Dinner in a Hurry!

A grill pan is the savior of busy mothers and wives who need to get dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat any day of the week. Plus, food cooked on a stovetop grill pan offers you the same attractive grill marks and low-fat flavor that you get from cooking on an outdoor gas grill.

All grill pans feature raised areas similar to the speed bumps on a road. The food cooks as it rests on these bumps, allowing fat to drain out and leaving behind “grill marks” much sought after by all cooks. Non-stick coating makes it easy to flip foods and helps ensure quick cleanup.

It’s best to use heat-proof nylon or silicone tongs to turn and remove food from a grill pan so you don’t scratch the non-stick surface.

Top quality grill pans feature full aluminum heating cores to promote even heating all the way to the edges of the pan. Low sides encourage evaporation of cooking steam, keeping the food from getting soggy. Of course, food cooked on a grill pan is never covered during cooking; the key here is dry heat, just like your outdoor grill. Some grill pan manufacturers offer a press to use in a grill pan. Those are fine for sandwiches and Panini, but don’t squash the juice out of your steak or chicken. Fat will drain naturally without being smashed.

And, unlike electric grills that inevitably overcook your food, grill pans allow you to see your food as it cooks so you control just how well-done you would like it to be.

Grill pans can be round, square or rectangular. Rounds and squares sit on one burner on your stovetop while the larger rectangular-shaped grills use two burners. If your stove has multiple burner sizes, place the pan over the two that are the same to ensure that the temperature is equal throughout.

Almost anything can be successfully cooked on a grill pan. We like to use ours for thin cuts of meat, burgers, chicken cutlets and vegetables. Stovetop grilling is also an excellent way to prepare skinless fish fillets such as salmon, tilapia and tuna. For the more intrepid cook, try whole fish such as trout and snapper.

Because many people prefer their food cooked through, we suggest butterflying chicken cutlets and fish fillets before grilling. Butterfly the fillet by placing it flat on a cutting board and cutting through the thickness, holding your knife parallel to the countertop. Start at the thicker end and work your way to the thinner side. If you are a gourmand that prefers your food just a bit rare in the center, thicker cuts like tuna and salmon steaks are for you.

Most food cooks within 10 minutes on a properly heated grill pan. Preheat the pan over high heat for 6 to 8 minutes. To test if your grill is hot enough, spritz a bit of water on the surface; it should immediately sizzle and disappear.

When using a marinade or grilling sauce on the food being cooked, we prefer to brush it on during cooking. Sauce tends to burn when left on the grill for long, resulting in lots of smoke in your kitchen and blackened bits on your food. Alternately, season the food to be grilled with salt and pepper and add salsa, relish or grilled vegetables just before serving.

For perpetual dieters, nothing beats a grill pan. Flavorful food can be achieved with little or no fat. Short cooking times, spices and seasonings, and tasty grilled vegetables will liven up the most boring chicken cutlets with very little exertion.

Try one of the following for dinner tonight.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon or yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves, checked and chopped

For the salad:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 orange pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 Vidalia onion, sliced in rings
  • 10 oz. romaine hearts, checked and shredded

Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.

Whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream to make a smooth, slightly thick vinaigrette. Whisk in the parsley and set aside.

Lay the vegetables out on a pan and lightly brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on the grill pan, smooth side down. Grill until juices collect in the cap and mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Turn them over and cook until slightly charred around the edges and the center is very tender, about 3 minutes more. Grill zucchini and yellow squash until lightly charred. Put the peppers on the grill pan skin-side down and grill until juicy and charred, about 6 minutes. Turn down heat slightly and grill the onions, turning once or twice, until they are tender, about 20 minutes.

Divide the romaine, mushroom caps, tomatoes and onions among 4 plates. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salads and serve.

Restaurant-Style Steak and Onions

  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced vertically
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground red pepper
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 4 rib steaks or prime rib (about 5 oz. each)

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Brush pan with an oil-dampened paper towel or brush. Add onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 8 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Combine garlic powder and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle garlic mixture over both sides of beef. Place steaks in pan. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan and allow to rest 5 minutes. Top with onion mixture and serve.

Chicken With Cranberry-Apricot Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp. apricot jam
  • 1½ cups orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
  • 1 17-oz. can apricot halves, drained and cut into small cubes

In a medium saucepan, heat apricot jam, orange juice, vinegar, sugar and mustard until well combined.

Pound or butterfly the chicken cutlets to ½-inch thickness and season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Grill cutlets 3–4 minutes on each side; brushing with sauce. Remove from grill and keep warm.

Heat remaining sauce and add craisins and apricot pieces. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve sauce over chicken.