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cast iron pan...regular flat versus grille

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Hello.
I'm running out of pan space but I want at least one more pan. I want cast iron but asking advise whether to get regular, flat bottom or grille type. I live in an apartment and don't have access to cooking outdoors. I want a cast iron for hambugers, grilled vegetables as well as hashed brown potatoes. I have a Calphalon stainless steel for these now but think I'd get better results with cast iron.
Please advise.

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  1. I, too live in an apartment without outdoor options. Thanks to Mark Bittman, I realized that I can use my broiler for the same effect. He explains that a broiler is an upside-down grill. Duh! I have Lodge CI round flat griddle pan which goes under the broiler to grill meats, vegetables, even make toast. I also have both a Lodge CI grill pan (with ridges) and Le Creuset grill pan but both of them take so long to heat up, I find myself using the flat griddle pan almost every time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ambimom

      Agree with this.. I am also in an apartment without outdoor cooking options, and I only have a flat-bottomed cast iron. It's Le Creuset and it does take a while to heat up, but it's versatile and I love it and definitely think you should get a flat.

    2. I think if you have to get only one, then go for the flat bottom one.

      1. thank you for this post. Each time I go to buy a CI lodge pan, I stare at both options and walk away buying neither.

        1. In my opinion, flat is actually better for burgers. When you cook them in a grill pan (or even on an outdoor grill) the fat just drips out of them. With a flat pan, the juices are held inside better.

          Plus, since there is more contact with the cooking surface, you get more caramelization of the meat.

          But overall, if you only want one more pan, I think you will get more use out of a flat pan. it is more versatile.

          1. thanks to all...I think I'll get the regular flat IC pan, the grill marks aren't important to me and with the flat as you say, will get more caramelization of the meat. I see in restaurants they use flat bottom for grilling onions and potatoes...when I grill them in my stainless steel the potatoes stick too much to the pan.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sylvan

              I disagree with those who don't like the ridged pans. It may be mainly cosmetic, but I think it's awfully nice to have grill marks on fish, chicken or whatever. I own and use both flat and ridged pans (and agree with those who say that the flat is better for some things) but if space were an issue, I would definitely buy one of the reversible pans, and have the best of both worlds. I've seen several. I'm pretty sure that Lodge makes an very nice two-burner reversible.

            2. There are pans that can be used either way depending on which side you have upward. like

              http://www.amazon.com/Bayou-Classic-R...

              1. I bought a CI skillet with ridges years and years ago and I could probably count on two hands the number of times I've used it. If I'm cooking meat, I want the char that comes from having the entire surface touch the pan. Even if I'm using the pan under the broiler, which I do frequently for fish, I want the skin touching the pan so it crisps up. About the only time I use the ridged skillet is on those rare occasions, so rare I can't offhand remember one, when those grill marks are important for the aesthetics. Also, I find the ridged skillet a real pita to clean.

                And yes, you will get far better results for those things you say you want to cook in it with cast iron than you will with stainless. You have a real treat in store.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JoanN

                  I also don't use mine often, but the ridged version is definitely my go-to tool when I want to grill summer squashes and portobello mushroom caps without firing up the gas or charcoal grills. It works great for that.

                  Cleaning is not fun, as you point out.

                2. I use my CI grill pan daily. But I also use my vintage iron skillets. If you can manage to store them stacked, or if you can stand to leave your grill pan out on the stovetop (I do.) get both. You won't be sorry. I do use my convection broiler, but I prefer using my grill pan for most things. A grill pan is a lot easier to clean than an oven broiler pan, for one thing.

                  1. A flat CI pan is a fine all-around pan that you'll find many uses for. Think of it as a for-the-most-part-nonstick pan that you can also use at high heat, in the oven, or under the broiler. It can make decent burgers, though there won't be grill marks. It's fine for vegetables, though they won't taste or appear grilled. It is also good for hash browns.

                    A CI grill pan is a specialist that is good when you want a specific effect - to mimic the effect of grilling, grill marks and all. It needs a fairly long pre-heat even by CI standards, and is pretty much useless at medium heat and below and as such is problematic if you don't have a good vent system. Fat and drippings burning in the valleys of the ridges can contribute a smoky flavor that mimics the taste of grilling better than a flat pan does, while also keeping food fairly dry and away from oil like grilling.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I do have a good vent, so my CI grill pan work well from that standpoint. My pan may be a "specialist" but I use it every day, sometimes more than once. It just depends on how you use it, or don't use it.

                      I heat my pan on med heat, and I don't think it takes all that long to heat up. I usually back the heat down to low after a few minutes on medium. And, yes I do enjoy the grill marks on my food.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        I have one myself, so I'm not hating on it. You have to admit it's far less versatile than a regular, flat CI skillet though.

                        It takes longer to preheat than a regular CI pan for most purposes, and definitely longer than aluminum or copper. I'm not talking hours here, or even 15 minutes. I'm just saying it takes a bit longer.

                        'Medium heat' is relative to your stove. For most stoves, heat in the low to medium range is too low for a grill pan. Maybe not for your stove. But if you're not using enough heat to get nice grill marks and create a little smoke, then you're not using the grill pan to any advantage - you're slowly and inefficiently steaming your food.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I use my pan on the high heat burner, that is the burner that has 2 parallel circles of heating elements. I hadn't thought of this, but I suppose that helps the grill pan along. I do get smoking and grill marks. I heat the thing on medium heat, and then back the heat to low.

                          I suppose it isn't as versatile. I would buy a plain CI skillet first, but I really do think having both is a good thing. If you use it frequently, having one is worth it. At least it is to me.