Since steak recipes are such a hit on bbcgoodfood.com, we felt it was only right we help you decide what kit you should invest in to create the perfect steakhouse chargrill, so we put heavy-duty ridged griddle pans to the test.
Our guide to cooking the perfect steak is one of the most popular on our site, and the fact that’s visited by over a million people a year would suggest cooking a slab of beef is something you take seriously – and rightly so. The thing about steak is that everyone has a just-so idea of how they like it served, from what shade of pink is most acceptable, to whether béarnaise sauce beats peppercorn. But aside from quality of meat, the most crucial element of creating a perfectly cooked steak is having access to a searingly-hot pan – and that's where the stovetop griddle comes in...
While a good non-stick frying pan should heat to an adequate level for flash cooking, a ridged griddle pan has the edge (quite literally), and it can be used for plenty of other ingredients aside from steak. A griddle pan's design allows for a chargrilled finish complete with darkened, seared stripes and juicy, speedily cooked meat, fish or veg that’s not suffered any flavour-sapping, lengthy cooking. This is thanks to a griddle’s weight – its heavy base conducts heat quickly and retains it efficiently – plus the beamed surface raises the ingredient from the base so it doesn’t steam in its own liquid. Some griddles are designed so that the space between ridges act as channels for rendered liquids that then run down to a little moat that runs around the edge of the pan.
What should I buy?
Choose the size of pan according to the number of people you generally cook for, but if you can’t find one large enough to feed a family of five in one go, remember meat needs resting anyway, so pop it in the oven while you sizzle the rest. Weight is more or less a personal preference, but heavy-duty griddles may be more durable than those with a thin base, as repeated use can cause metal to buckle, plus big cast iron pans can usually withstand way more knocks, bumps and scrapes.
What we looked for:
Heat-conduction: A pan that gets super-hot, super-quickly.
Heat retention: A pan that doesn’t lose any of its heat during cooking.
Non-stickability: While it's important to oil your ingredients well to avoid them sticking regardless of your pan, some griddles have better non-stick coatings than others. As well as steak, we tested halloumi cheese, which has a pesky habit of latching to pans like a limpet, making it a good gauge for a pan’s non-stick credentials.
Grade of ridge: To get the perfect striped finish on your food, ridges should be high and sharply defined, so slightly pointed instead of rounded.
Drainage: We looked for additional drainage channels, such as sloped sides or moats.
Weight: Not everyone has the wrist strength to haul around super-heavy griddles, so we looked for a range of pans, including lightweight versions that worked just as effectively as their heftier counterparts.
- All pans are suitable for all hobs, including induction.
- We tested 18 pans using steak, halloumi, aubergine, tuna steak and courgettes.
Our top five griddle pans…
Best… Investment buy
Danish cookware brand Scanpan has its own patented ‘Green Tek’ non-stick coating – and it doesn’t disappoint. This super lightweight pan is compact and incredibly heat-efficient, and if you’re a stickler for a picture perfect finish, the deep, pointed ridges give excellent markings on meat, veggies or fish. The ridges are also spaced narrowly, meaning you can create a tight criss-cross with the correct turning technique. This pan costs a pretty penny, but it’s one for the serious steak lover or aspirational home chef.
£106.25, available from Richmond Cookshop
Best... Budget buy
This handsome enamel pan comes in various shades, so it looks très ‘French countryside chic’ casually hanging on pan hooks. But it’s not all about visual appeal – this exceptionally reasonably-priced pan has high, sharp ridges, plus a handy spout for transferring cooking juices. At 24cm square, it’s neat and compact so it won’t take up excess space, plus it’s completely oven safe.
£20.00, from Sainsbury’s
Best… Design classic
It’s hard to fault the reliable simplicity of Le Creuset's enameled cookware, and the French company's timeless griddle pans are available in two different sizes, plus the brand has branched out into rectangular grills that look great when brought to the table. The classic square griddle heats to a blistering temperature in no time, and it comes with two spouts. It’s also a bruiser of a pan, and you certainly get your money’s worth of cast iron.
£55 for the 20cm version, from Posh rosh
Best… Grade of ridge
Thankfully, you don’t need a snazzy range oven to be able to enjoy AGA’s brilliant range of cookware (we can but dream of one day having the complete set, with a idyllic country cottage thrown in to boot). This is the heaviest of all pans we tested, but it’s worth the strain of pulling it out of the cupboard. We loved its round shape and red enamel, but the best thing about this pan is its narrow, high, sharp ridges, which gives real finesse to your finished dish.
£58.50, from Philip Morris direct
Best… Lightweight model
We’re not quite sure how Beka has managed to make such a slight grill pan work as efficiently as its bulky counterparts, but the brief was achieved with aplomb. The large, square surface area means this pan could fit up to three steaks in at a time, plus it heats up a treat and the ridges are nicely defined. The pan also comes with three layers of non-stick coating, meaning your halloumi is in safe hands, so to speak.
Around £39.95, by Beka
Tips for griddling...
Our senior food editor, Barney Desmazery, gave us some top tips for using your griddle pan...
- The golden rule of griddling is to oil the food, not the pan. There's no point in adding oil to the pan as it'll drain away between the ridges.
- To clean non-stick griddles, leave them to cool then wash in soap water - don't use anything too abrasive.
- Avoid griddling anythig with a thick, paste-like marinade as it'll just stick to the pan and burn. Oil or citrus-based marinades are fine, just drain them first.
- The key to stopping food from sticking to cast iron griddle pans is to make sure they are well-marked before trying to lift them or turn them. The ‘char’ marks form a layer between the pan and food that will mean it should come away from the pan easily. To get a criss-cross pattern, turn your food 90 degrees once initially marked and to get a diamond pattern turn it about 50 degrees.
- A lot of griddle pans are oven-proof, which is really useful if you're cooking things like thick pork chops. Make sure the pan is really hot when you place it in the oven so it carries on marking the food while it roasts.
For more product picks, visit our reviews section.
This review was last updated in February 2016. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you own a griddle pan? We’d love to hear about your favourite models and why you love them so much…