It’s more or less inevitable that using a grill pan will smoke up your kitchen to some extent. But aside from turning on your vent fan and opening a window or two, you can drastically reduce the amount of smoke the pan generates in the first place with a few simple steps.
First, preheat your pan on medium—not high—for several minutes before adding any food. Stoves vary, but we found that it took around 4 full minutes. We learned that a grill pan does not have to be ripping hot to make appealing grill marks, but you need to allow time for the heat to fully spread to the edges of the pan, especially if you’re making more than one sandwich or burger. Lift a corner to peek under the food—flip only when it’s looking good.
Second, and this is important: Oil the food, not the whole pan. Fat that isn’t covered by food is the source of all that smoke.
Third, if you’re adding a glaze or sauce, paint it on carefully. Keep it on top of the food so that it doesn’t drip down, scorch on the hot pan, and generate smoke. Similarly, build sandwiches with pressing in mind: Leave a little margin around the edges of the bread so that the filling stays in. If cheese drips out of a sandwich, tuck it back in with your spatula while it’s still soft and melted, before it burns.
With these precautions, your vent fan will have much less work to do—and you’ll have an easier time cleaning up.