In the market for a grill pan? Here's what to look for while you shop:
Handle: The longer the handle, the less hot it will be, although a longer handle also adds weight and bulk to a heavy pan (like cast iron). A "helper handle," usually a loop or a tab opposite the long handle, can assist in lifting heavy pans.
Body: Cast iron is an ideal material for a grill pan—it does an ace job of retaining heat at high temperatures. Stainless steel or anodized aluminum make for a lighter-weight pan, one that heats well, but doesn't hold those hot temperatures quite as well. Grill pans can be found in square or round shapes, or in rectangular shapes that fit over two burners.
Cooking Surface: Cast-iron pans will either be preseasoned or coated with enamel. The seasoned interior will last longer, as it can be reseasoned and the patina will increase over time, but the enamel coating typically gives better release and is easier to clean. If choosing stainless, be aware that uncoated stainless grill pans are difficult to clean, as the oil often scorches onto the pan in the grooves between the ridges. In stainless or aluminum, opt for easy-to-clean nonstick coating instead, but be aware you might not get the pronounced, caramelized grill marks you're seeking.
Exterior: Many cast iron pans have an enamel exterior that makes them easy to clean and adds a lovely pop of color to your kitchen.
Round or Square? Though most standard skillets are round, we've noticed that most grill pans are square. Since grilled food needs to be cooked in a single layer (unlike, say, a stir-fry), the square shape is an advantage as it offers more surface area (a 10-inch round grill pan has around 78.5 square inches of surface, while the same diameter square pan has 100 square inches of room). And since many grill pans are made of heat-conductive cast iron, even the corners further from the heat source will maintain their heat.
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