This old-school pan opens up a whole new world of cooking possibilities.

We all know that using the outdoor grill is the best way to cook dinner during the summer months; not only are you guaranteed a delicious meal, but taking the cooking outside will help keep the house cool. But if you're limiting yourself to only cooking what can go straight on the grates, you're missing out on a whole category of easy eats, such as delicate seafood, succotash side dishes, and even baked goods like cornbread.

Enter: The humble cast-iron skillet. When it comes to cooking with this old-school pan, anything it can do on the stovetop or oven is fair game on the grill. After all, this tough-as-nails skillet was invented back when cooking over a fire was the only option, so its being able to perform well over the comparatively tame flames of a gas or charcoal grill shouldn't be a surprise. If you're wondering if a stainless-steel skillet could play understudy for cast iron, the short answer is that it's not worth it. Stainless steel pans can only withstand up to 500°F or 600°F before warping and discoloration can occur. While most gas grills won't go beyond 550°F, a charcoal unit can get as hot as 700°F.

Grilled mushrooms and onions in cast iron frying pan
Credit: arinahabich / Getty Images

What to Cook in a Cast-Iron Skillet on the Grill

Fish is a great place to start, given how tricky it can be to cook it straight on the grill without sticking, and cooking it outdoors comes with the added bonus of your home not being assaulted with a fishy odor. Recipes like this Skillet-Fried Trout and this Mediterranean-inspired fish skillet were designed to go from grill-to-table, so you won't need to play any guessing games with temperature and timing.

Using a skillet on the grill is also a great way to make a complete dinner happen: think grilled steaks with a side of Cherry Tomato Crisp or burgers with sautéed mushrooms piled on top.

How to Adapt Recipes for the Grill

As for adapting your favorite skillet or oven recipes to the grill, don't overthink it. Just follow these guidelines: If a recipe tells you to heat your skillet over medium-high heat, as is the case when making this Corn-and-Zucchini Sauté, then turn your grill to medium-high and monitor the built-in thermometer that comes standard in most grills (you'll want it to be around 400°F). Put your skillet on the grill, add the oil, and wait for it to become thin and look as if it is "shimmering" in the pan; that's the visual cue that will tell you it's ready to go. For recipes that call for medium-low and medium, go with 300°F and 350°F, respectively. And once your grill reaches 425°F and beyond, that will be hot enough to char vegetables for a stir-fry or get a nice sear on a pork chop. To convert an oven recipe to the grill, it's even simpler: just close the lid!

As you begin to ride this albeit shallow learning curve of this technique, be vigilant about checking the temperature gauge for fluctuations and adjusting the heat as needed, and rely on visual cues when necessary. But most of all, enjoy the newfound freedom in grilling whatever you please!


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