Getting the Best Out of Your Grill Pan
Grill pans, griddle pans and skillets are enjoying a resurgence of late, mainly thanks to popular TV chefs such as Tom Kerridge and Nigel Slater using them in their shows. These bits of cookware are designed to replicate the taste and textures you get when cooking over a fire – they’re essentially a heavy, cast-iron sauté pan with raised ridges – but without the need for naked flames and smoky fuels.
Of course, food with a grill marks doesn’t automatically qualify it as authentic barbecue fare –reproducing those smoky flavours when cooking indoors might need something along the lines of the Tower 6 Litre Pressure Smoker – but grill pans are great for when lighting a barbecue isn’t viable. To get the best out of your grill pan, read on.
Before you start cooking
Ensure that you cut the pieces of food you’re about to cook in your grill pan to a half-inch thickness so they lie flat. This is to ensure even, quick cooking – thick cuts are more likely to become overcooked on the outside long before the centre has had chance to cook properly. Heavy duty die-cast pans reach optimum cooking temperature quicker, meaning that food thicker than a half-inch to is susceptible to uneven ‘doneness’. Your grill pan will perform much better if it pre-heated ahead of use. Just place it on the hob over a medium heat for around 15 minutes before you drop your ingredients in and you’re on to a winner.
Don’t be a poacher
Effective grilling relies on dry heat, so it’s important your grill pan doesn’t become any more awash with juices and fat than it need be. Leave one-and-a-half to two inches of space between pieces of food (especially cuts of meat) as cramming too much together in the pan traps moisture and will mean you end up poaching it instead. If you do fancy doing a bit of poaching, your best bet is to use a large, deep sided pan like this one.
Never, we repeat NEVER! coat the pan with oil as it’ll just burn during pre-heating and leave an undesirable black residue on the cooking surface of the pan. When you are about to cook, brush or spray oil directly on vegetables (not on the pan) to keep them from sticking. Don’t oil beef, chicken, pork, or most fish – their natural oils and juices will prevent sticking. This doesn’t apply if you’re using a grill pan with a non-stick coating such as the Tower Cerastone 24cm Grill Pan.
Don’t fluff your lines
Those charred lines really give your food that authentic barbecue look (and a little bit of that authentic barbecue taste too), so getting them right is important. To pull off proper grill lines, arrange the food so it slightly points away from the pan’s vertical and only flip to cook the other side once it is no longer tacky and sticking to the pan. The size and spacing of the ridges on your grill pan determine the size and depth of the charred lines so naturally, pans with thicker ridges make deeper, wider grill marks than pans with thinner ridges.
Keep it clean
Taking care of your cast iron cookware will make it last longer and perform at optimum levels throughout its life. To keep your grill pan in tip-top condition, fill the still-hot hot grill pan with hot water immediately after cooking and let it sit while you eat your meal. Leave to cool for around 30-40 minutes and then simply empty out the water and wipe clean. Use a nylon brush to remove stubborn cooked-on food. NEVER use abrasive wire brushes or strong soaps – cast iron is porous and regular immersion in soapy water can damage the cooking surface and shorten the life of the pan.
This advice should see your pans serving up fantastic results each time you use them and keep them in great shape for years to come. If you have a grill pan that is coming towards the end of its natural life (or you simply want to get on the chargrilling bandwagon), take a look at our Cookware and Ovenware pages for some fantastic products and awesome deals.