Grill pan gift suggestions for newlyweds
April 3, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to get my friends a grill pan for their wedding. What should I get and what should go with it?

My friends like barbecue and meat, so I thought about getting a little patio grill. I called their apartment's management office and they said no way. So instead my idea is to get a grill pan.

They have a lot of other Calaphon Contemporary nonstick stuff on their registry, so I was going to go with that unless you have better suggestions. What are your suggestions for size and model? I see Cook's Illustrated did a roundup, but not being a subscriber I can't see the results. I figured a small one would be fine—assuming they aren't going to have big parties, they aren't going to wish for one of those unwieldy double-size ones, right?

Then the question is what to go with it. One route would be to get some accessories like some nice tongs and a cookbook (suggestions welcome). Maybe an oversized container of kosher salt (I know they would get a kick out of this since she is converting to Judaism). Even with all that it's probably not as big a gift as I wanted to send them so I would probably want to add another small-medium item. Suggestions welcome.

Another idea would be to buy some steaks. Are mail-order providers like Omaha Steaks worth it? If so, recommendations are welcome! Or maybe I should try to arrange something with a local butcher or store instead (they live in Houston). While I usually hate gift cards, I think life is a bit crazy there right now so I was thinking I would get them a gift card so they can use it whenever they want. On the other hand, the mail-order steaks are frozen anyway, so maybe I should just send them now.

I'm looking to spend about $100 overall, which is why it will probably be either steaks or accessories. I'd prefer to ship (and unless I buy before the wedding tomorrow that is my only option). Amazon Prime options are also preferred cause I can ship them fast for free.

Your general advice welcome.
posted by grouse to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A grill pan that comes with a Panini Press might be worth some thought too. I have this one and love it.
posted by pghjezebel at 9:30 AM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: Good idea, pghjezebel. I'm pretty sure I don't want to get cast iron though, as I don't think they will be up for the seasoning aspect (I know it's not that difficult, but still). Here's a nonstick one I found.
posted by grouse at 9:37 AM on April 3, 2009

I'll warn that grill pans only work well when hot, because the ridges keep food from touching most of the griddle surface.

Non-stick pans tend to leach fluorocarbons when heated to high temperatures, especially where food is not touching the griddle surface. Also, non-stick can scratch, and the Teflon coating generally lasts 5-7 years with regular use.

Cast iron is safer and pretty much lasts forever, when cared for. People hand these down as heirlooms. Seasoning is not as much of a hurdle as it sounds, as the Lodge pans come "pre-seasoned", which helps get you halfway there.

If you must get non-stick, consider including a press or other weight to ensure the food touches the surfaces of the griddle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 AM on April 3, 2009

Best answer: For what it's worth, Cook's Illustrated's best recommended pan is this Cephalon. I don't personally have any experience with grill pans, but I do think a nice pair of tongs and some other accessories would be a nice addition to the pan. That pan is not very expensive, so maybe you could do the extras along with the steaks? Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what CI said since, for me, they are generally spot on in their recs.
posted by waitangi at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding preseasoned cast iron over nonstick. If all you ever cook on it is meat, there'll be plenty of grease in it and sticking won't be much of a problem even at first. Plus, cast iron cookware improves with use and time where nonstick inevitably loses its luster and effectiveness. Which of these kitchen items is better suited to celebrate a lifelong commitment?

I recently had an Omaha mail-ordered steak at my parents'. It was really underwhelming -- flavorless and chewy, and my momma can usually grill a mean slab of meat.
posted by dr. boludo at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2009

Might want to reconsider a grill pan and just do a quality cast iron pan. Grill pans don't work particularly well because there's very little contact with the food. A good package might be cast iron skillet, tongs, kosher salt and a digital meat thermometer.
posted by electroboy at 10:26 AM on April 3, 2009

I'm with Dr. Boludo - I received some Omaha steaks a while back as a gift from my brother-in-law. I did not think they were very good - I certainly wouldn't order them for myself.

I have a Lodge cast iron grill pan, and it's a big hassle and puts out tons of smoke. A regular cast iron pan, however is a must-have, and it's dirt cheap. Still, there will be smoke if you're serious about searing a steak on the stovetop.

Nowadays if I wanted to grill without a grill I would just use the broiler, a la Mark Bittman. But I'm lucky enough to have a patio and a real grill.
posted by O9scar at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2009

I had a Calphalon non-stick grill pan and over the course of four or five years, it simply wouldn't come clean anymore. Even brand new, it was a pain to clean, but in the last year, it got to the point where the non-stick parts looked like they were about to come off. Don't get me wrong, I'm no hater, my kitchen is full of Calphalon that I intend to use till the last meal I cook for myself, but this pan was a dud.

It's been replaced with Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron. I can scrub the heck out of it and get it plenty clean and it's not that big of a deal for me to keep it in good shape. Sure it weighs a ton, but those anodized aluminum pans weren't light either.

So anyways, notes about a grill pan. Regardless of which one you get, they tend to be seriously smokey if you heat them up enough to get a quick sear. If I still lived in an apartment with a centralized smoke alarm system, I'm pretty sure the neighbors would hate me by now. If you get a cast iron one, it really helps to have a kitchen brush with stiff bristles to get it clean. I'm pretty sure it would ruin a non-stick surface, so avoid it if you go that way.

If you were to get anything to go with this plan, get nylon tipped locking tongs. I have the 12" ones from Oxo.
posted by advicepig at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2009

I have this All-Clad grill pan, from Amazon. It's an excellent price for what it is, and I'd highly recommend it over the Calphalon stuff. The Oxo tongs advicepig recommended are also really great.
posted by booknerd at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2009

I'd second the suggestion of a good cast iron pan over a grill pan (cast iron or not).

I love cast iron (it's my go-to pan, despite all the name brand stuff), but both my cast iron grill pan and my cheapy non-stick grill pan are enormous pains in the butt to clean -- when you get it hot enough to cook on the raised grills, stuff tends to burn in the channels between the grills, and it takes massive scrubbing to get it clean. The cast iron is even a bit worse in this regard, since if you scrub the thing well enough to get the gunk off, you're liable to take some of the seasoning off the rest of it while you're at it.

I'd also second advicepig's comments on smoke -- unless you know they've got a seriously good hood vent fan (that exits outside) over the stove, it might be best to take a pass on this in an apartment.

I'm all for grill marks on meat, but there's really not a good substitute for getting them on a grill, where you can make all the smoke you want, and burn off the mess afterwords...
posted by nonliteral at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: Man, y'all are a bunch of haters. :P

Still, I should probably defer to your collective experience. I am reconsidering this whole plan.

I'm not trying to say that you're haters in a bad way, but I am a bit frustrated, it took me forever to think up this idea and I was excited about it before.
posted by grouse at 3:21 PM on April 3, 2009

Best answer: I'll offer a different suggestion for people who like meat. Get them a Thermapen. It's expensive but in your price range, they're unlikely to get it for themselves, and the second most important thing about cooking a piece of meat is getting the temperature precisely right.
posted by Caviar at 6:43 PM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: They ended up getting the following items:
  • Simply Calphalon Nonstick 13 Inch Round Grill Pan
  • Oxo Good Grips 9-Inch Locking Tongs with Nylon Heads
  • Grill Pan Cookbook: Great Recipes for Stovetop Grilling
  • Thermapen
  • Jelly beans (apparently Thermoworks threw some in with the Thermapen without my knowledge, a nice surprise)
My friend said it was great and they had already used the cookware. Thanks, everyone.
posted by grouse at 12:21 PM on May 3, 2009

« Older How can I help my 32-year-old sister conquer her...   |   Out obnoxiousing the obnoxious at work? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.