I just got one of these last week:
Emeril pre-seasoned cast iron 10" square grill pan, $24.99 at BB&B
Actually I had been impulse buying and due to BB&B's ultra-liberal return policy I didn't really read the package. It looked like a small cast iron skillet so I paid $20 after applying a 20% off coupon and I took it home.
I was a little surprised to see the ribbed bottom when I opened the package. Yeah, I know, that's kind of "duh" for me. All I can say for myself is that all my sharpest knives are in storage until I buy that next house I've been talking about, so maybe my current dull knives have led me into a sort of dull complacency about my current set of second string tools. Anyway, why not try it out?
We've had some weather when I didn't want to cook outside, not because I couldn't have dressed up but just because I was wearing shorts and socks and didn't want to add pants and shoes and be uncomfortable outside (I prefer workout clothes for casual wear) so I cooked a steak inside on the stove. The only problem was the smoke generated set off my smoke detector. Tossing the smoke detector into a dresser drawer fixed that!
The steak came out just fine! In fact my previous backup to outside cooking was a light weight skillet (not appropriate for steaks, my regular cast iron is in storage, that's why I wanted to add a small cast iron as backup). I liked the grill marks (super easy using Emeril's grill pan), the raised grill bottom grooves kept the steak out of the grease. I found it easier to pay attention to the wellness (or rareness) of my steak because being inside was more conducive to frequent checking.
Next chore: hamburgers. The pan did just fine. The grill marks weren't as conspicuous (hamburgers cook quicker) but the grooves kept the grease down. Anyway, you can't see grill marks on a hamburger when it's assembled, no big deal. The hamburgers came out fine. It was easy to cook one side (90 degree rotation half way) then flip it, put a couple pieces of cooked bacon and a slice of Swiss cheese on top, then I lightly covered the pan with a loose sheet of aluminum foil to capture enough heat to melt the cheese. End result: perfect Swiss cheese bacon burgers!
Speaking of bacon, this is a great tool for cooking bacon. There's something about the raised grill bottom that not only keeps the bacon out of its own grease, but seems to discourage the bacon from curling. I found it very easy to flip the bacon a few times adding in some rotations (like you do to create cross hatched grill marks) and bacon comes out perfect! No burned bacon either, it doesn't splatter as much as a flat bottom skillet so you can watch your bacon more closely.
The negative: It's a bitch to clean. It's cast iron, it's pre-seasoned, and I don't want the specter of Emeril to slap my wrist for using soap. AFAIK you use warm water and a plastic scrubber to clean it, period. Using that method it comes out greasy and stays greasy, for me at least. Not as clean as my other "no soap" cast iron cookware. But WTH, next time you use it the grease gets sterilized and ensures no sticking.
The verdict: A keeper. It's just the perfect alternative for cooking your steaks outside. I bet it will do a nice job on vegetables too, and in fact already cooked some slices of fresh pineapple with grill marks to go with another dinner, worked fine. Cleanup was the only negative. Price was very reasonable.
I award this product 5 stars out of 7. Why 7 stars you ask, WTH I don't know, I guess I just wanted to be different.
$20 after applying a 20% off coupon at Bed, Bath & Beyond, subscribe to their email list and they'll send you the coupon, and they'll mail you another 20% off coupon every month. (The first email coupon might take a few days so plan ahead.) Coupons have expiration dates but their unofficial store policy is to totally ignore coupon expiration dates, I just keep a wad of them in my glove compartment so the most I ever pay for anything at BBB is 80% marked price.