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I expect frying pans with raised ridges are for a few purposes such as adding "grill lines" to meats and keeping food out of grease somewhat as it collects.

Why or when should I use a frying pan with raised ridges?

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I think you answered your own question :) –  Michael at Herbivoracious Nov 2 '10 at 0:16
    
Frying pan with raised ridges? Like a griddle with an inlay around the perimeter for collecting grease? Or a saute pan? I'm trying to figure out what this kind of pan is... My apologies, any clarification? –  nicorellius Nov 2 '10 at 16:15
    
@Michael: I couldn't help but wonder if there were some additional reasons. @nicorellius: In my case I have a square pan, about 2 inches deep, with raised lines about an inch apart. –  JYelton Nov 3 '10 at 16:11
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Whenever you want grill marks. Or, perhaps, if you want to ensure fat rendered out of meat drips away. Why you would want to do this I do not know.

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One reason to want liquid fat or other to drain away is to keep your fry or broil from becoming a braise or boil. –  sdg Nov 2 '10 at 0:08
    
I find a cast iron grill pan to be slightly better for searing meats than a regular frying pan, but I'd be lying if I said that the difference was all that astonishing. –  Aaronut Nov 2 '10 at 1:46
    
sdg, if what you are cooking releases enough fat that it could be considered to be braising, I suggest that perhaps you may wish to look at the quality of your ingredients. Further, broiling is a top-down heat method that one doesn't get when using a stovetop pan. (Yes, you could use a ridged pan in the oven for fat-draining purposes when broiling, but I have no idea why you would do so over something like a wire rack, which is superior for the purpose). –  daniel Nov 2 '10 at 2:42
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The ridges also increase the surface area of the pan, and thus the area available to transmit heat. It doesn't help as much as it could though, since food rarely gets down into the ridges to contact that extra surface.

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If you roast e.g. slices of eggplant in your grill pan, you need substantially less fat than if you roast it in a flat-bottomed pan: you only need to lightly brush the eggplant with a tiny bit. (So far this is experience, from now on educated guessing and basic physics :) ) I would think this is because you can keep the grill pan at a bit higher heat: there is less contact area with the food, and contact with food cools the pan down, because the food is a lot colder than the pan itself. This means that the smaller contact area itself is heated more intensely and crisps to the beautiful and flavourful black lines (which are also somewhat non-stick!) while retaining just enough structural integrity to be able to turn the slice over and remove it from the pan. If you would superheat a flat-bottomed pan to the temperature you would need to achieve the same effect on the whole face of the eggplant slice, it would have to be quite a bit hotter, your eggplant would be completely blackened, and it wouldn't have as much structural integrity left.

The same is true for most vegetables that have the same sort of consistency and water content: bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, ... With meat, I think the same is true, but to a somewhat lesser extent, due to the higher density of meat. With thinner strips though, you can get the same effect.

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