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While shopping the other day, I purchased a cast iron pan that has ridged griddle lines in it. I thought "oh, this might be nice for cooking meat!" but I'm not actually sure that's the case.

How to use a ridged cast iron griddle? Or rather, is meat the only thing I can use with such ridges built in? It seems like food will just get stuck in the deep ridges and be annoying to clean off / not that helpful when cooking. Did I make a silly purchase, or is there some sort of benefit to the ridges that I'm not seeing?

picture of the pan here

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    Welcome to SA! FWIW, as a comment on the answers below, I find that grill pans work better for vegetables than they do for meat or fish.
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 2 at 22:46
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    I would not recommend to make risotto in it. Aug 3 at 16:00
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If your alternatives are an oven or non stick pans, these sit perfectly in the middle. They really shine at high temperatures, and with marinated foods.

I personally mainly use mine for meat, as my SO is vegetarian, and doesn't like their vegetables cooked in a meaty pan. However it also works nicely for bread products. I toast my burger buns in it before making burgers, my flatbreads when making kebabs, wraps, naans, all these get a nice toast with grillmarks when I use them. It adds a nice partial char to the food that you can't get another way without burning larger parts of your bread.

You can use it with vegetables as a low-fat solution to frying, or use it to make nice smokey gravies.

However where it really sings is indeed with meat. It can go up to soaring high temperatures, where non-stick pans tap out long before. This is ideal for cooking steak in particular, but also smash burgers (they are thin and need the outside cooked fast if you want any kind of darkening). It is also ideal for cooking anything marinated. If you use a pan or broiler, it could char and burn large parts of your marinade, especially if you use herbs. With this grill pan, it will only burn (char) the lines, and steam in between leaving the dynamic of your marinade intact.

The only downside I have found for this kind of pan is the maintenance. It should be kept well seasoned like all cast iron pans and woks. After cooking, clean it by adding one or two pints of water and a teaspoon of salt, and simmer for 15 minutes to an hour. This will dissolve the non-oil particles and leave the non stick seasoning intact as opposed to using soap. Then dump out the water and wipe the pan with paper towels. (Note: I have found that different foods need different simmer times. Breads need next to no cleaning, and fatty means tend to clean up quite quickly. Leaner meats like chicken etc. tend to get charred more and stick to the pan, and will need longer simmer times - yes, up to an hour - to loosen up, even in a well seasoned pan.) It also gives off large amounts of smoke and steam for an inside pan, and you will need to have your extraction fan on high and preferably a window open as well.

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    Good answer. And as I said in another comment. Remember to turn your smoke detectors back on after you use the pan. Aug 3 at 15:59
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    You cook smash burgers in a grill pan? And you simmer water in it for an hour after cooking?
    – Bert
    Aug 4 at 13:27
  • @Bert Yes I do, and with stellar results. As a matter of fact I did both these things less than an hour ago, as writing this answer made me hungry. I am more than happy to share pictures of the results if you want?
    – Plutian
    Aug 4 at 17:59
  • @Plutian, I'm also interested in how you do smash burgers. Do you smash them into the ridges, or do you smash them between parchment paper beforehand and then transfer them to the pan? Do you have a special tool to flip and handle them once in the grill pan?
    – Max Tilley
    Aug 6 at 10:24
  • @MaxTilley I normally pre-smash them, and use a metal spatula or fish slice to handle them in the pan. This works best with a fattier mince than normal (around 25%) as this prevents it from drying out too much or sticking to the pan. They cook in no-time flat, and only need flipping once. They are hard to handle uncooked (parchment paper is a good idea here), but once they hit the pan they get rigid enough to flip quite quickly. I'll add some pictures to my answer as well.
    – Plutian
    Aug 6 at 10:36
24

What you have is a ‘grill pan’

They work well for meat, but the real advantage is that if you have something that gives off a fair bit of liquid, the food doesn’t end up swimming in it.

Mind you, the liquid is still there, and doesn’t drain away, so it’ll still cool off the pan from evaporation, and slightly steam your food, but if it’s pre-heated, you’ll still get decorative grill lines.

My mom used to use it when cooking burgers inside in the winter, or she just didn’t want to be bothered with the outside grill. It’s also useful for cooking vegetables that have been marinated (and left in large slabs).

I have one, but honestly, I tend to put things under the broiler (top heat only in the oven, I know that’s called a grill in other places) for the type of scenarios where you might use this sort of pan.

I would also recommend looking in kitchenware stores for the grill pan scrapers from lodge. (You can get them on Amazon, but they’re often 2 to 3 times the price to cover shipping). There’s also a set that has one of the grill pan scrapers, and one of their regular scraper (which has lots of curves to match multiple pans)

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    I can 10/10 recommend it for fish (skin on), firm tofu, tempeh, halloumi, and mushrooms Aug 3 at 11:16
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    Your typical camping store, or even Walmart, often has a section with a bunch of Lodge cast iron pots, pans, grills, and even these pan scrapers.
    – SnakeDoc
    Aug 4 at 22:32
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I've had one of these for years, but usually can't be bothered to dig it out.

The only real gain I can see is … it makes nice stripes.

I've seen people claim it's for "lower fat" cooking, but I think that's… ermm … tosh.

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    It does also, generally, keep proteins above the fat, more closely resembling a grilling situation, rather than a frying situation.
    – moscafj
    Aug 2 at 19:28
  • @moscafj - maybe so. From a UK perspective, ie UK barbecue vs US grill, we get so few opportunities in any given year to use one that it doesn't really sit in our cooking psyche ;) Personally, I don't think I've barbecued anything in at least a decade, so one of these is about the only way to get the stripes, which to me is really only a visual thing. I've tried it for steaks [not really successful] haloumi & polenta [better]
    – unlisted
    Aug 3 at 13:13
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    Please dig it out more often and experiment a bit. The other answers should have given you at least some inspiration. I love mine for both meat, fish and bread. Of course sometime the oven needs to complement the actual cooking. Remember to turn your smoke detectors back on after you use the pan., Aug 3 at 15:57
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    According to foodandwine.com/cooking-techniques/grilling/…, grill marks are an indicator of untapped potential flavor. Aug 3 at 18:53
  • Regarding being low fat, most recipes suggest oiling food before cooking on a grill pan (unless it's something very fatty already) so I doubt there's an improvement.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 9 at 10:19
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Panini press

You can make grilled sandwiches, panini style.

While a real panini press cooks with two hot sides simultaneously, you can come close to that effect by flipping your sandwich while using a heavy lid or foil-wrapped brick to maintain pressure. Or purchase a grill press, preheated to help cook the sandwich.

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  • I use my George Foreman as a panini press/'Breville' toaster. Both sides at once. Remarkably versatile ;)
    – unlisted
    Aug 3 at 16:03
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You can use it for most foods you can grill on a barbecue, like sliced or whole vegetables and fish on (or in) the skin.

Oil the food and have your pan hot before you add the food.

Or what my mother did with hers, she kept it clean, heat it on cold nights, put in the bed before bedtime and take out before tucking the grandkid in.
This does have risks, if too hot the bed can burn.

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    Putting anything besides dedicated bed heater in your bed can result in a fire. Even supposedly safe bed heaters based on cast iron were known to burn a hole in the sheets.
    – Mołot
    Aug 2 at 20:49
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    Yet, it happened to the most experienced maids still. I can't find advice like that anything but needlessly dangerous. We have a huge variety of safe, affordable heating options.
    – Mołot
    Aug 2 at 20:53
  • @Mołot I modified it to an annecdote with warning.
    – Willeke
    Aug 2 at 20:59
  • Maybe the bed burning can be avoided using an infrared thermometer. Anyway +1 for you. Aug 3 at 7:19
  • @Mołot bottles of boiled water are unlikely to cause fires.
    – AI0867
    Aug 5 at 11:06

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