Almost 80 million Americans grill out every year according to a CNN writeup. Many do so on a regular basis, and some even make the grill a weekly component of their dinner routines. What happens to those plans when the weather takes a turn for the worse, though? What are those who don’t have enough space for a grill to do?
An Accommodating Alternative
All hope isn’t lost in those times when the grill just isn’t an option. An indoor grill pan could bridge the gap nicely. These stove-top sensations come in a variety of materials from cast iron and ceramic to glass and copper. They come in various materials designed to work well with specific cooking surfaces, and all bring the joys of grilling into the kitchen.
Reasons to Make a Grill Pan Part of Your Kitchen Repertoire
Plenty can be said for the gorgeous, slightly crispy sear marks gained by cooking in a grill pan. They’re virtually indistinguishable from those made by freestanding outdoor counterparts. Of course, this is only one of the many reasons for adding one of these tools to your kitchen inventory.
1) All Meats Are Welcome
Whether you have a taste for burgers, chicken, lamb, fish or pork ribs, they can all be cooked to perfection in a grill pan. Shrimp works well, too. They don’t have to be skewered beforehand, and they won’t fall through the cracks as they do on a grill.
At the same time, grill pans are made to distribute heat evenly. This means you won’t have cold or hot spots to potentially ruin a perfect cut of meat. With the right levels of heat, steaks are nicely charred on the outside but perfectly pink on the inside. Simply lower the heat to cook chicken or pork thoroughly without leaving the inside raw and the outside overly dry.
2) Veggies Aren’t Left out of the Mix
Not all veggies are suited to the conventional grill. They tend to stick, scorch and fall into the coals despite your best efforts to save them. That’s not the case with a grill pan. Any veggie worthy of being on the menu can remain intact and still proudly bear the marks of the grill.
Don’t overlook fruits, either. Peaches, watermelon, pineapple, and bananas are all excellent candidates for grilling. Grill pans give them the lovely char and concentrate their juices and sugars just as a grill would, making them sweet and delicious as a side or a refreshing dessert.
3) Smokey Flavor Stands Strong
Some people argue grill pans don’t generate the same smoky flavor as charcoal, wood chips or propane. Though this is true to an extent, you don’t have to sacrifice that sacred element. Add just a few drops of liquid smoke or a sprinkle of cumin or smoked sea salt to create your own specially formulated grill essence. Tossing a couple of strips of bacon into the pan has the same effect.
4) One-Dish Wonders
Though the flavor of the grill makes a delicious addition to any meal, bringing it to some dishes can be a labor-intensive and time-consuming feat. Grill pans can cut the time and effort in half while allowing you to put your own smoky spin on those classic one-pan creations.
Take the standard stir-fry for example. It’s a simple dish and usually a surefire crowd pleaser. Still, there’s always room for improvement. Cook the meats and veggies in a grill pan instead of a wok or skillet, and add in your favorite sauce. You’ll have a beautifully grilled break from the norm that’s sure to leave a good impression.
5) Juices Don’t Fall Through the Cracks
With a grill, all those lovely meat juices drip down into the fire and are lost forever right along with their smoky flavor and wonderful seasonings. Those drippings happen to make incredible bases for sauces and bring all their smoky goodness into the mix. Grill pans preserve the juices, so they’re readily available for sauces, gravies, au jus or any other purpose you might have in mind.
6) Drippings Are Optional
Meat drippings certainly have their place in the world of cooking no matter which styles of food you prefer. Of course, some people don’t want the extra fat and calories they bring to the table. Grill pans’ ridges hold food up out of those drippings so they’re not marinating in them during the cooking process. If you don’t want to keep and repurpose the juice, simply dispose of it.
7) They’re Not Just for Grilling
Sometimes, it’s nice to combine different cooking techniques to develop a truly exceptional meal. Most grill pans are oven safe, so this is certainly an option. Some come with lids but those that don’t can easily be covered by aluminum foil to hold in the heat.
Get a good sear on your meat on the stovetop. Then, add in veggies, sauces, and additional seasonings, and transfer the pan to the oven to finish it off. Go from grilling to baking or roasting in one fell swoop.
Grill pans offer a wide range of other opportunities as well. Paninis, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, quesadillas and grilled macaroni and cheese are only a few of the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various foods and strategies. Try modifying traditional grilling recipes for the grill pan or make up some of your own to boast about.
In a Nutshell
To say grills are popular would be an extreme understatement. They give food an unbeatable flavor and texture and bring plenty of variety to the table. Those aspects don’t have to be sacrificed when the grill isn’t an option, though.
Grill pans bring the grilling indoors and can help take meals to entirely new levels. They’re fun and versatile with versions suited to any type of stove whether it be electric, gas, induction or ceramic. On top of all that, they can be used in the oven.
Considering all the possibilities with a grill pan, why wouldn’t you bring one into your kitchen?