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Old 06-19-2012, 04:42 PM   #1
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Grill pan: cast-iron vs. non-stick

I am interested in buying a grill pan, since I live in an apartment where outdoor grills are not permitted. I have been looking around and I am having a tough time deciding between the Lodge 10-inch square cast iron grill pan and the Calphalon Unison 12-inch circle non-stick grill pan. At first I thought the cast-iron since they are supposed to hold up well and have good heat retention. But then I read Cook’s Illustrated’s review of grill pans and they basically say to not buy cast iron (due to clean up). But… I also thought non-stick surfaces were not good to heat to high heat, which I assume would be needed to get good grill marks? So I am a little torn on which to choose. Does anyone have any recommendations between these two or any other grill pan?

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Old 06-19-2012, 05:06 PM   #2
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I don't own either but I would get cast iron because if you take care of it then you can use it forever.

That and I want a cast iron pan bad.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:10 PM   #3
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One issue with grill pans is smoke. Be sure you have a very good ventilation system before you get one. One that blows back into the kitchen won't do the trick. You'll be setting off smoke alarms.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:22 PM   #4
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I have a cast-iron grill pan and loooooove it! I did take a little while to season it to perfection but once it was seasoned, it's awesome.

Andy's correct about the potential for some smoke but that's not really been a problem I've experienced. The first kitchen I used the pan in didn't have any kind of ventilation system, the current kitchen has an over-the-range ventilation fan, but it doesn't vent outside. We have had no problems.
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Old 06-19-2012, 05:37 PM   #5
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I like my cast iron cookware for anything which needs to be cook very hot and fast.....like steaks. Clean up is easy, but weight can be an issue for some.
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:01 PM   #6
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Properly seasoned, cast iron is not difficult to clean. It definitely gets my vote. I have a round one and a rectangular one.
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:02 PM   #7
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I agree, go for the cast iron.
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadfix View Post
I like my cast iron cookware for anything which needs to be cook very hot and fast.....like steaks. Clean up is easy, but weight can be an issue for some.
I suppose so but, even though I have a huge challenge with severe arthritis in both my hands, I WILL NEVER GIVE UP my cast-iron. I have devised ways to handle the weight and will continue until I have my hands repaired.

Still, I endorse cast-iron for any piece. It will serve you well.
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:44 PM   #9
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I had a grill pan but got rid of it. I just use the 10" or 12" skillet
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:03 PM   #10
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I don't have any grill but I have a cast iron skillet I sometimes use for grilling steaks. It works fine for me. I clean it off with a nylon scrubber and plain water, no soap, no problems. It's heavy but my hands and wrists are strong and I have no problem with the weight. It does generate a lot of smoke when grilling steaks.

One thing for sure, it will last forever, surely longer than I have on this planet.

In worst case you spray on oven cleaner, let it sit, scrub with soap and abrasive pad, then re-season it. I've never had to do that. My mom gave me the skillet decades ago. It was an old skillet she had for decades too. It's probably easily 50 years old. Probably easily good for another 50 years, maybe even 100 years. As long as you don't just leave it sitting in water for a long time, like in your garden for a year or two.
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:14 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
I had a grill pan but got rid of it. I just use the 10" or 12" skillet

Me too. Grill pans don't grill your food.
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Old 06-20-2012, 03:09 PM   #12
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I just wanna say that you can buy a Lodge preseasoned grill pan, and to that I say a big ThankYou to Lodge. I just couldn't get my cast iron pans seasoned right. Lodge's preseasoned pans kinda rock.
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Old 06-20-2012, 04:14 PM   #13
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...Lodge's preseasoned pans kinda rock.

Yes, they do. It's pretty good seasoning too. It's a good starting point to build on.
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Old 06-20-2012, 04:44 PM   #14
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The only things I use a non-stick pan for are eggs and crepes. I have a round cast-iron grill pan and a Le Creuset enameled panini pan (basically a square grill pan with a lid to make panini). I prefer the Le Creuset, partly because it's square (I find the food I usually cook in it fits better) and partly because it cleans up so easily and needs no seasoning.
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Old 06-21-2012, 11:01 AM   #15
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Just out of curiosity... why does a grill pan necessarily result in more smoke than a skillet?
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Old 06-21-2012, 11:27 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by crankin View Post
Just out of curiosity... why does a grill pan necessarily result in more smoke than a skillet?
It doesn't. The thing is, a cast-iron pan (any type) that has been heated to screaming hot will create more smoke than a non-stick pan, which is not intended to be heated that hot; in fact, I don't think it's safe to heat them that high.
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Old 06-21-2012, 11:38 AM   #17
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GotGarlic, that is exactly why I would not buy a non-stick grill pan--the coating gives off fumes when it gets too hot. A grill pan needs to be HOT.
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Old 06-21-2012, 01:41 PM   #18
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cast iron. for all the reasons you heard before.
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Old 06-21-2012, 02:01 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
It doesn't. The thing is, a cast-iron pan (any type) that has been heated to screaming hot will create more smoke than a non-stick pan, which is not intended to be heated that hot; in fact, I don't think it's safe to heat them that high.
+1

Not exactly why the cast iron makes more smoke and not sure I've adequately tested that, but think that's right. There's no way I'll heat a coated pan that hot no matter what the manufacturer says.

Iron is virtually indestructible and won't come off in your food unless you cook acidic items (e.g. tomatoes).

Quote:
Originally Posted by sparrowgrass View Post
GotGarlic, that is exactly why I would not buy a non-stick grill pan--the coating gives off fumes when it gets too hot. A grill pan needs to be HOT.
+2

I would be more comfortable with a coated electric panini grill where the manufacturer has designed it for specific use with built in heating. OTOH you could heat a pan to almost any temperature you want, certainly several hundred degrees F, far hotter than would be safe to heat a coated pan. I'm not sure that would be a good idea for cast iron either but at least you know it won't give off toxic chemicals.

Iron is actually a necessary part of our diet. :)
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Old 06-21-2012, 02:12 PM   #20
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I gave away my cast iron grill pan, which is what I recommend for grill pans, and currently use a carbon steel pan, the thick heavy type, not black steel, for searing meat. Finish in the broiler, same pan. Carbon steel seasons like cast iron, and each pan develops its own personality, depending of what you mostly sear and broil in it. Cows...very nice. Good for pigs, too.
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