What Makes a Grill Pan Great?

What makes a great pan? Is an expensive one worth it? What about pans so large they span two burners? And just what makes a grill pan great anyway?

One major consideration is the height of the ridges in the pan, John Francis says on Chowhound. Higher ridges are better, since they raise meats above their own rendered fat, allowing them to grill rather than fry. Grill pans with shallow ridges are basically just lumpy frying pans.

As for material, a cast-iron grill pan heats slowly, but once it's hot, it leaves beautiful sear marks. Chowhound kaleokahu recommends buying the cheapest cast-iron grill pan you can find and splurging on something that matters more (like an anodized aluminum pan with nonstick coating).

What about those huge grill pans that fit over two burners? They're good in theory, but are troubled by hot spots and uneven heating, kseiverd says from experience. If you need more cooking space than one pan provides, kaleokahu recommends buying two cheap single-burner grill pans.

Then again, hot spots may have to do with the uneven heating properties of cast iron. ButterYum absolutely loves the All-Clad Gourmet Double-Burner Grill, made of anodized aluminum with a nonstick surface. It's oven-safe to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and easy to clean, and unlike kseiverd's cast-iron double-burner grill pan, it heats evenly on the stovetop.

Discuss: Best Grill Pan?

Photo by Flickr member advencap under Creative Commons