These ridged pans bring the sizzle and flavor of the grill inside. But some sear—and clean up—better than others.
Last Updated Sept. 1, 2022. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 15: Bar Snacks
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.
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.
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.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.