There are few things better than a seared steak or a handful of grilled veggies, smoky, charred, and delightfully juicy. If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, that doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve those classic, seared grate marks on whatever it is that you’re cooking. Enter: a grill pan.
Like indoor grills, these pans allow you to take the grilling indoors but don’t require an electrical outlet and can get hot since you control the heat on your stovetop. Not only do the ridges on these pans create sear marks, but they also help keep your food elevated above the food’s natural juices and fat which makes for less greasy results compared to some other cooking methods. While a grill pan will not achieve the same results as an outdoor grill (no charcoal or wood chips means you might miss that smoky flavor), these are a great option for apartment dwellers with no outdoor space, or an easy winter time solution for when it’s too cold to turn on the grill. Plus, there are some great grill pans for outdoor use, as well.
In the Just Cooking Tools Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab, we’ve test grill pans in an assortment of shapes, sizes and materials to determine the benefits of each. We spent a total of 8 hours sampling upwards of 15 pans and grilling close to 40 burgers. We evaluated how heavy they were, how comfortable they were to hold, and how well they sat on a variety of gas ranges. Finally, we cooked burgers on an assortment to see how many could fit in a pan, what kind of grill marks they created, how the grease pooled, and how easy they cleaned. Based on hours of testing, here are the best grill pans you can buy in 2021, according to testing, popular brands, and editor favorites:
- Best Overall Grill Pan: Le Creuset Square Grill Pan
- Best Value Grill Pan: Gotham Steel Aluminum Grill Pan
- Best Nonstick Grill Pan: All-Clad NS1 Nonstick Square Grill
- Best Ceramic Nonstick Grill Pan: GreenPan Valencia Pro Ceramic Nonstick Grill Pan
- Best Cast Iron Grill Pan: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Grill Pan
- Best Single Burner Grill Pan: Staub Enameled Cast Iron Pure Grill
- Best Grill Pan for Entertaining: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skinny Grill
- Most Versatile Grill Pan: Lodge Cast Iron Single-Burner Reversible Grill/Griddle
- Best Outdoor Grill Pan: Weber Style Professional-Grade Grill Pan
- Best 2-in-1 Grill Pan: Food52 x Staub 2-in-1 Grill Pan & Cocotte
This Le Creuset pan is made of durable enameled cast iron, has a convenient handle with an opposing loop handle for easy handling, high ridges for deep sear marks, sloped sides for better grilling, and a pour spout.
Like cast iron, it can reach high temperatures and maintains heat evenly, but doesn't need to be seasoned or cleaned any special way. It can be used over any burner —induction, gas, electric, or ceramic. At seven pounds, it's on heavier side in comparison to competitors, but we found it easy to manage thanks to its short handle that helps balance it. With a lifetime warranty, we love Le Creuset pieces for the timeless longevity.
- Enameled cast iron reaches high temps and is easy to clean
- Short handle makes pan comfortable to hold
- Comes in an assortment of colors
For a grill pan that’s super easy on the wallet, we love this Gotham Steel aluminum nonstick pan. In tests, we found maintenance for this pan was easier than caring for a cast iron, and it’s much lighter (less than two pounds). In addition, it’s oven-safe up to 500°F and dishwasher-safe, though you cannot use it on an induction stovetop. The square shape is efficient for one burner and can fit four burgers at once.
The brown interior is also nice when it comes time to clean because you can easily spot any remaining burnt bits or stuck on food in comparison to grill pan with a matte black interior. Though this grill pan may not achieve the super charred, deep grill marks than that of a cast iron, it’s a great starter grill pan.
- Easy to clean
- Nonstick surface
- Not induction safe
If you’re looking for a high quality, nonstick option that is compact, easy to use, and won't overheat quickly, this pan is a great option. It's made of hard, anodized aluminum, which is durable and scratch resistant, with wide ridges for defined grill marks. Its stainless steel handle makes it easy to maneuver as it doesn't get as hot as cast iron ones, although we found its thin design with defined edged to be hard to hold and balance.
The pan is lightweight compared to cast iron but can still stand up to high temperatures, and a breeze to clean. Its square shape makes for an efficient use of space. Note that this pan is not compatible with induction stovetops, so plan to use this on gas or electric burners.
- Large square design with a lot of surface area
- Easy to clean
- Handle is thin and does not have smooth, rounded edges
- Not induction-safe
If you’re not looking to add another heavy, bulky cast iron pan to your arsenal of pans, this hard anodized ceramic nonstick grill pan is a lighter, easier to maintain option. It's oven- and broiler-safe, metal utensil-safe, as well as dishwasher-friendly. The round surface area heats quickly and we found the side handles easy to grab which make the pan easy to maneuver (though they do heat up, so always use them with mitts). While ceramic nonstick is easy to clean, it can overheat quickly, which makes it harder to cook a thick steak. A fitting glass lid is available, though it’s sold separately.
- Easy to clean
- Dishwasher-, oven-, and broiler-safe
- Ceramic can overheat quickly
Cast iron grill pans require a bit more diligent maintenance than other materials, but they get a great sear so we think the extra TLC pays off. This grill pan is the most well rounded in performance, yet still comes in at a super approachable price point. Its square shape (10.5 inches) allows for an efficient use of surface area to fit more food in the pan at once while staying out of the way of other pans on nearby burners. The pre-seasoned cast iron heats quickly and hold the temperature well.
At 6 ½ pounds, this pan is certainly heavier than some competitors, but it’s not so clunky that it’s difficult to manage. It's great for camping, can be used on the grates of your backyard BBQ. This pan has one long handle for maneuvering while the other smaller handle is great to use for cleaning and scrubbing — but always make sure to grasp the handles with heat protection, as they will get extremely hot.
- Offers both grill and griddle
- Budget friendly
- Spacious square shape
- Requires diligent maintenance
When it comes to enameled cast iron, we love Staub pans for the durability, sleek look, and seasoned, matte interior. The round shape and 10-inch diameter gives a lot of cooking area and the rounded handles are easy to grab, though they can become very hot. Despite the large handles jutting out, this compact, small grill pan does not get in the way of pans on nearby burners. In tests, we found that the high ridges on the pan allowed for juices to drip away and produced noticeable grill marks, though there is no convenient pour spout to pour out residual liquids.
We love that this attractive pan comes in a variety of fun colors to jazz up your kitchen space, and the coating is resistant to rusting and cracking and requires no additional seasoning like some other cast-iron pieces. Like other cast iron pans, the cleanup is a bit more involved than nonstick or aluminum, but you can’t beat the durability and high heat capabilities.
- Sleek design and color options
- Slim with easy-to-grab handles
- Durable cast iron material
If entertaining and cooking a lot of food at once is a top priority, you’ll want a sturdy grill pan with tons of surface area. This enameled cast iron is just as attractive (there are plenty of fun colors to choose from) as it is durable. It can be used on induction, and the large rectangular shape allows you to cook several large steaks or burgers at once. It can be used over one burner with some overhang, or is perfect for the long oval burner many stoves come with now. At seven pounds, this pan is quite light considering its size. The side handles may not be as easy to quickly grab as a long handle, but they’re convenient to use when handling and cleaning (they got hot, so always wear mitts).
- Sleek design and fun colors
- Cast iron can get super hot
We love that this reversible, cast-iron grill pan can not only create signature sear marks, but also has a griddle surface on the other side for eggs, pancakes, and anything else you’d want to pan-sear. It’s square shape is ideal for cooking space, as it allows you to completely fill this single-burner pan. Though the grill doesn’t have loop handles, the corner handles make it easy to maneuver the pan when it comes time to clean it (always handle with mitts). The pan is just shy of 8 pounds which is certainly on the heavier side, but the dual side handles make it easy to manage.
The pre-seasoned surface ensures you won’t have any serious food-sticking issues, and as long as you care for this pan like you would any other cast iron pan, it’s sure to last you a long time. While this pan works great over your stovetop burners (induction is fine), it’s also safe to transfer into the oven or use over outdoor fires.
If you're looking for more cooking area, try the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle. It's just as slim, but double the size and fits over two burners. It just gets very hot and often sets off our smoke alarms, which is the reason our top-choice is the single burner version.
- 2-in-1 grill and griddle design
- Doesn't sit completely flush on all stovetops
Most grill pans are intended for inside use, but if you’re looking for a pan to slide over your outdoor grill grates, we love this professional-grade pan. Made of stainless steel, this lightweight pan retains heat and is super easy to clean with warm, soapy water. The ⅛ inch slits are not as big as the grates on other indoor grill pans, but the small slits still allow the juices in the pan to drip away from the food. This grill pan is a great addition to your outdoor cooking setup because it makes it much easier to grill smaller items, like shrimp, asparagus, broccoli or scallops, while you grill larger items directly on the grill right next to the pan.
The pan is budget friendly, so it’s an easy addition to your grilling station. While you won’t get as strong of a char on the foods in this pan as you might directly over the grates, it gives you much more control over these smaller items that can easily fall between the grates. Before purchasing, always double check that this model fits your grill.
- Lightweight but durable
- Easy to clean
- Cannot be used indoors
This pan combines the features of a grill pan while also allowing you to use it like a cocotte. Available in a range of bright colors, this sleek pan is not only fun to look at, but it’s fun to cook with. The enameled cast iron material makes it super durable and it heats up quickly and easily. Cleanup requires some diligence and its heavy weight makes it a bit tricky to quickly maneuver, but you can’t beat the durability of this pan. Whether you’re looking to sear a few steaks and veggies or braise a hearty stew, this pan can do both. Though it comes in at a very high price point, it’s sleek look and dual capabilities make its price tag justifiable: Rather than having both a Dutch oven and a grill pan, you’re set with this.
- Grill pan doubles as a lid to included pot
- Enameled cast iron heats well
- Comes in a variety of pretty colors
- Grill gets hot; must be handled with mitts
✔️ Material: The first thing
you'll need to consider when shopping for a new grill pan is its
construction. These are the most popular options:
- Cast iron is a common material for grill pans; it can reach super high temperatures and hold the heat well. It's a little tricky to clean and maintain compared to other materials because it requires seasoning so it doesn't rust, but it's highly durable and will help you achieve deep sear marks.
- Enameled cast iron boasts all the same perks of cast iron, but is easier to clean and maintain because you can wash it without fear of rusting.
- Hard anodized aluminum heats well without overheating quickly, and is much easier to clean than cast iron. This particular material is often coated with a nonstick surface if you’re worried about sticking, though it’s important to note that these surfaces are susceptible to scratching snd shouldn't be heated to super high temps.
- Ceramic is another nonstick option that can heat up super quickly but is prone to overheating if left unattended.
Should you opt for a two-burner grill pan, you definitely want to look for a pan in a material that heats evenly, like cast iron, to prevent a cool spot between burners.
✔️ Care instructions: It’s worth noting if the material of your grill pan is dishwasher-safe, as this makes for a much easier cleanup. Cast iron will require a scrub and cannot be placed in the dishwasher, while some hard anodized and nonstick materials are fine to put in the dishwasher though we recommend hand washing to increase the pans lifespan.
✔️ Size and shape: The size and shape of your grill pan will not only determine how much food you’re able to cook at once, but also how heavy and how easy it is to maneuver. Some grill pans are large enough for two burners, which is great if you’re wanting to cook a lot of food at once, but these longer pans are prone to getting very hot and smoking, which can likely make your smoke alarm go off. The large size also makes them more difficult to clean. Round pans distribute heat more evenly, but you lose surface area. Square pans will afford you more cooking space, yet the edges typically don’t get as hot or heat as evenly as a round pan. If you’re tight on space and want a pan that has the most to offer, you can also consider a dual-sided grill pan with a griddle side for additional cooking options.
✔️ Handles: The material and fit of a grill pan’s handle will affect how easy it is to use the pan. Cast iron handles will get super hot, so always handle with heat protection. Metal and plastic handles typically stay cool to the touch, though the latter is likely not oven safe. Some grill pans have two handles on both sides, which is nice if the pan is super heavy, though some only have one handle, making them slightly more difficult to clean and maneuver. That said, some grill pans offer no handles, so if swift handling is important to you, it might be best to steer clear of these options.
✔️ Pour spout: Pour spouts on the sides make it super easy to discard accumulating grease so that the food that you’re cooking can achieve a deep sear, plus it makes it easier to clean and toss the fat after you’re done cooking.