Using a grill pan allows you to grill indoors, eliminating the need to light an outdoor grill with charcoal or propane gas, which is particularly convenient for those who live in apartment buildings where owning barbecue grills is not allowed. A grill pan is also convenient to prepare grilled foods at any time and regardless of the weather. You can use a grill pan on a flattop stove as long as you select the right type of pan and use it correctly.
Grill Pan Choices
Most grill pans are made of cast iron and have raised diagonal grates about every half inch. The food is placed on top of the grates on the grill pan to cook, and the grates give the food a charred appearance and grill marks. Grill pans made of cast iron are common because they can absorb a high degree of heat. Cast iron grill pans are used indoors and outdoors on electric and gas stoves and inside of ovens. Stainless steel and aluminum grill pans have coated nonstick interior surfaces. These types of pans are safer to use on all types of electric stoves.
Under-the-Surface Burners Vs. Exposed Burners
You can use a cast iron grill pan easier and safer on electric stoves with exposed, flat coil burners or European-style circular disc heating elements. These types of heating elements are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the pan and do not scratch easily. While you can use a cast iron pan on a flat, smooth-top electric stove in which the burners are underneath the glass stovetop, you must be very careful. Gently lower the pan onto the stovetop surface, and do not shift or slide it over the surface. If you do, you run the risk of scratching the ceramic glass stovetop. To avoid risks, look for a grill pan with a stainless steel or aluminum exterior.
The major advantage of using a grill pan on a flattop stove is that you can grill indoors and bypass the time and tasks involved in outdoor grilling. The grill pan will give foods those prized char marks, which serve as the visual symbol and sure sign that the food was grilled and not baked, broiled or fried. Grilling is also quicker than other cooking methods, keeps foods moist and flavorful and is a healthy alternative because it keeps foods moist and you don't load them up with batters or lots of oil, which also loads food up with calories.
The biggest downside to using a grill pan on flattop electric stove is the amount of extra care you must give to using the pan appropriately. Instruct guest chefs in your home on using the pan properly if you have a ceramic glass cooktop. Because the food is elevated, it will not make direct contact with the surface of the pan. As a result, food can look done on the outside, but it's uncooked inside. One way to get around this problem is to transfer the food into a hot oven for 5 or 10 minutes after cooking it on the stovetop to ensure that it's thoroughly cooked.