Which stovetop grill is best?
January 16, 2013 4:03 PM   Subscribe

We'd like to purchase a stovetop grill. There's a whole bunch on Amazon, all with good reviews, so I'm sort of stumped. Which one should we get?

We hardly ever cook for more than two, and I'd like to spend no more than ~$30-40 on this.

Also, I'm reading a lot about stovetop grills generating large amounts of smoke. Our stove sucking-fan-thing doesn't work, and the ventilation in the apartment (especially the kitchen, with its one tiny window) is awful at best, so any tips on that front would be useful.
posted by griphus to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We had a Mario Batali branded square cast iron grill pan (with lid). We got it 4 cheap but ultimately gave it away because of smoke. It was also a PITA to scrap off burnt food.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2013

I have a Lodge Griddle/Grill, and am really happy with it. Like all cast iron, you have the added task of keeping the piece seasoned.

If you don't think you'll us the griddle part much, you might want to opt for a single pan, instead of a double-burner panel.

If you do choose the panel, measure your burners, to make sure the piece will set securely.
Nothing worse than having it wobble while you're trying to cook.
It might be a good idea to buy one locally (Target, Evilmart), so you can take it back if you're not pleased with it.

As for smoke, it's when people get the pan/plate very hot, to sear meat. Get your cross hatches (grill marks), then, providing you're using a pan, finish it in the oven.
No can-do on a plate. You can do as I do; cook at a lower temp.

I use a setting between low, and medium; let it heat for about 20 mins, and start cooking.
4-5 mins, turn 45 degrees, then flip, and repeat. Nice medium-rare, and no smoke.
I've fixed about a dozen stove fans over the years, and have found them to be pretty easy.
posted by JABof72 at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2013


A bit out of your price range but back in December I purchased it for $39. Keep watching and it might go down in price. My wife loves it. Also, since it is the Unison line it is dish washer safe, non-stick, AND oven safe.
posted by NotSoSimple at 5:15 PM on January 16, 2013

I happily used a Calphalon nonstick square grill pan for years. My spouse liked the square shape because she likes to cook bacon on a grill pan, up above the fat drippings. I liked the relatively high sides of the pan, because it reduced the spatter/spitting mess when grilling meats.

As NotSoSimple notes, these pans are oven safe, which gives you flexibility.

As for smoking, our kitchen has no vent it it, and I share your pain. To me, the point of using a grill pan is to allow for searing, and that means smoke--which means we've done our share of disabling the smoke alarm and opening a window until the (often deliciously fragrant) smoke cleared out.
posted by DrMew at 5:22 PM on January 16, 2013

I have a round cast iron grill pan like this one, gifted from a relative. Have you considered buying a vintage pan or thrift shopping for one like the one in my link? Pretty sure mine will last a lifetime, given that it's cast iron, not nonstick.

Although if you'll be making bacon in it (and why wouldn't you?) square would be better, as my bacon has to be cut into pieces or scrunched in the pan.

For smoking - I have similar issues, and I open the kitchen window before turning on the stove, and I have both a portable fan (in the kitchen) and overhead fan (next room over).
posted by Red Desk at 5:35 PM on January 16, 2013

Oh, also, the higher the ridges in the pan, the better the fat drains off and stays out of the way of whatever you're cooking. And a pour spout on the side is very helpful for draining fat during/after cooking meat.
posted by Red Desk at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2013

Don't get nonstick. The point of a grill pan is to sear. To get a good sear (crispy-edged burgers with pink in the middle, etc) you have to get it hotter than most people would be comfortable heating nonstick. Cast iron or something like this (way expensive but better than nonstick by a mile, and easier upkeep than cast iron).
posted by supercres at 6:07 PM on January 16, 2013

I think that between supercres's point, which is right on, and your lack of ventilation in your kitchen, a stovetop grill might not be for you. Anything that will get hot enough to sear meat will necessarily burn up the inevitable drippings that come off that meat, and then you're setting off your fire alarm.

If I were you I'd look in to getting friendly with your oven's broiler and maybe picking up a (not nonstick) broiler pan. Since the heat comes from above and the drippings drop into a pan, you have less chance of smoke with the same dry, direct heat that you get on the grill.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:07 AM on January 17, 2013

If smoke is more of an issue than storage, you might consider a Foreman grill -- the smaller sizes are within your price range, and it's easy to do a lot of different kinds of meats pretty easily using one. Plus, the fats drain off (out the front) and they're relatively easy to clean (if you use the associate scraper pretty quickly after you're finished) relative to most pans.

Just another penny for the pond. I'd have never thought of it, but Spouse thought it might be a thing. And was right!
posted by acm at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2013

I have the Lodge two-burner grill pan and never use it. If I'm going to grill indoors, I get better results with the broiler. But if you're going to use a grill pan, I don't see how you could go wrong with the Lodge one.

You will get lots of smoke when you grill on a grill pan. If you're willing to put up with the smoke but don't want the smoke detector to go off, consider installing photoelectric (as opposed to ionization) smoke detectors. I did that, and my smoke detectors almost never go off from cooking anymore. The only time they do is when I deglaze a hot pan with alcohol and get the big whoosh that makes me feel like a real chef.
posted by crLLC at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2013

About 10 years ago I bought one of these indoor grills at a home show. Now over the years I've bought all kinds of gadgets at these shows and few of them lived up to the promise of the demonstration but this one truly does. I know the Amazon reviews aren't great but really, I've used mine a lot and I've had no problems with it.

I use it all the time to grill meat and vegetables. The outer ring can be filled with water and this stops the food from drying out. It's easy to clean and I'm still thrilled with it after all this time.
posted by essexjan at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2013

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