Can you put a stainless steel pan on the grill? Are you confused?
Most people who know their way around the kitchen will agree that a good stainless steel pan is worth the investment.
Considering its utility, durability, and versatility, it’s practically a must-have for kitchenware, but what about the grilling?
The short answer is NO!
Generally, stainless steel pans are made for cooking at low to moderate cooking temperatures and hence cannot be put on a grill.
While some pans can withstand temperatures as high as 600 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), a grill can potentially reach higher temperatures that may damage the standard stainless steel pan.
So, it’s best to leave it indoors the next time you have a barbecue.
The Difference Between Stovetop Cooking and Grilling
Let’s first understand the difference between these cooking methods.
Grilling typically involves placing food on a rack or grate directly on a heat source at a very high temperature.
The direct heat cooks the surface of the food and produces the smoky flavor and crust that’s characteristic of grilled food.
Stovetop cooking is different because the food is not placed directly on a heat source.
Instead, the food is cooked in a pot or a pan that concentrates the heat at the bottom of the cooking vessel.
In this method, the heat is distributed to cook the food inside and outside rather consistently and evenly, so there’s less crust and satisfying smokiness and a more uniform flavor.
Note: When grilling, food is cooked directly on a heat source, whereas on a stovetop, food is cooked indirectly, in a vessel, like a pot or a pan.
Charcoal Grill and Stainless Steel Are Not Friends
Charcoal grills can reach temperatures well over 600°F, which is the threshold of some more high-end stainless steel pans.
Excessively high temperatures can cause a stainless steel pan to expand and lose its shape, also known as warping.
It’s possible to reverse such distortions sometimes, but a pan can become permanently scorched and warped if it happens continuously.
If you prefer to use a pan when grilling on charcoal, it’s best to use more heavy-duty, oven-safe options, like a cast-iron skillet or a (thick-bottomed) carbon steel pan for this purpose.
A cast-iron skillet can withstand ridiculously high temperatures, as high as 1500°F, and not that any food requires that much heat.
Pay attention to the pan’s handles’ material. Plastic, silicone, or wooden handles should not come in contact with high heat.
Also, not all metal handles are as heat resistant as the pan itself, so it’s best to use a kitchen towel or an oven mitt to avoid damaging the pan’s handle, or worse, burning your hand!
That’s not the type of meat you want to grill.
The high temperature of a charcoal grill can warp a stainless steel pan, so it’s better to use a cast-iron skillet or carbon steel pan for grilling.
Gas Grills- The Exception to the Rule?
Now that we’ve come to the understanding that using stainless steel pans on charcoal grills is a no-no.
Some of you may be wondering what about gas grills?
Some consider gas grills a hybrid between a gas stove and a high-powered oven. Gas grills don’t tend to get as hot as charcoal grills, with temperatures reaching up to 550°F.
So, if you have a stainless steel pan suitable for use in the 500-550°F temperature range and doesn’t have a plastic or silicone handle, you may be able to put it on a gas grill.
Because gas grills don’t get as hot as charcoal grills, you may be able to use your stainless steel pan on it.
Can You Put a Stainless Steel Pan on the Grill?
While it is possible to cook with a stainless steel pan on a gas grill, there are still better options so that you don’t risk damaging a pricy pan.
After all, a good quality stainless steel pan can cost you a hundred dollars or more, whereas a solid cast iron skillet will cost you about twenty-five.
So, it’s probably best to keep your good stainless steel pan in the kitchen and use your more rigid carbon steel or cast iron skillets for outdoor cooking.
Consider that excessively high temperatures can remove the skillets’ seasoning, but you can always re-season the pan if you notice this.
If you still choose to use your stainless steel pan on a gas grill, ensure that your pan has a bare-steel cooking surface, as coated surfaces are easily damaged and unsafe when exposed to high temperatures.
Tip: If you don't want to risk damaging an expensive stainless steel pan by using it on a grill, opt for a more affordable oven-safe pan.
The Benefits of Stainless Steel Pans
They may not be suitable for grilling, but you’ll find that your stainless steel pan is one of the most valuable types of cookware to own.
First off, they’re a lot lighter than cast iron skillets and more long-lasting and sturdy than nonstick pans.
A good stainless still pan can stay in good condition for at least a decade if cared for correctly. You have some that can last generations.
Stainless steel kitchenware is also healthier than nonstick varieties that can release harmful chemicals when scratched. Besides charcoal grilling, you can use a stainless steel pan for nearly any other cooking method.
Although stainless steel pans aren’t suitable for high-temperature grilling, they have many other uses and benefits.
How to Protect your Stainless Steel Pan?
If you want to get your money’s worth out of your stainless steel pan, there are some protective measures you can take to extend its life and prevent it from warping and spotting:
Do not put your pan through “temperature shock,” for example, placing a hot pan on a cold surface or under cold water.
Avoid using metal utensils when stirring or removing food from a stainless steel pan. Instead, use wooden or silicone utensils.
To clean a stainless steel pan,
- Allow it to cool down for at least 15 minutes after using it, and then wash it with warm soapy water.
- Scrub tougher stains, gently, with a bit of baking soda, but avoid using harsh detergents.
- Dry the pan completely before storing it away to prevent spotting.
You can extend the life of your stainless steel pan by not exposing it to extreme temperature changes, scratching its surface with sharp cooking utensils, and by properly washing and drying it.
Special Stainless Steel Pans
If you’re an experienced cook, you’ve probably noticed that stainless steel pans don’t heat up as quickly as some of your other pans.
That’s because standard stainless steel isn’t a good heat conductor; however, it can bear moderately high temperatures without getting damaged.
Now, it’s a different league when it comes to stainless steel pans that combine other metals that are better heat conductors, like aluminum or copper.
You’ll find these types of pans suitable for high-temperature cooking.
Note: Stainless steel isn't a good heat conductor.
But, pans that combine the material with excellent heat conductor metals like copper and aluminum will make the pan more resistant to high temperatures.
Can you put a stainless steel pan on the grill? When it comes to charcoal grilling, it’s best to avoid using a stainless steel pan at all costs.
Pots and pans come in many shapes and materials, each having its best purpose and ideal temperatures.
Most kitchenware experts will agree that unnecessarily high temperatures can wreak havoc on your pots and pans when you deviate from their designed usage.
On the other hand, gas grilling is safer, but it’s still wise to check your pan’s user manual to see the temperature it can truly withstand.
If you don’t want to risk ruining a perfectly good stainless steel pan, opt for an affordable oven-safe pan that can take the heat of an open grill.