Grill Pans Make Indoor Grilling Easy and Delicious

For some people, the grilling season has come to an end. The
grill has been covered and stored in a backyard shed or garage
until more favorable grilling weather returns.
For some people, the grilling season has come to an end. The grill has been covered and stored in a backyard shed or garage until more favorable grilling weather returns.

My family grills throughout the year over an open flame, although we grill less during the winter. But for those who don’t grill during the winter, an entire season must be spent without their favorite grilled foods. However, grilling does not have to end just because the weather is cold and wet.

During the last few years, grilling has moved out of the back yard and into the home kitchen thanks to a variety of devices. My absolute favorite is the grill pan.

Although similar in shape and size to the griddle, the grill pan is different in one significant way: When something is cooked on a griddle – a chicken breast, for instance – the piece of chicken comes into direct contact with the whole surface of the griddle. The chicken cooks through direct heat.

If a chicken breast is cooked on a grill pan, the ribs of the grill lift the piece of chicken off the surface. The only part of the chicken to receive direct heat is the part that touches the raised grill ribs. The part of the chicken untouched by the grill ribs are cooked though radiant heat.

A grill pan cooks just like a traditional outside grill, but without an open flame. A grill pan also creates beautiful grill marks.

Not all grill pans are created equally. Just like any kitchen product, there are quality and not-so-quality grill pans. My least favorite grill pan that I own isn’t the invention it claims to be. It is a device that looks like a UFO, has a ring that sits over the burner and has a grill plate that fits on top of the ring.

The manufacturer suggests adding liquid to the ring to add flavor. But in actuality, the liquid makes steam and does not add flavor. The only benefit from the liquid is that it makes cleanup easier and reduces smoking from the juices dripping through the holes.

Because the grill ribs on the grill plate are very shallow and far apart, the device does not actually grill. The only good thing about it is that it belonged to a roommate of mine, and I was not out the money for its purchase!

Eight years and two more grill pans later I received my fourth grill pan as a birthday gift from my friends Marie and Sammy last year. They probably don’t realize how much I appreciate their gift and how I think of them every time I use it. This grill pan, made by Le Creuset, is a beautiful electric blue and it grills everything perfectly.

The same attributes that make this grill pan my favorite can be found in other brands. The device is made from cast iron, which has been used to make cooking vessels since the Middle Ages. Cast iron takes a little longer to heat, but it retains the heat better than grill pans made from aluminum or stainless steel.

The other attribute that makes my grill pan wonderful is the grill surface. The ribs are spaced not too far apart, and they rise high enough for the radiant heat. If grilling a thicker piece of meat, the grill pan can go from stovetop to oven to finish cooking.

There are a few special guidelines when using a grill pan made from cast iron. My tips are general, and the instructions that come with your grill pan should be followed.

n Cast iron is not a nonstick surface when it is new, but it will start to stick over time. Before they are used, cast iron grill pans must be “seasoned.” This is a process where vegetable or cooking oil is brushed onto the grill surface and is heated.

n Cast iron grill pans must be heated for about two minutes on low or medium heat – never high heat – prior to adding the food to the grill.

n The food must be dried prior to grilling, as it will prevent sticking. Never add water to a hot cast iron grill pan, as it can cause warping.

n After washing your cast iron grill pan, hand dry the pan and place the grill pan on a warm burner for a few minutes. Any water that was not dried completely will evaporate. This will prevent rusting.

The following is one of my recipes for grill pan chicken breast. Use the chicken on a salad, wrapped in a burrito or served as a main entrée.

Grill Pan Chicken Breast

Serves 4

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Step 1: Dry the chicken breast with disposable paper towel. Shake on salt and pepper to taste.

Step 2: Brush grill pan with vegetable oil and heat grill pan on medium heat for about two minutes.

Step 3: Grill chicken breast six to eight minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

Step 4: Serve right away if used as the main entrée. If slicing for hot foods, let the cooked chicken breast cool two to three minutes so it will retain the juices. If slicing for cold foods, chill the chicken in the refrigerator at least one hour. Make sure you slice the chicken across the grain.

Mitch L. Mariani II is a self-taught amateur chef. Questions, comments and suggestions can be directed to him through e-mail at [email protected] For tips and recipes, visit www.geocities.com/MixedGrillSouthValley.

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