The Best Grill Pans, According to Chefs

Move the cookout indoors with the Le Creuset Signature Square Skillet Grill pan and others.

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The Best Grill Pans
Courtesy of Le Creuset

One of the few redeeming qualities of where I live is that it is always grilling season. Occasionally rain interferes, and sometimes it's too hot to stand by a grill, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. I realize that many don't enjoy the same climate benefits and need to move the party indoors when the weather turns cold. You also may not have access to outdoor grilling space. Grill pans are a good go-to for these circumstances.

While they may not give the same flavor as open-fire grilling, chefs like Alex Harrell of the Commons Club in New Orleans will use grill pans to achieve the texture and visuals of grilled foods when a grill is not available. We conferred with chefs to determine what they look for when selecting a pan for home use. We then combined their input with our expertise to research and evaluate the best grill pans on the market based on factors like material, construction, and size, naming the Le Creuset Signature Square Skillet Grill Pan the best overall. Read on to find out why and to see our other choices.

Best Overall: Le Creuset Square Skillet Grill Pan

Le Creuset Square Skillet Grill Pan

Amazon

Pros: This pan provides good heat retention and distribution while being durable and easy to clean.

Cons: It's heavy and expensive.

Le Creuset intends for its pieces to become heirlooms, and in its almost 100 years of business, it's had plenty of time to prove itself as the master of ceramic cookware. If you're looking for longevity and quality, you'll find it in Le Creuset's Square Skillet Grill Pan. It's relatively heavy, constructed of enamel-coated cast iron, but weight is where this grill pan's beauty lies. We're not saying it's a showpiece, even though it looks great in the kitchen. The cast iron construction ensures even heat distribution and retention, while the enamel coating provides a degree of resistance against sticking and protects the pan against rust – eliminating the need to protect its seasoning.

The sides taper, so there is more realistically a cooking area of nine square inches, but this is adequate for two to four people depending on what you're cooking. The raised ridges provide good grill marking at high heat. They also elevate the food above the bottom of the pan, which provides good drainage for any fat that renders off your food in the process. Speaking of fat or grease, spouts built into the sides make pouring out of the pan much easier when it's time to clean up. The height and spacing of the ridges make the pan easy to clean, as you have access to all of the spaces where food may stick to the pan and char.

Price at time of publish: $207

  • Size: 10.25 x 10.25 x 2 inches
  • Material: Enamel-coated cast iron
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Best Cast Iron: Finex 10-inch Cast Iron Grill Pan

Finex 10-inch Cast Iron Grill Pan

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This cast iron construction ensures even heat distribution, and the spring-encased handle is easy to hold, even when hot.

Cons: This is one of the more expensive options we reviewed, and it's quite heavy for a pan of its size.

The Finex grill pan comes with a sizable price tag. But for those who don't have access to outdoor grilling, it's a sound investment in your experience that can also serve as a conversation piece in your kitchen. It's certainly not all looks, though. This 10-inch pan weighs eight pounds; its heaviness provides even heat distribution and retention, making this an excellent pan for high-heat searing or low-to-medium heat cooking for thick cuts of meat.

The handle is part of the construction, so you don't have to worry about any rivets loosening. It comes wrapped in a thick, stainless spring that stays cool and allows for easy gripping. The grill ribs are tall and wide enough to leave food with grill marks. The ribs also keep the food out of any grease that might drip, ensuring that you're grilling your food instead of frying or sauteing it. The octagonal shape with sloping sides is designed for easy access with a spatula. The pan comes pre-seasoned with flaxseed oil, so it's ready to use right out of the package.

Price at time of publish: $200

  • Size: 18.25 x 10.25 x 3 inches
  • Material: Cast iron
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: No

Best Value: Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Square Grill Pan

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Square Grill Pan

Walmart

Pros: The pan has excellent heat retention at a very low price point.

Cons: It's heavy, a little challenging to clean, and requires maintenance like most cast iron.

Steady and reliable, this Lodge square grill pan is a workhorse, not a show pony. It's not as heavy as our top pick, but it provides adequate heat distribution and retention. Without an enamel coating, the lodge can be used on almost any heat source, from induction burners to open fires, without worrying about marring the finish.

The reasonably sized grill ribs elevate your food above any accumulated grease or liquids and give you good sear and grill marks. The pan comes pre-seasoned, so you can cook as soon as you get it, and the size is adequate for cooking for two to four people.

Price at time of publish: $40

  • Size: 17.25 x 10.5 x 2.5 inches
  • Material: Cast iron
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: No

Best Large: All-Clad Nonstick Grande Grill Cookware

All-Clad Nonstick Grande Grill Cookware

Amazon

Pros: It's lightweight with good heat distribution and tough nonstick coating.

Cons: The sides are shallower than we'd like, and the handles can become hotter than expected.

We don't typically recommend two-burner grill pans, as different burners tend to provide uneven heat. Your circumstances, however, may dictate that you need something larger than a single-burner pan can provide, so let's find the best. The anodized aluminum construction of the All-Clad HA1 means that it's lightweight but still provides good heat distribution. Because of that, you can grill in the area between burners without a significant difference in searing. The sides are a bit low for splatter prevention but high enough to prevent overflow and grease fires. The nonstick coating does exactly what it says it will do, and the pan can handle up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit when you want to finish foods in the oven.

Price at time of publish: $100

  • Size: 13 x 20 inches
  • Material: Anodized aluminum
  • Induction-Safe: No
  • Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Most Versatile: Jean-Patrique The Whatever Pan

Jean-Patrique The Whatever Pan

Amazon

Pros: Deep sides and a pressure-release lid make this a good pan for braising, grilling, or steaming.

Cons: The grill ribs are a bit difficult to clean, and the lid can accumulate some stains and debris in the oven.

I really wanted to dislike this pan, but I can't. You can think of versatility in terms of, say, a grill and griddle combo, or you can think of it in the many other ways you could use a grill pan. First, it grills. But it can also be used to saute, sear, braise, and maybe even steam if you get creative.

The pan is constructed of cast aluminum, making it a strong and long-lasting vessel, at a fraction of the weight of cast iron. The two-inch sides are good for not only holding liquid but also reducing splatters. The glass lid comes with a pressure release valve suitable for oven temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The bonded steel base aids in heat distribution and makes it compatible with induction burners. I don't think this pan will last a lifetime, but it should have a good lifespan for the price.

Price at time of publish: $75

  • Size: 10.5-inch diameter, 2 inches deep
  • Material: Cast aluminum
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Best Nonstick: Anolon 11" Nonstick Square Griddle Pan

Anolon 11" Nonstick Square Griddle Pan

Amazon

Pros: It's lightweight and has good heat distribution, and the nonstick coating lasts a long time.

Cons: This can be difficult to clean because of the ridge design, and we'd like to see a more resilient handle arrangement.

Analon's 11-inch square grill pan offers most of everything that we look for in a pan. Anodized aluminum construction provides even heat distribution, and the pan is oven safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The high sides reduce splatter, while the pour spouts allow easy grease disposal. The square design maximizes grilling space, and the sides taper slightly for easier access to the food with utensils.

The pan's ridges are high enough to make good grill marks and keep the food raised above fat or liquid. The nonstick surface purports to be longer lasting than most ceramic pans. One improvement we'd like to see: tougher rivets on the handle to extend its lifespan before the handle gets a bit wobbly.

Price at time of publish: $50

  • Size: 19 x 11 x 4 inches
  • Material: Anodized aluminum
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Best Ceramic: GreenPan Valencia Pro Hard Anodized Ceramic Nonstick Pan

GreenPan Valencia Pro Hard Anodized Ceramic Nonstick Pan

Amazon

Pros: The anodized aluminum construction provides even heat on multiple cooking surfaces, and the ceramic coating is suitable for use with various tools.

Cons: The pan can become discolored from high temperatures and the handles can become hot during cooking.

The Valencia is made of hard, anodized aluminum with a ceramic finish that is free of the most common toxins in nonstick cookware. The ceramic is also hard enough to use with metal utensils, although the manufacturer suggests silicon utensils for longer life. The two-handle arrangement makes it easy to move when full, a sometimes difficult task with a single, long handle. This arrangement also reduces stress on the riveted joints, expanding the pan's lifespan.

The pan offers even heat distribution, even on burners smaller in diameter than the pan, which widens the cooking zone to the edges of the pan. The pan sears quite well, leaving good grill marks on your food. Our only wish is that there was a spout on the side for more straightforward grease disposal.

Price at time of publish: $89

  • Size: 11-inch diameter, 5.5 inches high
  • Material: Anodized aluminum and ceramic
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Best Reversible: Lodge Cast Iron Single-Burner Reversible Grill/Griddle

Lodge Cast Iron Single-Burner Reversible Grill/Griddle

Amazon

Pros: It has great heat retention and distribution, and its small form is easy to store.

Cons: Whichever side of this pan is to the heat gets extra heat treatment on its seasoning, and the smell of that could bother some. Also, the sides of the pan are shallow, allowing splatters on your cooktop and counters.

My personal gripe with reversible pans is that they tend to eat up two burners. Many home kitchens have burners of different sizes, front to back and side to side. When your pan spans two burners of disparate sizes and heating capabilities, you get inconsistent heating in your pan. Finding single-burner grill pans is easy, but finding single-burner reversible grill pans is not. From that, Lodge brings the best to the party.

This pan consists of the same durable cast iron that Lodge uses to mold its other grill pans and skillets. The elevated grilling ribs on one side give you all the searing, toasting, and grill mark capabilities of their regular grill pans. Flip it over, and you've got a griddle for anything from pancakes to plancha cooking. Where Lodge really stands out is its ability to bring quality cast iron that evenly distributes and retains heat at an approachable price point.

Price at time of publish: $40

  • Size: 15 X 10.5 X 1 inches
  • Material: Cast iron
  • Induction-Safe: Yes
  • Dishwasher-Safe: No

Our Favorite

With any purchase of kitchen equipment, what really matters is what suits you and your needs. The longevity and reliability of the Le Creuset Signature Square Skillet Grill Pan is our top choice. Still, the lightweight Anolon 11-Inch Deep Square Grill Pan with Pour Spouts could be more manageable or friendlier to your glass cooktop if that is a concern.

Factors to Consider

Material

The material dictates the weight of the pan, how you can use it, and how to clean it. Cast iron is inherently heavy but gives great heat distribution. Anodized aluminum is slightly lower on the heat distribution scale but at a significantly lower weight. Some may hesitate to use an eight-pound cast iron pan on a glass cooktop, but aluminum doesn't generally work on an induction burner unless specifically noted.

Nonstick coatings are equally important. Ceramic isn't as long-lived as other coatings but is mainly free of toxins that will leach into your food. Alternative coatings serve well but might not stand up to metal utensils or machine washing. Enamel pans offer longevity and easy cleaning but are not explicitly designed to be nonstick and require a little more finesse in your cooking techniques.

Construction:

One of the most significant construction considerations is the handle. Both Harrell and chef Julio Aguilera of Copas in San Francisco look at these similarly. The best construction has a shorter handle cast as part of the pan. The next-best has shorter handles, strongly riveted to the pan. Least preferable is a grill pan with a longer handle with solid rivets. Why all this concern about handles and fasteners?

The longer the handle, the more stress you put on the point where it joins the pan. In a cast iron or aluminum scenario, the handle and pan are one piece, so the entire pan absorbs the stress. In a riveted situation, the rivets handle the pressure of the weight of the pan and any food in it. This isn't particularly damaging, but heat comes into play. On the stovetop or in the oven, the metal expands when it is hot and then contracts as it cools. So, when taking weight, heating, cooling, and expanding and contracting into consideration, it's perfectly normal for those joints to weaken and get jiggly. It happens faster in longer handles than in short ones simply because of the weight distribution. This weakness presents a safety concern when handling hot food and pans and is one of the most common reasons people buy replacement pans.

Size

Elements to consider in selecting the correct size for you include the size of the burner that you're going to use and choosing a pan that not only fits that burner but is also adequate for the type of foods that you'll cook and the number of people that you'll cook for. Look for something with a slightly larger capacity than you'll regularly use to account for unknowns, like having friends or family over for dinner now and again. Harrell stresses the importance of the depth of the sides as a safety measure. Grease splatters and overflows can lead to fires and burns, and a higher side minimizes these opportunities.

Cleaning Method

How much time and effort do you want to put into the care and feeding of your pan? Enameled cast iron is easy to maintain and is dishwasher safe. Cast iron takes a larger degree of care and is the subject of much lore about cleaning. Ceramic surfaces might require special cleaners or methods. Each material has its strengths and weaknesses in cooking but also in cleaning and storage. You'll have to weigh your level of dedication to cleaning vs. cooking results.

The Research

Two chefs lent their insight and expertise to our in-depth research process: Julio Aguilera, partner and executive chef of Copas in San Francisco, and Alex Harrell, executive chef of Commons Club in New Orleans. We then scoured the market for the best options based on their input and our own expertise. We weighed the grilling tools we found against several criteria, including value, ease of use, and quality of construction.

Pro Q+A

Q: How do I clean a cast iron grill pan?

A: Cast iron cleaning is the stuff of lore and is subject to many misconceptions. Everyone has their own method, and most of them are not wrong. Harrell likes to clean his with some salt, a little water, and a bit of Dawn dish detergent, then scrub the pan with a balled-up piece of aluminum foil before drying it on the stovetop and applying a little vegetable oil.

Q: What should I use a grill pan for?

A: You can use a grill pan for anything you would typically put on the grill. That could be meats, poultry, vegetables, meat substitutes, or any combination of the above. It's important to note that you won't get the same flavor out of a grill pan that you would from a grill, but it will give that Maillard reaction texture that you would expect from grilled food. Outside of that school of thought, you can use a grill pan to develop texture in your dishes that you wouldn't get from simply pan-searing or give visual dynamics to a dish from those beautiful charred marks that grilling provides.

Q: Can you put a grill pan on a grill?

A: That depends on several variables. Harrell likes to bring a couple of cast iron grill pans with him when he goes camping to account for the chances of the grill at his campsite being in disrepair or left in a poor state by previous campers. The cast iron pans are a great replacement for cooking on a sub-par grill. That being said, not all grill pans are equal in this area. I've ruined the finish of a few enamel cast iron pans by using them on a grill over an open fire. The enamel tends to have little ripples in the finish that trap soot from the fire and leave black smudges all over the pan. Check your manufacturer's recommendations for the safest means of using a pan on the grill.

Not covered here, but worth noting: Aguilera is a fan of new pans available on the market designed for sauteing on the grill. They have strategic holes in them to give your foods that grilled flavor while maintaining the texture and quick cooking of a saute.

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with decades of experience in the food industry. For this piece, he interviewed chefs Julio Aguilera and Alex Harrell to find out what the pros look for when selecting grill pans. He then used their insights and his own expertise combined with market research to curate this list.

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