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The Best Grill Pans
These ridged pans bring the sizzle and flavor of the grill inside. But some sear—and clean up—better than others.
What You Need To Know
We tested enameled or plain cast-iron grill pans in a range of sizes and shapes. The best grill pans were roomy, had low sides that made it easy to maneuver a spatula under food, and featured tall ridges that made distinct grill marks. They were made from traditional cast iron that arrived preseasoned, so they released food easily from the beginning and got even better over time. Our winner, the Lodge Chef Collection 11 Inch Cast Iron Square Grill Pan, is affordable at about $36. Our runner-up, the Borough Furnace Grill Pan Braising Lid, is significantly more expensive (about $110), but it’s beautiful and handmade.
What You Need to Know
Grill pans are skillets customized with ridges across the cooking surface to mimic the cooking grates of a grill. When we compared burgers, panini, and salmon made in ordinary skillets with the same foods made in grill pans, the foods made in the ordinary skillets were less visually appealing and lacked the flavorful char marks produced by the grill pans. We use grill pans to make pressed sandwiches and to grill meats and vegetables. The pan’s hot ridges sear grill marks onto the surfaces of food while radiant heat cooks the food. Fat drains away from the food to the channels between the ridges.
Grill pans can be made from different materials, including heavy cast iron (enameled or plain) or thinner, lighter sheets of nonstick aluminum or steel (and sometimes nonstick cast aluminum). From previous testing, we know that we prefer cast-iron models for their superior heat retention and taller, more distinct ridges that make better grill marks. Thinner nonstick versions are stamped out of a sheet of metal, so the ridge shapes have to be low and rounded to keep the metal from tearing as it’s stamped. As a result, their grill marks—the whole point of this kind of pan—are wimpy.
What to Look For
- Uncoated cast iron: The surface of a plain, uncoated—rather than enameled—cast-iron grill pan will only become better and more naturally nonstick as you use it. While these pans arrive preseasoned by their manufacturers (with baked-on vegetable oil), that initial patina will keep improving every time you cook, gradually adding to the polymerized oil that’s bonded to the cast iron, which is called seasoning. Seasoning allows foods to release effortlessly from the pan and makes the pan easier to clean. Who doesn’t love a product that improves if you use it for years and years?
- Short walls: Short walls allow spatulas to slide under food at low, controlled angles, so foods release intact.
- Tall, substantial ridges: The taller the ridges, the more deeply they mark food. The ridges on our highest-ranked pan, whi...
Everything We Tested
Reviews you can trust
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.