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Grilling is about getting that cooking surface really hot, keeping it hot, and searing the food on contact. To get that unique grilled flavor indoors, cook with a grill pan: It gets hot reliably, and fast—with maximum contact with the heat source.
Carol Watkins, the housewares purchaser for Down to Earth, a locally revered home store in Eugene, Oregon, knows the specific appeal of a grill pan: “You get the grill marks; you'll be able to sear and brown so much better than in a flat pan.” A grill pan's ridges raise food just above the cooking juices.
This leads us to another key consideration: Grill pans reduce the surface contact of the food by at least half, says Maren Marvin, the cookware buyer at The Cupboard in Fort Collins, Colorado. With those ridges, "you have more control," she explains, "and it will sear your meat but won’t dry it out because you have less surface contact.”
Now that we’ve gone over the background, it’s time to discuss our choices for the best grill pans. First, writer Catherine used experience and research to narrow down the best ones out there. We then purchased those grill pans and sent them to writer and tester Kelsey to test. She tested each one in her home kitchen, grilling fish, meat, and vegetables, and recorded her observations on the following: how nonstick they were, how evenly they cooked, whether they got those distinct sear marks, and more.
Without further ado, here are our picks for the best grill pans.
Best Overall: Le Creuset Rectangular Skinny Grill
What We Love: Easy-grab handles, high-quality manufacture, even heat distribution, great heat retention
What We Don't Love: Not nonstick (but excellent heat distribution offsets this),
This is one of Gray's favorites, and we have no argument. "A grill that straddles two oven burners tends to cook unevenly," she says. "This style offers rectangular space over a single burner."
When Kelsey tested this pan, she quickly confirmed it's worthy of the best overall grill pan spot on our list. After grilling zucchini, chicken, and salmon on this pan, she enjoyed the beautiful grill and sear marks that the ridges on the pan created on the food for a classic grilled look. While this pan heats up slightly more slowly than others on this list, it retained heat the best and allowed for more wiggle room when cooking to avoid food burning. One downside to this pan is that it does not have a nonstick coating, so food tended to stick to it, but not so much that it ruined the fish fillet or chicken breast.
Not only did Kelsey love this grill pan's versatility (it can be used on any cooktop, including induction), but she also liked that its simplistic yet chic design and color options also make it an excellent serving tray. But it is heavy, and while you might have to go out of your way to do any damage, just be sure not to drag it around.
"It didn't heat up as fast, which allowed more time for the food to cook; there was more wiggle room for error. The chicken and salmon stuck more to this pan than others, but overall it was not difficult to flip them, and [the pan] didn't ruin the food." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 7 pounds, 15 x 8.5 inches | Material: Cast iron with enameled exterior | Induction-Safe? Yes | Oven-Safe? Up to 500 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes, but handwashing recommended
Best Budget: Lodge Chef Collection Chef Collection Inch Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle
What We Love: Dual-sided, quality manufacture, grill side can fit several steaks/chops
What We Don't Love: Very heavy, a bit clunky to hand-wash
Lodge Cookware is known for its high-quality yet affordable cast iron cookware, and its Reversible Grill and Griddle is no exception. We awarded this pan Best Budget due to its versatility and reliability.
One of its selling points is that its cast iron is pre-seasoned—meaning, as Watkins explains, "They spray them with oil and send it through a high-heat chamber." So pre-seasoning is like compressed seasoning—and it will only last if you care for it properly and continually re-season the pan as you use it.
While testing, Kelsey noticed even though the pan was pre-seasoned, food still stuck to the pan slightly, but it still produced nice sear marks on both the salmon and chicken. The pan also retained heat well, especially for its size, and cooked the food evenly.
A nice bonus of this pan is that it gives you both a grill and a griddle when you flip it, so it's a true space saver. Though the pan is heavy, its riveted handles make it easy to grab and carry. Due to its cast iron design, this sturdy pan is a great choice to bring with you when you travel because it won't easily get dented or scratched in the back of your car.
"It's very sturdy; I would feel comfortable traveling with this. It isn't a delicate pan and feels like it'll last for a while. The pan's size is on the larger size and it's a heavier pan, so this made it a bit clunky to handwash, but overall it was not terrible." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 10.6 pounds, 19.5 x 10 inches | Material: Cast iron | Oven-Safe? Up to 550 degrees F | Induction-Safe? Yes | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Best Cast Iron: Staub Enameled Cast Iron Folding Grill, Square
What We Love: Specially seasoned surface requires no reseasoning, great heat distribution and retention, easy storage
What We Don't Love: Single handle can be unwieldy
This grill pan offers a nice, big cooking surface but has a handle that folds flat, saving storage space. It’s also truly cast iron but compatible with any cooktop because of the enameled exterior. (Note that the manufacturer recommends not using it on a glass cooktop.) Unlike other cast iron pans, this one does not require additional seasoning due to its enamel coating.
There’s also a special finish on the cooking surface that stops short of nonstick. While testing, Kelsey noted that the salmon filet stuck a bit to the pan and left some food residue behind, but overall this pan cooked the food evenly and produced light grill marks.
The pan features a silicon cover on its handle that makes it safe to grab and use when cooking without burning your hand. While the handle design is stable, remember that nearly 6 pounds of pan plus food weight are a lot to balance in one hand, so be sure you know how to grab the tab handle on the other side for stability.
"The itself is very sturdy, and the handle folds in on the pan for easy storing. The handle is on well, but still, due to design, it made me nervous that it could break eventually. Overall a good pan, and food stuck to it less than the Lodge Double Dutch Oven." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 5.8 pounds, 14.75 x 9.25 inches | Material: Enameled cast iron, silicone, and stainless steel handle | Oven-Safe? Up to 400 degrees F (500 without handle) | Induction-Safe? Yes | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Cast Iron Skillets
Best Nonstick: Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 11-Inch Square Grill Pan
What We Love: Lightweight but heavy-duty, handle doesn't get hot, heats quickly and evenly
What We Don't Love: There were water spots after running through the dishwasher
This grill pan is genuinely nonstick and offers lots of stovetop space, though it's not induction-safe. When cooking salmon and chicken, Kelsey was amazed that there was no issue with food sticking or leaving residue behind.
It's also significantly lighter than most grill pans, which may be the biggest saving grace for cooks who don't want to wrangle a heavy pan. It's important to note that it heats up quickly because of the thinner construction. Kelsey noticed it tended to cook the outside of the food much more quickly than the inside, so it's important to stand by the grill when cooking to make sure it's fully cooked and not burning. You'll also want to be careful using this on higher heat settings due to the potential for hot spots. Kelsey thinks this pan also works great if you're short on time and need to grill up a meal in minutes.
This pan is dishwasher-safe, but the manufacturer recommends doing so sparingly. After running it through the dishwasher, Kelsey did notice water spots dried on the pan, so she recommends always handwashing it to keep the pan in the best shape possible.
"Food cooked more quickly than other pans, especially on the outside, which made it important [for me] to pay attention because the inside wasn't always done. The handle doesn't get too warm while cooking, which is nice [because it] makes it usable when cooking." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 2.6 pounds, 19.8 x 11.1 inches | Material: Heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum | Oven-Safe? Up to 450 degrees F | Induction-Safe? No | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes, but we recommend handwashing
Best Ceramic: GreenPan Premiere Stainless Steel Ceramic Nonstick Outdoor/Indoor Square Grill Pan, 11-Inch
What We Love: Lightweight but sturdy, beautiful diamond-infused coating, sturdy and reliable
What We Don't Love: Handles can get hot
Ceramic coatings are next-level nonstick and are currently considered less likely to release potentially harmful fumes than some earlier coatings. This one by GreenPan is PFOA-free, according to the company and Williams Sonoma. It's made with a diamond ceramic nonstick finish that makes it dazzle and shine and can be used as an attractive serving tray option.
This grill pan offers two solid handles for balance, yet it's lighter than most. The handles tend to get hot when cooking, so it's best to handle the pan with an oven mitt or potholder. It works on the stovetop, but it's also safe in the oven and broiler and—a perk—can even go on an outdoor gas grill. It's not induction-friendly, however. The company also says not to use this on charcoal or wood-burning grills or over an open flame.
The pan is a nice size, allowing you to cook multiple filets or chicken breasts at once and still use other pots and pans on your stove. It also creates excellent, pronounced sear marks for that much-desired grilled look and taste. After testing this pan with vegetables, chicken, and salmon, Kelsey noted there was barely any sticking or food residue left on it, making it easy to handwash after it cooled off.
"Overall, this pan is a good size and shape. It sits well on the stove, [even] if using other pots and pans at the same time. The handles are not elongated and slightly elevated, which helps make it not take up too much space." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 2.9 pounds, 11.5 x 16.5 inches | Material: Hard-anodized aluminum with ceramic coating, stainless steel handles | Oven-Safe? Up to 600 degrees F | Induction-Safe? No | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes, but handwashing recommended
Related: The Best Indoor Grills
Best Multi-Purpose : Lodge Chef Collection 6-Quart Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven
What We Love: Versatile, high-quality manufacture, leaves nice grill marks, easy to clean and maintain
What We Don't Love: Leaves behind a good amount of food residue
This combination grill pan and Dutch oven has all the desirable qualities of other Lodge cookware—plus the classic raised grilling ridges in the interior of the lid. You'll need to take extra care on any glass or ceramic stovetop, and the grill pan side accommodates only one or two portions.
Due to the grill pan's double use, it's thicker than many of the other pans on this list and takes longer to heat up. Once heated up, Kelsey noted that it cooked the food evenly, but also that both the chicken and salmon stuck to the pan and left behind a good amount of food residue. Even with the sticking, this pan left a noticeable grill and sear marks on the chicken and salmon for a presentable finished product.
The grooved handles on both sides of the pan make it easy to pick up, but make sure to use a potholder to handle when cooking as the handles get hot quickly.
Like other Lodge cast iron products, you'll need to re-season this pan with cooking oil after handwashing it to maintain its quality. Overall, if space is an issue or you're a fan of multi-use kitchen appliances, this is an excellent option that can be used for years and years to come with proper care.
"Since it's a thicker material, it takes a bit to heat up, but this is most likely due to it being a dutch oven lid, too. It seems very durable and that it'll last for years." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Size: 15 pounds, approx. 14.4 x 11.25 inches | Material: Cast iron | Oven-Safe? Up to 500 degrees F | Induction-Safe? Yes | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Dutch Ovens
When you own and use any one of the best grill pans, you will fall in love with what it can do, because a grill pan does what no other pan can. Some highlights: Le Creuset's Rectangular Skinny Grill, our top pick because of its stellar heat distribution and ease of cleaning; and the GreenPan Premiere Ceramic Indoor/Outdoor Grill Pan, which is not only more lightweight and just as sturdy as some of its non-ceramic counterparts, but also cooks fish and veggies to perfection.
What Are the Other Options?
OXO Nonstick 11-Inch Grill Pan: If you’re looking for a smaller-sized budget pan, Oxo’s Good Grips Nonstick Grill Pan is another great option. Oxo’s pan is a straightforward grill pan with excellent nonstick capabilities. Kelsey noticed that it did heat up quickly, so make sure not to get distracted and keep an eye on your food when using it to prevent burning your chicken or fish.
Jean Patrique’s The Whatever Pan: Another exceptional multi-use grill pan Kelsey recommends is Jean Patrique’s The Whatever Pan, made of cast aluminum. This pan is smaller in size and thickness than Lodge’s Double Dutch Oven, making it easier to store and carry. It can be used on any stovetop, including induction, and also in the oven up to 482 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to its lightweight design, this pan is easy to handwash, and its nonstick coating makes it easy to remove any grease or food residue after use.
How We Tested
To pick the grill pans to test, writer Catherine Russell sifted through dozens of the top grill pans available on the market, looking at key specs and other available information from manufacturers. She also consulted her expert sources. Then, we purchased Catherine's top picks and sent them to writer and product tester Kelsey Graham to put to the test in her kitchen. She did so by cooking three food items: a filet of salmon, a chicken breast that was approximately 4 ounces, and sliced zucchini. She made the following observations: how long it took the pan to heat up, how evenly it cooked the various foods, whether the foods stuck to the pan and left behind residue, whether the food got nice grill or sear marks, and how comfortable the pan was to use and clean. After her tests, Kelsey rated each one on the following qualities: Material, Size, Heating Capacity, Ease of Cleaning, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying a Grill Pan
You can find grill pans in various versions of steel or aluminum, some with enameled coatings on the exterior, and some with nonstick coating on the cooking surface. But really, they’re all emulating the outdoor grilling or over-fire frying experience. The cast iron pan was, many years ago, designed specifically for cooking over fire. Therefore, grill pans of any other material are effectively emulating cast iron.
Then there’s the delicate balancing act played between the pan’s construction and the type of stovetop. Uncoated cast iron works best on gas and marginally well on electric. It cannot be used with confidence on any sealed cooking surface, not only because you run the risk of scratching the stovetop (people will argue about this), but because cast iron doesn’t typically offer 100 percent surface contact with the heat source unless that source is flame. To explain: Most cast iron pans have a small, raised ring as part of the pan’s bottom. That ring exists for various reasons, but on a flat cooking surface, that ring prevents full surface contact. In theory, if the coils of your electric stove fit exactly within the ring on the bottom of the cast iron pan, you’d get 100 percent, but this might require some juggling.
Grilling isn’t just about getting that pan hot; it’s about keeping it hot. Generally, a pan made of thicker metal will retain heat better, and it will then naturally be heavier to handle. Handle, you say? Yes. That’s why most larger or heavier grill pans will have some arrangement of two handles, because hoisting that weight by just a single long handle, even if you use both hands, can be a challenge. “The truth is a well-made grill pan is weighty, sometimes unwieldy, and requires storage space,” notes Gray. So heavy is good when it comes to grill pans. Just learn to handle it safely.
Shape and Surface Area
Grill pans come in all configurations, and the one that works best for you will depend on how you plan to use it. If you most often cook a single steak, a round pan is probably perfect. If you’ll be cooking multiple burgers or a pound of bacon, you’ll want the greater surface area offered by a square grill pan. And if you’re grilling up many multiples, you’ll want to consider a large rectangle grill pan that straddles two burners.
Stick or Nonstick?
Americans in particular have a love affair with nonstick, but branded cookware being sold by celeb chefs aside, most pros prefer to avoid nonstick coatings. Marvin is vocal: “For me, that whole coated thing is like the plague of cookware,” she says, but admits that it's a force in the industry. “I have to sell it because people ask for it. But if anybody is on the fence at all, you better believe I'll try to dissuade them.”
The reasons are sound and the arguments endless, but one thing about nonstick cookware is very basic to grill pans: Stuff doesn’t stick to nonstick pans, but in grilling, sticking is a requirement. “You've got these nonstick grill pans, even a really, really, really good nonstick,” says Watkins, “but you need it to stick a little bit to get that sear. It might brown, but maybe never get that little crusty char to seal in all the juices.”
That’s not to say that food should be so overcooked that it’s fused to the pan. But, it does need to adhere to get a real char. This is where the seasoning of the pan’s surface comes in. An uncoated metal pan, whether cast iron or steel, develops a seasoned coating with proper use, care, and cleaning—and will still allow foods to stick in the desired way.
Cooktops heat in different ways. With a gas stove, it’s the heat of flame, which works from under and even up the sides of a pan. Electric stoves use a heating coil that heats the bottom of the pan. Ceramic or glass cooktops are essentially electric stoves with a single, sealed surface, so heating a pan is still a matter of direct contract with the area just above the heating coil. Induction cooktops are electric stoves of a sort, with a sealed surface, but they heat by transfer of magnetic energy to the pan, and while they can work (sort of) with most pans, they really require special cookware for optimal results.
Almost any grill pan will work on gas stove, but certain pan styles could easily scratch a ceramic or glass stove surface. Take care there. Most pans can be used on open-coil electric stovetops, but some will work better than others.
What's the difference between a griddle and a grill pan?
These are two very different things. The names are sometimes casually interchangeable and both pans are designed for high-heat cooking, but a griddle (whether electric or stovetop) has a smooth, flat, uninterrupted cooking surface. It’s like a frying pan, but usually larger and often square. A grill pan, on the other hand, whatever its size or shape, has some arrangement of ridges.
Here, consider the glorious pancake. A griddle is perfect for making pancakes. But try pouring batter on a grill pan, and well, you’re not making pancakes, you’re making a mess. There’s your visual.
How do I cook with a grill pan?
Hot, hot, HOT. Most will argue that grill pans are best for meats and meat analogs, and do a pretty good job with fruits and veggies if properly prepared, and that’s about it. A grill pan is not designed to sauté or simmer, and only an oven-safe grill pan can be used to finish in an oven or be slid under a broiler.
Can I use a grill pan on an electric stove?
Yes, but depending on the type of stovetop (open or sealed), you won’t get the same high-heat, even results unless you select a pan that fits well over the burner coils. It needs to have an absolutely flat bottom, no ridges. Select a pan that give you the most surface contact based on your electric stovetop.
What is the difference between a frying pan and a grill pan?
Frying pans have flat interiors; grill pans have ridges. Those ridges raise the food out of the juices, provide the desired grill marks, and encourage sear.
How do I clean a grill pan?
Cleaning methods will depend on what the pan is made of, but one thing is universal: Keep a grill pan clean! When you do clean, do what Marvin does. She starts with a pan that is still warm but cool enough to handle. “I scrub it in warm water, oil it, and get it dry,” she says.
If the pan is cast iron, or really a mess, you may need take more care. Like many people, Gray believes that “soap is the enemy” of cast iron. Watkins has found, however, that “just one drop or so of good dish soap” can be enough to loosen anything stubborn. But do not let it sit and soak! Swish it and scrape it, then dry it, touch it up with a mild cooking oil, and put it away. Some people like to dry pans on a stovetop burner, but that’s not always safe, so sit them in the oven to dry where the lightbulb, pilot, or even just residual warmth will be plenty to dry the pan.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Catherine Russell is a writer and editor specializing in food, culture, and home and garden. Grandma’s kitchen was a favorite place for Catherine growing up, and that’s where she first learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch. And that’s also where she learned—especially in the kitchen—the right utensil can make all the difference. Her work has appeared in national publications such as Bon Appetit, Saveur, Gannett publications, and in film and video. She’s also proud to be featured in the pages of smaller regional publications that maintain a commitment to local print journalism alongside their digital presences.
Kelsey Graham is a freelance writer specializing in food, kitchen, and restaurant topics. She’s also an amateur chef that enjoys researching, testing, and reviewing the best kitchen products that are reliable and sharing this knowledge with others to improve their cooking game.
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United States Environmental Protection Agency. Technical Fact Sheet - Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). November 2017.