Best Grill Pan of 2021
The GreenPan Prime consistently resulted in the best-cooked food in our testing. Though our researchers came into testing as dedicated cast iron enthusiasts, by the time we cooked our last test meal, we knew to expect only fantastic results from this pan. The pan claims to be able to reach 600°F without emitting traces of toxic fumes, though we lacked the technology to test this claim. The bolted-on steel handle is quite good at preventing heat transfer from the pan's cooking surface to a cook's hand, so a silicone sleeve is not as necessary for this pan. The GreenPan's oven and dishwasher compatibility are also very nice perks, rounding out a great pan.
The main drawback to the GreenPan is that its lid is sold separately. Additionally, though it is advertised as 'Metal Utensil Safe,' we could scratch it when using a metal spatula. Still, this is an excellent pan for cooks who wish to add beautiful grill marks to their creations without the upkeep of cast iron or the durability and potential health-related issues of lower quality nonstick coatings.
Le Creuset's Cast Iron Square Skillet is as beautiful as it is functional. These attractive pans have been handcrafted in France for nearly a century and made us think of an heirloom that we could continue passing to future generations. The Le Creuset can be used with any traditional heat source, from an induction stove to a campfire. While heat retention, heating evenness, and cooldown times were nearly identical to other cast irons that we tested, we found Le Creuset's enameled surface to be significantly easier to clean than the Lodge and Vremi pans.
While the Le Creuset pan was easier to clean than some other cast irons, it should be noted that generally, cast irons will be more tedious to clean than their nonstick counterparts. Also, while our testing didn't show any wear to the enamel coating from our steel spatulas, chipping is possible with metal tools. If you are looking for a cast iron grill pan, this eye-catching model looks as good as it cooks.
The Lodge Pre-Seasoned is another great choice for those in the market for a cast iron grill pan. It heats evenly and quickly, placing a fine sear on everything we tested in it. Like the other cast irons, it is oven-safe and can withstand the use of metal utensils without damage. It's also the most inexpensive pan we had the pleasure of testing.
Cast iron must be hand-washed, and the ridges in this pan cling to grease, a common complaint for cast iron grill pans. For those that need a pan that makes attractive grill marks and won't cost you too much, the Lodge Pre-Seasoned pan is a fantastic option.
Because of its large cooking surface and aesthetic design, the Nutrichef Cast Iron Reversible Grill Plate is a wonderful choice for cooks with a few more mouths to feed. Thinner and lighter than the Lodge reversible pan, the Nutrichef was the one we reached for to produce stacks of pancakes and big breakfasts quickly. The grill pan produced beautiful sear marks, and our testers loved the flat griddle for all the extra room.
Increased cooking area means increased cleaning area, and as a cast iron, it will have to be washed by hand. It comes with a pair of silicone grabbers for handling the pan, but they were thin, and we could quickly feel an uncomfortable amount of heat through them. These caveats aside, the Nutrichef is still the choice for someone looking for a large cast iron griddle at a lower price point.
We loved the Calphalon Panini Pan & Press because it cleaned up easily and it consistently produced some of the best-cooked food. Our testers were skeptical of aluminum pans, but we found that the aluminum models in our tests were great to cook with. The Calphalon was remarkably consistent with producing fine sears, well-cooked meals, and simple clean-up. It performed well with everything we cooked, but it is advertised as a pan for making grilled sandwiches and is indeed great for that. Our testers finished several paninis utilizing its stainless steel press to smoosh beautiful grill marks into homemade panini bread.
While the Calphalon Panini Pan did produce some of the nicest looking dishes, it has some drawbacks that deserve consideration from particular buyers. With a heat rating of 450, it is not suitable for putting high heat sears on thick cuts of meat, unlike the cast iron options. Stainless steel utensils will also scratch the finish, so keep this in mind if you like to use metal spatulas. This pan is a great addition to a kitchen that produces more sandwiches than steaks and more vegetables than veal. It is ideal for at-home chefs that love quick and easy clean-ups.
The Vremi Smokin' Hot is an excellent option for those in the market for a cast iron grill pan. A half-inch larger than the Lodge and with spouts on the side for cleanly pouring grease out into a container or for disposal, it heats evenly and produces pleasing grill marks, too. The Vremi is oven-safe and can withstand the use of metal utensils without the worry of damaging the pan. It also comes with a useful bright red silicone handle sleeve for handling when hot.
Grill ridges in the pan diminish the versatility of this high-quality cookware. Casserole and pie, for example, will get stuck in the ridges, rendering it a poor choice for baking creamy dishes or pie crusts. Buyers that demand cast iron and want to apply grill marks to their home-cooked meals will not be disappointed with the Vremi.
Other pans on this list seem to have a specific type of food they are meant for, but the Jean Patrique Whatever Pan is indeed the pan for whatever. Everything our team cooked in it turned out great, and we found ourselves reaching for it to saute snacks between tests. It's heat rated to 480°F and great for frying and roasting in the oven. Like the other aluminum pan we tested, it's a superb piece of cookware that cleans up as easily as it heats up, and it's the only pan in our test that comes with a glass lid, which we found very useful.
The Whatever Pan produced great results and didn't have much in the way of drawbacks. It is aluminum, so metal utensils will damage its nonstick finish. It heats up quickly, and its handles are not insulated, so be mindful when it's on the range. This is a great all-around pan, as the name implies, and we believe you'll be more than satisfied if you choose to pick one up for your kitchen at a low-risk price.
Big meals are a cinch on the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Reversible Griddle. The grill side left nice marks on the foods we tested, and the flat griddle was great for churning out large batches of pancakes. On the grill side, the Lodge Reversible has a channel allowing grease to flow away when cooking fattier cuts.
The Lodge Reversible is a hand wash only cast iron, and the ridges in the grill can be tedious to clean. What's more, this is the heaviest pan tested. At 13.5 lbs, it's likely to be one of the more cumbersome pans in your kitchen. It's still a great piece of equipment to own, especially for someone who cooks larger portions or meal preps.
Why You Should Trust Us
Head tester Matt Rowe is no stranger in the kitchen. Having spent several years in the restaurant industry as a prep cook and a server, he has plenty of experience cooking hundreds of dishes using countless utensils and pan varieties. This experience instilled a passion for home cooking in Matt, who now enjoys foraging forests for mushrooms, selecting the best zucchinis from his garden, and politely asking for cuts of venison from the hunters in his family. Matt might be happiest when preparing delicious, delicate, and savory meals for his friends and family.
Matt worked with our editorial team to research the market for the most popular and high-performing grill pans available. We chose the most appealing options to purchase and test for two weeks of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. On top of everyday use, we created a gauntlet of tests designed to highlight performance advantages and let-downs. First and foremost, our grill pan had to produce quality meals and noticeable grill marks. We seared a variety of meats, vegetables, fruit, and bread over the course of our testing. We carefully assessed all construction features, materials, and a few accessories that came with some of the pans we purchased. Finally, we tested for ease of cleaning by hand-washing each pan after every meal our team cooked.
Analysis and Test Results
Grill pans are only differentiated from other styles of pans by raised ridges that produce the namesake grill marks. Die-cast aluminum, cast iron, enameled cast iron, & Thermolon-coated ceramic were some of the materials of the pans we tested, and they each had unique properties. The pans came in a variety of shapes, and a few even came with accessories of varying usefulness. Metrics such as quality, durability, and ease of cleaning are the same as what we would use for testing any other pot, pan, or cooking utensil, and we focused on their cooking performance and searing ability.
A pan must first and foremost be judged by its ability to cook a fantastic meal. Using a temperature gun, we measured how quickly and evenly each pan heated up on a gas range. Readings from all over the pans and handles after a minute on high heat showed us which pans distributed heat the most evenly. We also recorded the time it took each pan to reach 300, 350, and 400°F. We let the pans reach 415-425°F and seared rounds of pork chops and ahi tuna steaks for a few minutes on each side, then removed the pans from the heat and once again used the temperature gun to check how the heat dissipated at 1-minute intervals. To test how food sticks to the pan, we seared bread, yellow squash & fresh peaches with and without oil.
Most pans heated up quickly and evenly, and all were capable of producing an excellent sear. Cast irons like the Lodge and Vremi recorded the most even temps after a minute of high heat, while the thin aluminum Calphalon had the biggest discrepancies. Despite this, the food we cooked in the Calphalon and other nonsticks like the GreenPan seemed to come out slightly nicer compared to the cast iron pans. Both Lodge pans, the Vremi and the Nutrichef left nice defined grill marks in tuna steaks, pork chops, and peaches. The Nutrichef and Lodge Reversible griddles didn't heat as evenly due to their long shape and gas range heat source but still made a splendid sear on the meats and vegetables we tested.
Quality & Durability
Judging quality involved an assessment of all construction features from the handle to the extra accessories. We judged durability by noting whether or not the pans showed wear and tear after weeks of cooking and deliberate use with metal utensils, even on the more vulnerable nonsticks. Most of the pans came with instructions on how to care for and maintain the pan properly, and our testing team followed all guidelines to make sure the pans made good on their claims. Aesthetic appeal was also taken into consideration.
The cast iron models edged the competition in this category, lacking nonstick coatings that steel utensils could scratch. Le Creuset, which has an attractive enamel coating, was resilient to our use of steel spatulas. It also included a convenient booklet detailing specifically how to care for and maintain the pan. As for the nonsticks, our team appreciated the bolted-on steel handles of the The Calphalon Panini Pan and the GreenPan that didn't require a potholder to grab while cooking. We wished the silicone grabbers on the Nutrichef were better at keeping our hands from feeling the heat of the hot pan. The silicone handle-cover that comes with the Vremi worked well.
The Jean Patrique Whatever Pan's glass lid was easily the most useful and appreciated accessory. All of the nonsticks, even the Thermolon-coated GreenPan, showed visible scratches from use with metal utensils.
Ease of Cleaning
Round after round of cooking and searing were followed by rounds of hand-washing and scrubbing. For some rounds, we washed immediately after cooking, while others, we let the pans sit for over an hour before cleaning up. We followed maintenance guidelines for each pan, which meant no soap for the cast irons (except for Le Creuset). We only used dish soap, a soft cloth-covered sponge, and a hard bristle brush during the hand-washes. Nonstick pans (except for the Calphalon) also took a spin in the dishwasher.
As expected, pans with nonstick coatings such as the Jean Patrique Whatever Pan and the GreenPan were far easier to clean than the cast irons. Grease and fat came off these pans rather effortlessly, often with just a blast of hot water from the faucet. The Le Creuset lived up to its easier cleaning claim. The enamel coating was stickier than the nonsticks, but we found the grease to scrub off much easier than all the other stubborn cast iron pans. In fact, the Vremi, Nutrichef, and Lodge cast irons with their deep ridges and aversion to soap were quite tedious to clean if not taken care of shortly after cooking.
A nice grill pan can elevate your cooking and eating experience, and we want you to find that one that suits your culinary needs best. We found that each pan tested was capable of producing a nice sear on a variety of foods, and with proper care, were relatively easy to clean and maintain. The right model for your kitchen depends on what you like to cook and how much time you want to spend maintaining your pan's surface, but any of the options we tested are capable of producing great meals.
— Matt Rowe
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