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grill pan vs. portable grill

I'm having problems deciding between a cast iron grill pan (such as a le creuset or staub) or a small portable propane outdoor grill (such as the cuisinart CGG 200 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001TOWLTO/r...


The motivation is simple: we have a big green egg, which is loved and coddled by my grillmaster husband, but we were thinking of something for not only quicker dinners but smaller surface size. The cost isn't the issue; it's more convenience and quality. I realize if I get the portable grill it's still outdoor cooking, so that has it's advantaged and disadvantages: we live in CA so the weather is good, and it would mean my husband would do 90%+ of the cooking. Indoors would be super quick, never need to worry about the propane running out, but I would be do most of the cooking.

Can anyone give personal experience to recommend one over the other?

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  1. I don't know about the portable propane one. I've owned the Staub grill pan as well as a lodge cast iron grill pan. I don't use them anymore. They were too difficult to clean, took too long to cook the food and could never impart that outdoor grill flavor to the food. I find regular fry pans (either cast iron or carbon steel) do a much better job. They cook the food faster and give it more flavor (more surface area of the food touching the pan results in faster cooking and more caramelized area of food.) Also, in an outdoor grill, not only do you have much higher temperatures hitting the grill than what your cooktop is capable of, but you also get more heat going around the food when you close the cover. Unless you want to finish the food in the oven, you won't get similar results.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sherrib

      ok.. i think you've convinced me: sounds like it's gonna be a propane grill. I'm definitely not interested in trying to duplicate something by going to more effort (finishing in the oven?? no thanks!)

      1. re: rmarisco

        We use a Lodge grill pan in winter mostly for steaks. It does a nice job, but does create a lot of smoke. It works well on burgers, onions and peppers, or grilled buttered french bread toast. Finishing steaks in the oven is just a matter of lifting the pan to a hot oven for a few minutes after searing both sides. Works great and the steaks are excellent.
        GH1618 once shared his method of cleaning by using a chopstick to run down the furrows of the grill pan. It does make cleaning the pan simple. And you are right, the purchase of the Lodge pan is minimal if you want to try it.

        1. re: Cam14

          Although jfood no longer posts here, this is what I've been doing ever since he shared this:


    2. I have a Lodge that I use once in a while. One thing I do think is that this is not a case where spending more gets you a better product -- the $30 Lodge pan is equal to or better than its more expensive cousins. If you do go with the indoor pan, go with the Lodge. You can buy me a drink with the savings.

      1. Definitely the portable grill. I don't think you'd get nearly the same result with a grill pan. Like some others, I haven't used mine in years. CI skillet, yes; grill pan, no.

        1. A grill pan used indoors certainly has the edge for convenience, if you just want a couple of quick hamburgers. That's what I use my de Buyer Mineral grill pan for. I don't understand why, if he can cook a hamburger outdoors, he can't cook one indoors. I (a male) cook all the hamburgers.

          1 Reply
          1. re: GH1618

            nothing to do with being male.... has to do with me being proprietary in our tiny kitchen space!

          2. "Grill" pans are just skillets that put marks on your food.

            They don't remotely produce a product that tastes like it was grilled on a charcoal or gas grill.

            And yes they are hard to clean.

            I gave my LC grill pan away years ago

            3 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster

              My de B Mineral grill pan is a snap to clean. And it does more than leave marks on the food — it holds the food above the grease. I wipe out the accumulated grease as I cook a burger.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                And by the way, how easy is that propane grill shown above to clean after cooking hamburgers on it? I can see cleaning a charcoal grill being worth it after a cookout for several people. I can't see the advantage for a couple of hamburgers, even if it tastes better on a gas grill.

                1. re: GH1618

                  Who cleans grills every time they use them? I figure the heat burns off all the potential nasties. We cook two of things all the time on our grill.

              2. I use a Lodge grill pan every day. I use it often. I've used it on electric radiant and induction cook tops. I like it a lot. For me it is a way to do grilling throughout the year, without firing up the gas grill.

                I like the pan for breakfast bacon, grilling veggies, burgers of various sorts, and any other cooking that I want to do with a bare minimum of fat.

                Cleaning is simple. I use a brush on it and rinse it. If it needs more then I use detergent and work a little harder on the cleaning. No pan that I have asks for so little effort and does so much. And it would work on an outside grill if I decided to carry it outside.

                1. I would go for bare cast iron; you can heat it up more without worrying about the coating, and you don't need to worry about chipping it.

                  I like my cast iron grill pan, for cooking things like sausages and burgers, it elevates the food above the fat and actually does make a difference to the way it tastes and the texture.

                  It doesn't give it much "char" taste, but it does give *some* due to the burning of the fat and juice that drips onto the bottom of the pan.

                  1. You have a Big Green Egg, and you want a portable propane grill? If you mean for somewhere besides home (putting the "portable" to use), then I get it. But otherwise> I don't own a BGE, but do have numerous Weber charcoal grills. I can't imagine why I would want a small propane grill instead. While I haven't actually timed it, it sure seems that a chimney of charcoal doesn't take any longer to come to cooking readiness than it takes to preheat a gasser. Use the Egg! If that's really too big, get a Smokey Joe.

                    1. I have 2 grill pans (one Le Creuset and one calphalon, I prefer the Le Creuset) and a weber gas grill, I live in MN. I use my grill pan for paninis, and that's about it. If I can't cook it on the grill (thank you snow!) it goes into usually my enameled Le Creuset skillet. I personally don't find the clean up hassle worth it.

                      1. I use a Lodge square grill skillet with press only for bacon. Or a non-ridged cast iron for searing indoors. Not comparable to outdoor grilling steaks/burgers. OTOH gas grills are also not comparable to a BGE for cooking quality. Won't get hot enough. If you have an XL BGE, you can reduce the cooking area with one of two products from ceramicgrillstore.com. Or get a small BGE. I realize this does not answer your question.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mwhitmore

                          PS Maybe even better than a small BGE for your purposes (grilling only) is a Hasty Bake Portable 369. Not as good for baking, roasting or smoking, but just as good for grilling---and safer, no flashback. hastybake.com

                          1. re: mwhitmore

                            PPS Or, if you want the convenience of gas, there is one gas grill that does get hot enough, the TEC infra-red Cherokee. Heats up *very* fast. www.tecinfrared.com/cherokee.php

                          2. Well you know the BGE answer is to get a mini LOL. But we use a Lodge sportsmans grill for quick small stuff like hotdogs or something. A grill pan is never as good as grilling over live coals, you will not get any smoke flavor with a grill pan. As much as I love my Le Creuset and Staub I wouldn't bother with their grill pans, I use a Lodge grill pan for panini.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: rasputina

                              yeah well... no more eggs on the deck, please! this one takes up enough space/time/energy. I love the finished product it turns out though! It's like any other appliance - you have to know what you're doing to make it work at optimum levels.

                              My point with the portable gas grill would be that it wouldn't take any thinking, and there could be quick food for two. When we fire up the egg, we usually do several things with the radiant heat while it's on - like an old brick oven: hottest first, then smaller pieces of meat that take less time or heat. We cook a lot on the beast at one time, so as not to waste the charcoal. If we were to get the grill pan, then it would be quick cooking as well. But, it sounds like a grill pan is probably not going to get me the results i'm wanting. If I do opt for a grill pan, I'll try the Lodge first - it seems a small investment to figure out if it does what I want.

                              1. re: rmarisco

                                Hi, marisco:

                                I think Rasputina was pointing you to this, not a pan: http://www.katom.com/261-L410.html?zm...


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  Cool! But it wouldn't be very fast, would it. I mean you'd have to start the charcoal, first, right?

                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    Hi, Sue:

                                    Yes of course you would have to start the charcoal. But it would be much faster than getting a BGE up to temperature. Depending on where I am, I start charcoal in one of three ways: (a) chimney; (b) electric loop; or (c) propane plumber's torch. I don't think any of these methods takes very long, but none are "instant gratification", either.

                                    If speed is the one and only criterion, perhaps a plug-in panini press is what the OP needs. But even that has to come up to temperature, and it's not really grilling.


                                    PS: I have one of these, too: http://www.katom.com/261-LBBG3.html?z... It works really well on everything that uses real flame (BBQ, campfire, woodstove, gas), but you must clean up afterwards. Electric coil, smoothtop, induction--no try.

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      For those of us who use a stovetop grill pan, and who like them, this just seems a non starter. But everyone is different. We have a nice gas grill now, and I am amazed how quickly Mr. Sueatmo wants to grill anything. And I do agree that sometimes we want what we want, even if we can't have it right away. So, charcoal grilling is a way of life for some, the same way using a pressure cooker is a way of life for me.

                                      I have to admit, using one of those just looks like a lot of work to me.

                                2. re: rmarisco

                                  I'm not sure what you mean about wasting charcoal on the egg, you can just close the dampers and the charcoal goes out and you can relight it when you need it next time. You can get multiple cooks out of one load of charcoal on the egg.

                                  1. re: rasputina

                                    yes.. i used the wrong words - i should have said not waste the HEAT. once the egg gets going, there is a long period of time where it retains heat, thanks to the thick ceramic walls.

                                    1. re: rmarisco

                                      True, the thermal mass is wonderful for that. Especially great since we don't have to worry about adjusting smoker temps to compensate for heat loss in windy or cold weather.

                              2. I understand where you are coming from on the charcoal. I have one of everything Weber makes (smoker, kettle, and gas). The gas grill gets the most use just because it’s so convenient. I’ve also used a grill pan a bit. The biggest thing a good grill pan does is get the meat up and off of any accumulated cooking fats or liquid. This helps it mimic to an extent a real grill. It can do a decent job, but it’s still no substitute for a grill. I also live in California, and you are right, year round grilling is not an issue.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: mike0989

                                  Do you also have a Weber portable? I've got one and that little thing is awesome.

                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                    We cooked on a Smokey Joe when we we're dating and first got married. It was a great little grill that I loved. I decided I needed more space at some point and graduated to the full size kettle.

                                2. Oddly, I'm caught between my reality and my advice. I just got a Big Green Egg and am still learning about it. But I ALSO have a Weber gas grill and a Weber charcoal kettle. In addition, I have a small rectangular cast-iron grill pan which I bought in Italy and toted home. So you might say I'm a maximalist. I find each of these things useful for different purposes.

                                  But, your circumstances incline me to tell you to buy nothing if your concern is cooking meats and you already have a cast iron or carbon steel skillet. Follow c oliver's advice upthread:


                                  I really DO like my grill pan for cooking vegetables, however: it's GREAT for cooking portabella mushroom caps, slices of zucchini or eggplant, etc.

                                  The very small propane grills are insipid, hard to clean, not so durable--my experience back when was with something like this:


                                  But I have to admit I got a year or so of some handy cooking from it. It lack bars to prevent fats from flashing fires up to item, but I made that work okay by most often cooking skin-on salmon skin-down. The skin would be charred totally, but the fish itself was done perfectly.

                                  If your budget allows: I have heard good things about the Weber Q line for smaller gas grills--good materials and temperature balance.