I’ve heard autumn is coming, though I must say it does not feel like it. (The high here today is supposed to be 41C! In Portland, Oregon!) This shift in seasons means a shift in food content, and I’ve already seen a couple of articles and ads promoting “moving your grilling indoors” with a grill pan. Don’t do it. Grill pans are a scam.
A couple of years ago, I bought a grill pan. Since then, I have used it once. I didn’t abandon my grill pan because I bought a Weber Kettle — 24 entire months passed in-between those two purchases — I abandoned it because I realised it was pointless.
A grill pan is pan — usually cast iron — that is ridged so that the food only makes contact with certain portions of the pan, charring it in neat little lines so it looks like you cooked it on the grill, even though you cooked it in a pan. (As a bonus: They are also incredibly annoying to clean, thanks to all the ridges.)
The problem is that you’re not grilling anything. You’re not cooking over a pit of fire or super hot coals, so there’s no reason to leave space between points of contact to allow oxygen to flow. Those points of contact are, after all, where flavour comes from. Contact with the cast iron (or flames), not ambient warm or hot air, is what kicks off the Maillard reaction, the chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that gives “browned” food its distinct, delicious flavour. (If you have a hard time imagining what that tastes like, think of toast, a roasty toasty potato, or the crust on a steak.)
In fact, I think the pursuit of grill marks at all is sheer folly. I keep my steaks moving, rotating them often to make sure every inch of ‘em makes contact with the grates and develops a delicious crust. (Otherwise what is the point of all this?) Hatch marks may look cute, but all I see when I look at the pale spaces between them is missed opportunity.
If you’re going to be cooking inside — though I don’t know why you couldn’t just grill outdoors in the cold — use a cast iron or stainless steel pan, especially if you’re looking to develop flavour by way of browning. Your food will make better contact the metal, which means it will brown better, which means it will taste better. (Also you’ll save money, because you won’t have to buy a whole new pan.)