A reader asked, “Can I use a frying pan on the grill? If so, what do I need to know about it?” For the seasoned griller, this question may not even be worth mentioning. But for the beginner, it is undoubtedly a good question.
You can use a frying pan on a gas grill, but the pan must be ovenproof. Since the handle heats up more, you should hold it with a grilling glove or kitchen towel to avoid burning your hand.
Skillets, after all, were invented long before the cast iron stove—or the gas grill—entered American homes, when cooking over a fire was pretty much the only way to prepare food for oneself and one’s family.
(In case you’re wondering, we use the term “frying pan” and “skillet” interchangeably. They refer to the same cooking vessel.)
There’s more than one use for a frying pan on a gas grill. Generally speaking, anything that you can cook in a skillet on the stove or in the oven, you can also make in a skillet on the grill.
When it’s a sultry summer’s day—and filling your kitchen with smoke and heating it up so much, it feels like you’re paying a visit to the devil isn’t something you want to do—a great alternative to indoor cooking is to go outside and fire up the gas grill.
Food tastes the best when cooked directly on the grate, that’s for sure: the airflow promotes browning and even cooking. That said, a flat cooking surface can have its advantages in situations that call for one.
A frying pan gives you that flat cooking surface you need to prepare delicate proteins or recipes that call for sauces with ease, whether you are cooking over high, direct heat or low, indirect heat.
Fish fillets, for example, can be tricky to get right for novice grillers. They’re quick to stick and easy to mangle when turned, particularly if you didn’t grease the grates well.
The fish fillets are less tricky to prepare if you place your pan on the grate, preheat your grill with it, and cook them on it.
Steakhouse-style garlic-butter sauce:
Suppose you’re cooking thick-cut steaks, as most everyone does when they fire up the gas grill.
While the steaks are resting, you can pick up a pan, melt a stick of salted butter in it, throw in a handful of black peppercorns, a sprig of rosemary, some thyme, and a clove or two of crushed garlic, and—what do you know—you have yourself steakhouse-style garlic-butter sauce!
Once the steaks have rested (the process usually takes 2-3 minutes), use a tablespoon to pour the sauce generously over each, then serve to the family and enjoy.
Sautéed garlic in olive oil:
Let’s say you’re grilling clams. Sure, they’re great on their own, but they taste even better with sautéed garlic in olive oil.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over high, direct heat for 2-3 minutes, then switch it over to low, indirect heat.
Crush and mince three big cloves of garlic while you wait for the skillet to let go of some of that heat, then add the garlic along with ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil and cook until golden brown.
Pour over the clams and serve.
Other uses for a frying pan:
- Roasting veg or fruits;
- Frying eggs for a burger;
- Baking flatbread or pizza pies;
- Basting corn on the cob with salted butter;
- Preparing grilled cheese sandwiches… on the grill;
- Making smoky and meaty macaroni and cheese.
As you all can see, the uses for a skillet on the grill are many, and they are limited only by the cook’s imagination.
What Kind of Skillet to Use on the Grill
To get started, you’ll need a heavy, thick-bottomed pan with an uncoated, bare-metal cooking surface. Look for one with a metal, plastic-free handle that won’t get damaged if, during cooking, it happens to get caressed by the gas flame.
As far as the material goes, the best frying pans to use on a gas grill are made of cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel. Non-stick (PTFE-coated) frying pans are out of the question because they outgas when overheated.
Cast iron skillets and carbon steel pans can withstand just about any cooking temperature. In contrast, most stainless steel fry pans shouldn’t be heated to more than 500-550°F, so take caution when using them over high, direct heat.
Copper pans lined with tin should also be avoided: Tin melts at temperatures of 450°F and above. If you use your copper pan on a gas grill, the lining may get damaged, and you will have to have it retinned—an increasingly expensive procedure as of late.
How to Use a Skillet on a Gas Grill
Preheat your skillet for a good 3-4 minutes before cooking on it. As a general rule of thumb, the heavier the cooking vessel and the gentler the heat, the longer the preheating time that’s required.
To replace your stove with your gas grill, cook with the lid off. To use your grill as a substitute for the convection oven, cook with the lid closed (and avoid checking on the food all too often).
Don’t cook frozen meat on the grill, even if you cook it in a skillet. It simply won’t come out evenly cooked.
To thaw frozen meat for cooking, place it on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator the night before in a baking sheet with a wire rack or a deep bowl that’s large enough to catch moisture and juices.
When to use high, direct heat:
If you want to sear a thick steak or give large cuts of meat a lightly-charred crust, crank up the heat to medium-high and cook over direct heat.
Quick cooking over intense heat is also the way to go if you want to prepare thin cuts of meat, such as fish fillets or butterflied chicken.
When to use low, indirect heat:
High heat is not suitable for cooking thick-cut steaks or large slabs of meat all the way through. By the time the inside reaches the minimum internal temperature prescribed by the USDA, the outside of your meat is already badly burned.
In such a case, cook the meat low and slow over indirect heat, setting up your smoker box with soaked wood chips to impart it with that one-of-a-kind woody aroma and flavor.
Not only can a skillet be used on a gas grill, but it can also take outdoor cooking to the next level. Remember to use a cast iron pan, carbon steel pan, or if you don’t have one, a stainless steel one with a metal handle.