My new cooking buddy, the Grill Pan

Fillet of beef on an iron grill pan. At Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

To fry a few pieces of Couer de Filet of Beef to perfection,
sprinkle with sea salt, let the beef rest in room temperature for about 40 minutes. Fry one side until brown in a grill pan, flip once and fry until done. Let the beef rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Photo © J E Nilsson for CMC

There are a million good reasons to go out and buy a new pot or pan to the kitchen if you really try to come up with some. But what it eventually boils down to (excuse the pun) is that it makes cooking more fun. Sometimes, having a new utensil might even improve the results of your efforts.

On my part, I often find myself buying something that looks nice, figuring out later what to use it for. Eventually I will show you a very nice Italian milk-foamer and yes, a perfectly useless high-tech electric juicer that currently eats up half a cabinet of shelf space and we can’t throw it away because it was too expensive to buy in the first place. And is there anyone who actually even knows what a raquelette is?

However, our latest toy was not improvised but something that we decided to make do with, after we decided that a separate grill section to the stove would not be practical after all. After some shopping around we simply chose the heaviest cast iron grill pan we could find, which turned out to be an 11″ AGA with black enamel coating inside and out. The very look of the pan sitting snug in the shop was enough to get us all excited about it, conjuring up dishes to cook in it!

AGA cast iron grill pan. At Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

Our new toy, 2.9 kgs worth of cast iron AGA grill pan makes frying in barbeque style a breeze. The heat source does not matter as long as it can make the grill pan sizzling hot.


What to cook and not
I have understood that many don’t know how to use a grill pan or even what’s the point with it, or if it’s actually any good. The argument pro is that it makes food taste better and yes it does (after trying it out ourselves) if you choose a good one and fry the right things in it.

The idea with it is to fry barbecue style where the food is heated by just being close to a heat source, working as a toaster would, and without direct contact with the flat bottom surface of a skillet.

That way you do away with the need for butter at all, and you sear the surface of the food without blackening it. Frying bacon on one of these radically reduces the fat, since it just dribbles out of the bacon, making them crisp and dry at the same time. Ready made meat balls, hot dogs, burgers and chicken fillets are all good, not to mention salmon cuts, all fry better and end up more tasty on one of these than on anything else I have tried.

What you cannot do is braisse. When you intentionally want the butter to be in contact with what you cook to pick up the flavour, this grill pan will not give you that desired result. I would also avoid trying to cook vegetables, anything mushy and in particular anything egg, in this grill pan.

What to look for
What to look for when choosing a grill pan is first of all weight (mass) so that it will remain hot when you drop the food in it. A light or too small grill pan is useless since it will cool off in contact with the food, and then you will find yourself boiling something that should sizzle. A non-stick pan is also useless since the high temperature you need will kill off the non-stick surface which you will then probably end up eating, and I don’t know how healthy that is. The grill pan when properly used, will find nothing sticking to the ribbed surface. Second is size; buy the largest you have space for. Third, see to that the ribs in the pan are high enough, and enough separated so that any fat that seeps out of what you cook does not come into contact with the food.

The AGA beauty we found is almost 3 kg (6 lbs). You can forget about doing any fancy one hand flipping stuff with it as you might end up twisting your wrist in the process, and settle for being happy if you can budge it at all. If you have a gas range, that is the best, since then you can regulate the temperature with the gas instead of moving around the pan. A grill pan like this could also be used as a sizzling plate in the oven if you like to. In that case avoid any of those with a wood handle.

Beef steak served with rösti, mushrooms and tomato. At Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

Beef steak served with rösti, mushrooms and tomato.

Above is a picture of a steak we cooked in the grill pan. If this turned out right the meat will be delicious already without any extra seasoning at all. The brown crust and the light salting will bring out the meat flavour in a way that no other way of cooking beef can do. Only then, add the seasoning of your choice. Here served with black pepper, fresh tomato, rösti with carrot and cheese, mushrooms and eventually a home made sauce béarnaise.

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