

I desperately want to get a good grill pan to make burgers and chicken on without having to use my outdoor grill (charcoal, so not the type of thing I can use every day!) or George Foreman grill (hope to relegate that to grilled cheese duty). I understand that cast iron is the way to go, not nonstick, because you can get it much hotter to do the searing required.

But the problem is that I have one of those flat-top electric stoves with no burners. You have to go to great lengths not to screw up its ceramic surface. I have a large Lodge cast iron skillet that I got to make frittatas and the first time I used it with medium high heat it smoked like crazy and left blackened marks on my stove that I had to scrub like crazy to get out. I don't have a real exhaust vent so the smoke was annoying as well. I now only use it on medium-low heat (which kind of defeats the purpose).

So, can you use cast iron cookware on flat-top stoves without screwing up the stove top or cookware? Are there any particular ways I should cook with it? Any particular products I should look for (like, is enameled cast iron going to be better?)? I appreciate the advice!

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  1. I have a set up very similiar to yours-electronic ceramic stovetop (which I despise), and a lame exhaust fan. I use a regular lodge skillet and a cast-iron skillet with ridges, which sounds like what you want to use. I rarely use either on the stovetop, however. Instead I use the broiler a lot. No splatter, no damage to the stovetop, and less (though still some) smoke. It works great for grilling sausages and I'm sure anything else you want to grill. Just remember to let the pan get good and hot first.

    I know using a charcoal grill can be a pain to start, but I've been using mine a lot more ever since I bought the Weber Chimney starter, works like a dream and makes grilling a lot more predictable:
    http://www.amazon.com/Weber-87886-Chi...

    3 Replies
    1. re: martin1026

      That's a great idea to use the pan in the oven under the broiler. I guess my only concern about doing that is that it wouldn't really be any different than cooking things in the broiler on the broiler pan. I'm doing that right now for burgers, and it's ok but doesn't give them that slightly charred outside and medium rare inside that I'm looking for. Do you think a cast iron grill pan would improve this?

      I do have a chimney starter, and yes, it is great. But I still don't want to deal with the mess, time, and mosquitoes of outdoor grilling more than once every couple weeks. Thanks though!

      1. re: zomigi

        The difference is in the pre-heating. You probably wouldn't pre-heat your broiler pan to the temps you would cast iron. Also, the pan wouldn't retain heat like the CI either. It sounds like this might be the best solution for you.

        I've always thought of my broiler like a gas grill, just upside-down. I don't see why it wouldn't be effective.

    2. You have already learned the answer -- the way that smooth top stoves are built that sheet of ceramic/glass looks like it will be "easy to clean" but in reality they are not. Further, although they can dump out a whole lot of heat, the design is such that unless all that heat is going into a big pot of water to boil water or something similar, the surrounding surface can/will overheat. Further, without a hood you cannot do much searing.

      The pan is not the only thing that makes it possible to get the job done safely -- the smoothtop ranges and lack of hood leave you in a bad position... Even if you can stand the smoke, you risk damaging the cooktop. For people truly committed to electric stoves the best upgrade is to a commercial style induction 'hob' which is far less likely to be damaged (but way more expensive)...

      In regards to enameled cast iron for searing, it is a bit easier to care for in comparison to uncoated, but performs about the same, and may be less efficient at transferring heat.

      6 Replies
      1. re: renov8r

        I'm not sure I'm understanding you. Are you saying I basically can't use cast iron high-heat cookware on my stove? I can't buy a new stove, much as I would love a gas one or at least a regular electric one!

        1. re: zomigi

          The way I read the "warnings" sheet that come with smooth top electric ranges you are not supposed to use any pan that is not perfectly flat, nor should you use anything that can scratch the surface, nor should you preheat the pan, if you try to preheat there is some kindof circuit to shutoff the stove before the rejected heat damages the stove:

          http://products.geappliances.com/Appl...

        2. re: renov8r

          I moved in with my wife and we have this type stove, I completely hate it. I have heard that unless the bottom of a pan is perfectly flat the stove won't work, and believe I have learned it to be true. I tried heating a canning pot half full to boiling and it took over an hour on the largest heat unit. I hear this is because it is the ceramic covered pot, that has circle ridges on the bottom. If I could have any think changed in this outdated kitchen, it would be this stove. We have everything else new, we won a new refrigerator, washer and dryer, our home warranty is going to replace our double ovens, but no one wants this piece of cooking malfunction for us. We are on major fixed incomes so it's not in the budget. Perhaps layaway with Sears is the way for us to go. Poor wife anguishes over the condition of this cook top. I am a clean person and also the one who does all the cooking, but can't for the life of me get this hated item clean to save my soul. We have purchased all the special cleaners for it, and it still takes hours. What a waste of perfectly good cooking space. I will replace this dang thing eventually. It is my opinion, if you have to have electric, go with the old fashioned ring burners. Even if the drip pans get dirty you can replace them for pennies compared to the cleaners just for this item. My opinion is if you are planning a remodel, don't go with this cooktop.

          1. re: justkjs

            Keep an eye on craigslist, I scored a double convection oven in great shape for $75 bucks. I'm monitoring for a new cooktop myself now.

            1. re: justkjs

              I have the same type cook top also don't like, however the way I clean mine is with nonaprisve Comet with spong has a green back for scrubbing. Good luck.

              1. re: eaokool61

                I am on food stamps and use baking soda and vinegar. Works great! on many, many other things, too. Even a clogged sink.

          2. Just out of curiosity, perhaps getting an aluminum disk (Or two depending on size) and placing them right over the "Element" then the skillet on top.

            BTW, I loved the flat top we used to have.

            DT
            http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?i...

            7 Replies
            1. re: Davwud

              Sounds intriguing. Don't know what type of aluminum disk to even search for, though. Do you have an example of the type of thing you have in mind? Thanks.

              1. re: zomigi

                Nope.

                I was just expounding on a metal star that my mom has sitting on one of her stove elements. Back in the 70's or so, you put a glass pot of coffee on it and it kept it from being directly on the element. Then you could turn the element on and keep the coffee warm.

                Such a disk of aluminum (Or perhaps find a blacksmith or iron worker for an iron disk) would fit within the confines of the burner and keep the over lap off the stove top.

                Just a thought is all.

                DT

                1. re: Davwud

                  While I too remember such devices as an attempt to protect GLASS percolators from the ravages of ancient calrods this is probably not a good idea as that would definitely be contrary to the idea of a secure "wobble free" pan that matches the smooth top heating zone. You'd be creating an unstable stack of metal-on-metal-on-glass that has even MORE potential to overheat and/or shatter the surface.

                  1. re: renov8r

                    I beg to differ.
                    I may not work I'll grant you that. But what I'm suggesting is a disk of metal that's approximately the size of the burner (Or burners depending on what type of skillet it is) so that the skillet doesn't over hang and wreck the part of the cook top not meant for cooking.

                    DT
                    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?i...

              2. re: Davwud

                Where would you find these disks? How do they work, could you use non flush pots and pans on them? how do they work?

                1. re: justkjs

                  There are these disks called "Induction Interface Disks" that let you use non-magnetic steel cookware on induction stoves. They work by becoming the 'bottom of a pot'. The entire disk heats up, which allows the heat to transfer to whatever is on top of it. They seem really expensive for what is essentially, a piece of stainless steel. Maybe you can get one made at a metal shop, with a notch or groove to grip when picking it up?

                  The idea of using a portable electric hot-plate, as mentioned earlier, is similar to what my brother does. His stove is unsafe so he got a portable, two burner induction hot-plate and puts it right on top of the ceramic stove top. Good luck!

                2. re: Davwud

                  I know this is old post but the aluminum ring is a terrible idea. It traps heat which can ruin heating element. Also all aluminum is to be kept away from the heating units. Aluminum pans (non coated) can scratch stove top.
                  Im looking for a griddle I can use with a bridge unit.
                  Rebecca

                3. Unfortunately, I also have an electric ceramic smooth top stove. When we bought this house we assumed there would be a gas connection for the stove since everything else - dryer, hot water, etc.- is gas, but noooo. But I've learned to live with it.

                  What was posted is correct - you need to use flat bottomed cookware, don't scratch it and don't put a pre-heated pan on a burner. But, that aside, I use cast iron skillets (Lodge) fairly often and never have a problem. It may be that the pan needs re-seasoning. I know Lodge claims their pans are pre-seasoned but when I buy one I season it anyway, and I re-season them from time to time. A well seasoned pan is a natural way of creating non-stick cookware. The fact that your's is smoking makes me think it's either the seasoning or something burning on the cooktop.

                  I'm sure there's other methods, but here's what I do:

                  Heat the pan first to a temp that's still safe to touch - it helps open up the pores of metal and makes it easier to clean. Clean with hot water and a scouring pad. Dry immediately with a dish or paper towels.

                  Heat the oven to 250 -300 degrees. Coat the pan with lard or bacon grease - don't use veg. oil. Put the pan in the oven. After 15 minutes, remove the pan and pour out any excess grease. Place the pan back in the oven and bake for two hours.

                  When you clean it after cooking with it clean it when it's still warm by rinsing with hot water and scaping when necessary. Don't use a scouring pad or detergent as they'll break down the pan's seasoning. Dry immediately. I dry mine and then put it on a burner set on low for a short time to make sure it's completely dry before I store it.

                  I love to grill and will even grill in the snow, but using a cast iron skillet to sear a good steak and then put it in the oven to finish delivers it's own flavor.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: scotth

                    Don't assume that because you're stuck with an electric cooking surface (instead of gas) that you're stuck with a cra**y electric stove! Investigate induction cooktops-- they'll amaze you. Pricey, but worth it. Check out http://theinductionsite.com/ for more info.

                    1. re: scotth

                      Thanks for the seasoning instructions. Yes, the one I have said it was pre-seasoned.

                      What I was more concerned about than the smoke, however, was the burnt marks it left on my stovetop. I'm obsessive about making sure my stovetop is clean so nothing gets cooked on and creates those black marks. But the cast iron skillet seemed to make the marks all on its own. That's what has me scared about cooking at high heat with cast iron cookware. Don't want this to happen again.

                      My current skillet is bigger than the burner under the surface. I wonder if I should make sure to get one that is not at all larger than the burner, if I do decide to get a grill pan one?

                      1. re: zomigi

                        Yes, thanks for seasoning instructions, I just ordered 4 cast ironed pans (pre-seasoned). Of course unless we get the ovens soon, They will sit in the box until I can season properly. We have been without ovens since the week before thanksgiving, you can imagine Thanksgiving dinner was an experience. They tried rebuilding the part it lasted 3 days, Christmas eve, Christmas day and I am told the day after Christmas. I left for a week and came home to no ovens. One blessing I have is we have a killer fan system, I have a nu-wave oven, and we have george foreman grills, as well as a killer gas/charcoal grill, but it's way past the pool, and walking past the pool is off limits for me. I am a bread baker, so this is different. I can't re-iterate enough, go for the real coil stove top. Now, it's just convince the wife it's a necessity. lol

                        1. re: zomigi

                          If you aren't happy using the cast iron skillet on this stove (due to marking and smoking), I don't think you'll be any happier with a cast iron grill. It will have the same issues. Plus parts of the pan that extend beyond the burner are not going to very hot.

                          Have you looked at a stand alone electric grill? Some of those have drip trays that you can partly fill with water, reducing smoke from fat that drips below the grill.

                          Another indoor grill option - a butane hot plate and matching grill plate. Asian groceries, especially Korean ones, have multiple options along this line.

                          1. re: paulj

                            A really good rec, I've used these for years. Great for all sorts of table top work too.

                        2. re: scotth

                          scotth, i came here looking for advice on how to get my new lodge griddle to stop smoking and found your post. hope you're still around and will answer my question:

                          why bacon or lard? And any advice for those of us who are mostly vegetarian?

                        3. I have a ceramic smooth top stove (also in a house without a gas connection GRRRR) and I use a cast iron grill pan, CI skillets, LC dutch ovens on it regularly with no problem at all. One of the skillets does not have a flat bottom, but still workd perfectly.

                          The weird thing that happened to you and your Lodge skillet is very unusual, I would venture to say, and (like someone else theorized) is probabably something unique to your pan, like lack of seasoning.

                          The warnings not to use cast iron on glass ro ceramic stoves are more about the warranty against breakage than they are about performance.

                          That said... why don't you just cook your burgers in the cast iron skillet? A grill pan is just that with pretty grill marks.