January 11, 2011

A Dinner Revolution: The Grill Pan

My own personal dinner revolution came one day, like most wonderful things, because of my darling Graybeard. He sent me a dinner-altering article from The New York Times about grill pans. Dinner as I knew has never been the same.

I bought an inexpensive cast iron grill pan, and proceeded to grill pretty much every food every known to grill, most of which was better for it. Now a standard weekday dinner is marinated meat (chicken mostly, but occasionally steak or lamb shoulder), onions, and garlic grill-panned under the broiler, and two vegetables, possibly grilled panned as well.

I treasure my grill pan, a king among pans, above all other kitchen equipment. So my right arm muscle bulges slightly more than my left because of its heft… totally worth it. Easy to clean, it’s also non-stick, without the chemical coatings that seep into your food. The only substance that might seep into your food from a grill pan is iron, and that’s good, especially for vegetarians or vegans who need to take care to consume enough iron, since they don’t get it from meat.

Those are great reasons to enjoy a grill pan, but the real reason it has earned such a special place in my kitchen and heart is simple: indoor grilling. Grilling makes all food better.

Throwing together a weekday dinner has never been easier or tastier. The second best thing about the grill pan is how quickly and evenly it cooks meat.

I do worry about char, so we try to avoid it and toss out and cut off those bits.

This way lies culinary delight:

1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. You want the oven hot and evenly heated for the magic to happen.

2. Turn on the broiler. Depending on your oven it might be in a drawer on the bottom or in the oven itself. If it’s in the drawer, just set the oven to broil. If it’s in the main cavity of the oven, you probably have a choice of high or low. I use high.

3. Put your well-seasoned (a.k.a. oiled) grill pan under the broiler and heat it for five minutes. I use olive oil to season the pan (which you do after cleaning it after use with a scrub brush—no soap, because the pan is porous and will absorb it), even though supposedly it has a lower smoke point than canola. Canola oil smokes up my entire apt in a matter of minutes, and my kitchen fan doesn't stand a chance against it.

4. Place your meat in the grill pan. Your meat should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Careful: You MUST use an oven mitt when touching the grill pan. It gets HOT. A standard sized chicken breast takes 4-5 minutes to cook. A lamb shoulder or small steak about 4 minutes for medium to medium rare.

It might take a few tries to gauge how quickly the meat will cook in your broiler, but once you get it right, the meat will come out perfectly cooked every time.

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