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Newbie has a grill pan

I only started cooking 6 months ago and today, I bought a grill pan. It's the square kind that sits on the gas stove-top (am living in an apartment).

Sadly I'm a little lost how to use it.

Does it function like an outdoor grill? Can the cooking videos I watch about grilling outdoors work the same with my little pan?

Should I use aluminium foil at any time?

How is grilling different from pan frying? It's almost the only way I have been cooking since I started.

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  1. Ok, here is what I do. And trust me, I have a love-hate relationship with my grill pan. :)
    I love the fact that I can grill indoor, since I don't have access to any outdoor space.
    And my grill pan works very well, but it's a real pain in the neck to clean. My grill pan has raised grill edges, sort of like an outdoor grill.

    So with that said, here is what I do. I let my grill pan heat up until it's almost smoking. I take a paper towel and put some canola oil on it, and wipe the the grill with the paper towel, carefully so I don't burn my fingers. It's the same as I would do for an outdoor grill. I then use it to cook steak, chicken or any firm flesh fish.

    And you ask how is grilling differnt from pan frying. Hmm, I suppose it would be different because only part of the meat/fish surface is touching the direct grill surface. If I pan sear in a skillet, then the whole piece of meat/fish I am cooking is laying on the surface.

    And no, I wouldn't bother putting aluminum foil in the grill pan. I just take the pan from the stove, place it in hot water and let it soak. To clean, I use a wire brush, just as I would my outdoor grill. My grillpan never gets completely clean and it does drive me a bit nuts, but the wire brush with soapy hot water does a pretty good job.

    Lastly, cooking videos can be of help. Just do a search on youtube and lots of stuff comes up.

    Good luck ~

    7 Replies
    1. re: mcel215

      Great name! Chowhormones! And pretty good try at an answer mce!
      Congrats to you both for finding us here at CH!

      Cooking is not only heat, but how that heat is delivered. Think, how boiling can be the same temp as frying, but SO different!

      Grilling delivers VERY intense heat in pretty much "open" air; in terms of heat source to cooking contact. That gives alot of the "char/smoke/grill" taste and method. A pan on a house stove cannot come close. Can it do a better job than just a pan fry? Yeah, sorta, I guess. Same heat different stripes, almost literally. *smile*

      I applaud you for finding us here. You will find the most amazing range of cooks,skills and knowledge - free!

      Will the outdoors videos you watch help, to be honest no.

      Maybe this can help: Did you every roast a marshmallow over a campfire/grill? Pretty much the same thing. Ya can't roast a marshmallow in a pan, nor imitate it.

      Can we here help you ALOT to learn to cook, OH boy can we! Welcome to the family!

      1. re: Quine

        Boiling occurs at 212F. If you're frying that low, you're making some really greasy fried food. Deep Fat Frying is done at 325-375F, if done properly. The surface, when pan frying, is even hotter. Indeed it is SO different.

        As for OP, a word of warning - if you're in an apartment with a smoke alarm and your stove doesn't vent outside, turn off the alarm (if you can).

        There is a whole lot of difference between a flat grill pan (some with grooves, some not) and a fry pan, mainly that you can't use the pan to do other things - such as use the stuck-on pan bits to make a nice sauce afterwards. That's also how you clean out the fry pan - which, as MCE noted, can't be done with a flat grill pan. Also, you can't use a top and use some convective heat effectively as you need to (grill some onions or mushrooms with your steak). You also can't pick it up and place it in the oven to finish. For many thick items (like a nice 2" cut porterhouse) you want to start by grilling with radiant heat to get the browning (maillard reaction) and then finish by roasting (convective heat). Can't do that with a grill top. All in all, I'd rather have a cast iron fry pan with a top.

        1. re: applehome

          From experience I second the comment about the smoke detector whether in a house or apartment.
          Also make sure that the handle of the grill pan is oven safe before using this method to finish a steak.
          I also put some water in the pan and let it boil before trying to clean it. This is a big help in loosening the grease.

          1. re: mexivilla

            Thanks for the replies. I haven't yet mustered enough courage to try the grill pan, but I will soon enough!

            Yep I've been on chowhound for a bit, lurking around and learning alot. It's been great so far.

        2. re: Quine

          Ever since I read your reply, every time I boil something, I think of your heat comment! :D

          1. re: chowhormones

            Very cool. Thanks for letting me in on that.

            1. re: chowhormones

              Taking it seriously for a moment - it would be a really good thing to understand the basics of how heat transfers, and specifically, how it affects cooking. There are three modes of heat transfer - radiant (direct heat energy - doesn't even start until you hit 400F or more), convective (heat transferred through a medium such as air or liquid), and conduction (solid to solid). In cooking, you often need more than one active mode. With a grill you have the combination of radiant (only if very hot) and conductive, where the cooked item and the grill touch. But you often need convective heat to finish cooking.

              When grilling outside, it is best to put your coals in one area and do your browning over the radiant heat from the coals, then have other areas that do not have direct coal, so that you can shift to convective heat to finish cooking the item - otherwise the item will be burnt on the outside before the inside is done enough. Similarly, with an inside grill, you will need a convective area for many items, e.g.- chicken, thicker steaks and chops. So either transfer to the oven, or use a deeper pan with a cover - although that tends to be less effective, as the bottom of the pan is always in a conductive mode.

        3. Hi and welcome, Chowhormones. We've been using our grooved grill pan on an indoor gas range (with a hood) for about 10 years now. It's not exactly like grilling on the outdoor grill. For one thing there's no charcoal fire, but what you do get are the grill marks, ease of use, and with time a kind of seasoning to the pan whereby you no longer need any oil at the start of cooking. . We treat it like our cast iron skillet except we do not put it into the oven. We grill rounds of eggplant and onions and strips of zucchini and bacon. We grill chops, burgers and toast slices of bread for bruschetta. To clean we simply rinse it under very hot tap water, blot dry then return it to the stove for a second or two to dry completely. Have fun and I wish you well in your new Chow adventure.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            How can the grill pan not be cleaned? won't there be charred bits of food left?

            1. re: chowhormones

              Hi, I am not Gio, but here is how I clean my grill pan. I let it soak in hot soapy water while I eat my dinner and then use a wire brush to scrub away the charred bits.

              1. re: chowhormones

                Hi, Chowhormones! (I, too, love the monicker.) Welcome. We're happy to have you with us.

                I don't own a grill pan, but I have been cooking for a long time, and here's what I think. The whole point of a grill pan is to create the kind of charring that you get on an outdoor grill. Some parts of the food which you have cooked on a grill pan are far more cooked than those on other parts of the pan. In other words, the food that actually came into physical contact with the raised grill pan bars or ripples develop a different flavor than those parts of the food that were in close proximity to the pan but not actually touching it.

                The parts of the food touching the grill pan bars or ripples develop "barbequey" flavors in which sugars and proteins in the food undergo a chemical reaction which the poster Applehome alluded to earlier, called the "Maillard reaction" or "Maillard effect." This is what you are after.

                Usually, to get the sought-after Maillard reaction, you have to grill the food over extremely high heat, but briefly. If you leave the food on too long, you go from the Maillard reaction to the next stage: burned and inedible (i.e. charcoal). Obviously, a little bit of "charcoally" burning of the food is good, mixed in with the carmelization and interesting flavors that you get from the Maillard reaction, but too much is awful.

                Foods that cook fast work best on a grill pan, like fish, vegetables, and thin steaks. However, you can char the food first and then turn the heat down to allow lower, slower cooking of the interior of the food. (This works well for chicken legs, thighs, wings, etc., but less so for breasts which tend to lose their moisture quickly.)

                Also, of course, you can try cooking items that require more cooking on a lower temperature and then heating the grill pan to be extremely hot and charring them at the end of the cooking time. Sometimes this results in tough and dry food, but sometimes it works fairly well. Just experiment at bit. Good luck!

                1. re: gfr1111

                  That was a wonderful explanation!!

            2. Never use aluminum foil on a grill, indoor or outdoor, despite what you may have seen other people do or recent Reynolds Wrap commercials. Proper cleaning and use of your grill is far better than foil.

              1. Get yourself a brick or paver, cover it with foil and use it to make pressed sandwiches! My "panini press" is my Le Creuset grill pan and a paver.

                1 Reply
                1. I generally find grill pans sort of pointless. Why wouldnt't you go for the full-surface sear instead of grillmarks? And they're a PITA to clean too.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: joonjoon

                    Depends on the pan. BTW-why grill at all with that point of view? Oh yeah...flavor.

                    1. re: monavano

                      Are you suggesting charcoal grilling and a grill pan are comparable in flavor?

                    2. re: joonjoon

                      I have a grill pan and use it all the time. When you are only cooking for 2, a big grill that spans 2 burners is just not necessary! Especially love it for breakfast sausages, hot dogs, brauts, burgers, etc. when I can't cook outside (and living in the Pac. NW, that is often) ;-)