For hundreds of thousands of people who love to grill, but live in either an apartment, or a residence with no access to a yard, a grill pan is as close to the true experience of grilling as they can get. While it isn't quite the real thing, grilling with a grill pan can be enjoyable. The next time you have a hankering for a chargrilled steak, put away the briquettes and pull out the grill pan, instead.
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Buy the right pan for your purpose. There are a number of grill pans out there. There are a couple quick things to think about while you are shopping for one. The first is versatility. There are a great many grill pans that are small, and a lot of consumers buy those because they take up less space. Once they get their pan home, however, and they decide to use it to entertain, they find that preparing food for more than one or two people on it is frustrating. Also, many grill pans have a reverse side with a flat griddle. This is great if you want to do a griddled sandwich like a Monte Cristo or grilled cheese, or pan cakes. Lastly, there are non-stick pans and cast iron pans. Cast iron is recommended for two reasons. The first reason is that cast iron is more similar to the outdoor grill that you are trying to emulate. The second reason is that non-stick coatings tend to wear and chip away rather easily, especially when you scrub using a scouring brush. It is best to buy a large, double-sided grill pan with griddle made of cast iron.
Prep your pan. Since cast iron comes with a protective coating on it, it must be scrubbed clean before use. With hot water and a scouring pad, scrub your new pan, front and back, for several minutes. Once it is dry, it's time to season it. Cast iron must be seasoned before it is used, otherwise the food prepared on it will stick. Be sure to open a window in your kitchen before you do this step. On the stove, over high heat, apply a light coat of oil to the grill side. Let the pan "cook" for five or 10 minutes, until it stops smoking. Do this three or four times, and repeat on the griddle side.
Cook food the right way on your grill pan. When in doubt, use the rules that apply outdoor grilling on your indoor grill pan. As you would when grilling outdoors, coat the grill bars of your grill pan with a light coating of oil before you begin cooking. Grilling is a high temperature style of cooking. That is why when you grill outside, food rarely sticks. Using your grill pan for low temperature cooking will only lead to frustration and stuck-on food.
Clean your grill pan. If you have seasoned your grill pan properly and cooked your food over high heat, no matter what kind of food it is, your pan should clean relatively easy with soap, warm water and a mildly abrasive sponge. If you are still having issues getting it clean, throw some kosher salt on the grill pan and scrub it down with a scouring pad. The salt will act as an additional abrasive, and the food should come loose.
Store your grill pan appropriately. After washing it, dry your grill pan thoroughly. If you don't, the cast iron will begin to oxidise and rust. Storage for your grill pan is relatively easy. A grill pan is very durable, if you keep it dry. Be sure to re-season with a touch of light oil, however, before you put it away. This will keep the cast iron well protected. It will also make it easier for you to cook with the next time you take it out of the cupboard.