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stovetop grill pans


arbuclo
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I do not believe the smoke is from the seasoning burning off. I say this because the seasoning on my grill pan appears to be perfectly intact, and I almost always use it on the highest output of an extra-strong burner.

I DO know that smoke comes first from bits of food from the previous use not completely cleaned off, and second from the vaporizing juices of whatever I'm cooking. And as time passes and I use the pan more and more -- and clean it thoroughly after use -- that initial smoking has diminished. In my experience. As tommy said, your mileage may vary.

I prefer to keep my grill pan seasoned because I often use an acidic marinade, and because my seasoned pan is easier to clean, so it smokes less.

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I have a Calphalon grill pan, and I seldom use it. It seems impractical to me, because I thought you aren't ever supposed to heat an empty hard-anodized aluminum pan. It messes up the metal somehow. Isn't that what the materials that come with the pan say? So when I use the grill pan, I always add some oil before I heat it, which just seems stupid when I'm making hamburgers. Please tell me I'm doing this all wrong.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I have the 10" round lodge, and I go through the motions of seasoning it because I feel it makes it marginally easier to clean (and because of rust). Not easy, just easier.

One way to mitigate the smoke problem is to use it under a broiler instead of a stovetop. preheat for half an hour or so. It still smokes, of course, but it seems to mostly stay in the oven.

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I do not believe the smoke is from the seasoning burning off.  I say this because the seasoning on my grill pan appears to be perfectly intact, and I almost always use it on the highest output of an extra-strong burner.

Suzanne, it is absolutely a fact that you can burn seasoning. For example, if you put a cast iron pan in an electric oven and set it to "self clean" the seasoning will be entirely burned off. This is the recommended procedure for "restarting the seasoning" when the original seasoning is damaged.

As I said before, there is definitely a darkening with "seasoning-like" appearance that happens through extra high heat cooking, and I have little doubt that there are some elements of seasoning that are retained in a grill pan that is consistently heated to the point of smoking and used over extra high heat. But I also don't think this is quite the same thing as the seasoning I have in my other cast iron pans. It is relatively well accepted, I think, that extra high-heat cooking is bad for seasoning as it is usually understood and implemented, and most people seem to believe that you can "ruin" several decades worth of careful seasoning by heating an empty cast iron pan too hot.

That said, I also doubt it is the case that extra high heat cooking burns of all of the seasoning, so I suppose a certain amount does remain. In any event, I would imagine that the extent to which the seasoning is burned is highly dependent on the amount of time the pan remains at high heat before the food is introduced, as the "cooling" action of the food may protect the seasoning to one degree or another. If the food goes in before the pan gets smoking hot, there may be relatively little burning of the seasoning.

I DO know that smoke comes first from bits of food from the previous use not completely cleaned off, and second from the vaporizing juices of whatever I'm cooking.

Two things here:

First, I hope I am not being misunderstood when I speak of a smoking pan. What I am talking about is a pan that smokes when it is empty. Obviously there is a certain amount of smoke that is generated from the food once it is put into the pan.

Second, assuming the grill pan is cleaned reasonably well after each use -- and I naturally assume this is the case with your pan -- I would think that the amount of actual food residue left behind is negligible and unlikely to create much smoke. Whatever smoke-creating food residue that does exist should burn up and cease smoking fairly quickly. This has always been the case, for example, when I have decided to reuse a stainless-lined skillet I had just used and didn't bother cleaning it out before slapping it on the burner to preheat again. And, in these cases there was clearly a visible residue from the previous use in the pan. When one cleans a cast iron pan, one generally makes sure that no visible residue is left behind. All this is to say that I think it's unlikely that a significant amount of the smoke coming off an empty grill pan is from food residue (other than the food residue that creates seasoning). Given what is understood about seasoning, it seems reasonable to conclude that a significant amount of the smoke coming off an empty seasoned cast iron pan preheated to high temperature is coming from the seasoning itself.

And as time passes and I use the pan more and more -- and clean it thoroughly after use -- that initial smoking has diminished.

I'd be interested to know how you're cleaning the pan and whether or not this effect might be due to the fact that you are preventing the usual seasoning build-up. I know that my smoking has also diminished over the years, and largely attribute it to my cleaning techniques. Once I get the food out of the pan, I like to pour in some water and perhaps a touch of dish soap to boil up as much residue as possible -- pouring the whole thing into the sink while it's still bubbling furiously. Then, after dinner when the pan has cooled down I scrape it out with a stainless scouring tool and a little water, after which I put the pan back on high heat for a minute or so to dry the pan off. Usually there is no smoking during this second heating. After that, I wipe the pan down with an oil-moistened cloth to prevent rusting and hang it back up. My grill pan smokes a lot less since I started treating it this way than it did when I treated it like my other cast iron pans and actively tried to build up the seasoning.

Again, I don't necessarily advocate taking extreme steps to prevent seasoning to build up. It is the nature of cast iron that a certain amount of seasoning or seasoning-like effects will happen on the surface of the pan over time.

Oh well... when it's all said and done, people should just do what makes them happy. I doubt there is a definitive answer to what one should do, as it depends on one's stove, usage, etc. And I understand that my thoughts on leaving cast iron unseasoned for extra high heat cooking go against a certain amount of cast iron dogma. Perhaps it will be my fate to be boiled in oil in a well-seasoned cast iron cauldron as a heretic. :biggrin:

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I will NOT buy one of those cheaper, lightweight grill pans that I have been thinking about.

I WILL buy a Lodge!

Rock on, brother. You're one step closer to qualifying for the secret eGullet handshake. :smile:

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I purchased a Lodge grill pan and love it.

It really is the closest thing to outdoor grilling you can get indoors and is worth the marginal additional effort needed to keep cast iron clean and happy. It was the first cast iron purchase I have ever made.

I'm now looking to add to my cast iron collection.

Msk

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I'm now looking to add to my cast iron collection.

Lodge is the only manufacturer of cast iron cookware left, but there used to be quite a few. For the really heavy duty stuff, Griswold is highly prized. Take a look around eBay and you will likely find plenty of Griswold cast iron for same at reasonable prices.

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I purchased  a Lodge grill pan and love it. 

It really is the closest thing to outdoor grilling you can get indoors and is worth the marginal additional effort needed to keep cast iron clean and happy.  It was the first cast iron purchase I have ever made.

I'm now looking to add to my cast iron collection.

Msk

If you're looking into more cast-iron, check out slkinsey's eGCI course on cookware. Look specifically for the information on enameled cast-iron.

A covered enameled cast-iron "oven" is great for both stovetop use & oven use.

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I know some about seasoning cast iron, but not about the specifics. What I do know is I heat the shit out of my pan and it's all black inside, but I suspect that's probably not "seasoning," per se, but a built-up layer of carbonized whatever. Doesn't come out with a regular scourer, though, and doesn't smoke much when I heat it up. And nothing sticks to it but fish sometimes.

The reason I like the lodge better than others is the depth of the "grill" ridges. I had a couple other grill pans over the years, and often the ridges were just kinda bumps--a piece of chicken would mold itself right over them, and then what's the point of a grill pan?

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It really is the closest thing to outdoor grilling you can get indoors and is worth the marginal additional effort needed to keep cast iron clean and happy.

i think it's *better* than outdoor grilling for some applications (assuming you're talking gas). i can't help but think it gets hotter than even the cast iron grates on my Weber, if heat's your thing. :smile:

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Lodge is the only manufacturer of cast iron cookware left

I believe Benjamin & Medwin still makes cast-iron cookware. I bought a piece of it, new, less than a year ago. There also seem to be some other, imported brands available at stores like Target.

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Lodge is the only manufacturer of cast iron cookware left

I believe Benjamin & Medwin still makes cast-iron cookware. I bought a piece of it, new, less than a year ago. There also seem to be some other, imported brands available at stores like Target.

So they do. Whaddaya know. I somehow had heard that Lodge was the last American company making cast iron cookware.

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I have a Calphalon grill pan, and I seldom use it.  It seems impractical to me, because I thought you aren't ever supposed to heat an empty hard-anodized aluminum pan.  It messes up the metal somehow.  Isn't that what the materials that come with the pan say?  So when I use the grill pan, I always add some oil before I heat it, which just seems stupid when I'm making hamburgers.  Please tell me I'm doing this all wrong.

I don't think that's true- I have the Calphalon hard anodized grill pan and use it two or three times a month. I'll heat it empty on high for 10 minutes or more when I'm doing steak, and it's held up beautifully.

The ridges, however, are a pain to clean. Boiling water in it for 2-3 minutes helps.

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  think it's *better* than outdoor grilling for some applications (assuming you're talking gas). i can't help but think it gets hotter than even the cast iron grates on my Weber, if heat's your thing.

Agreed Tommy, I was thinking more along the lines of the ventilation and cooking surface area as the pros of an outdoor grill. As we have all discussed, a steak or burger on that screaming hot puppy smokes up the entire floor of my apartment building. :smile:

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, at this point it about trying to make a decision about what pan I need versus what company to buy from.

I do think I am going to get a Le Creuset Dutch oven since I plan to make alot of barbecue-style brisket and I don't like the intense smoke flavor of smoking.

Msk

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  • 3 years later...

Hi All,

I really enjoy grilling, except I currently live in an apartment and my only option is to grill inside! I am looking to purchase a grill pan that I can use over the stove to make the basics, especially grilled chicken and steak! Can you please provide some ideas as to what is the best gril pan out there, your expericnes with them, and the pros and cons. Thanks so much n advance for your help.

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People can be pretty precious about the seaoning on their cast iron; I personally don't think a lot of fuss is necessary. If you really want to maintain the maximum non-stick qualities, like for making omelettes or crepes, it might make sense to handle the pan with kid gloves and keep the heat moderate.

Under high heat the seasoning, which is really a slightly penetrating coat of polymerized oil, will become partially carbonized. It will still protect the pan, it will still look good, and it will still maintain some non-stick qualities. It just probably won't perform AS well as an uncarbonized coating.

I crank the heat on my cast iron pans all the time. I use them mostly when I want to brown the bejeezus out of something, so I don't put the food in until I start seeing smoke. Most likely my seasoning has been carbonized, at least somewhat. It still works well enough for me. A bit of new seasoning gets applied every time the pan gets used. Sticking and rust have never been issues.

Notes from the underbelly

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A newbie question:

When you're working with a cast iron, what's the difference between the cast iron skillets which are smooth and the cast iron grill pans with those ridges? I don't understand when you'd use one vs. the other. If you're going to cook a steak or anything that you want to get a nice, crunchy crust, do you always choose the cast iron with the ridges? I don't understand the purpose of those ridges other than aesthetics.

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