You need a cast iron grill pan. Look: I get that everywhere you turn these days, someone is trying to convince you to shove yet another specialized piece of cooking equipment into your already cluttered kitchen. You don’t need a special device to core bell peppers (this is a real thing I saw at the grocery store the other day). You don’t need measuring cups that, when stacked together, form a small plastic robot (although you may want them). But you do need a cast iron grill pan. Here’s why:
1. Grill Marks. There are five other reasons on this list, but they all basically come down to the fact that you can’t get that tasty, tasty char effect indoors without a grill pan. You can try to achieve it with a broiler, but it’s just not the same.
2. No Yard? No Problem. Does your living situation not afford you outdoor space for a charcoal grill? Get nearly the same flavor on your stovetop with a grill pan.
3. Grill Inside. If the weather outside is frightful, get your grill on indoors. Did you really want to go out into that cold/snow/rain/sleet/wintry mix/fiery inferno just to grill a hamburger? Maybe, but with a grill pan you don’t have to.
4. Vegetables. Vegetables, especially in-season, properly seasoned vegetables, are delicious. Grilled vegetables, though? A slight char can elevate even the humblest produce to new heights. And it won’t hurt several types of fruit — try peaches, bananas, pineapple — either.
5. Looks Are Everything. If you want to impress someone, go for grill marks. Chicken breasts, burgers, eggplant slices: all can be gussied up simply by giving the grilled item a quarter-turn during cooking for enviable cross-hatching.
6. That Little Something Extra. Pro-tip: scallions, leeks, green garlic, and even the illusive (and ridiculously trendy) ramp can withstand being burned within an inch of their lives, only to be chopped up and added to various sauces and salads. Works particularly well in potato salad or in dairy-based sauces.
Blogger Paula Forbes wrote this article, and you can find more of her pieces at Eater National.