Using Cast Iron on the Grill

using cast iron on the grill

Grills are more versatile than you may think at first. They’re perfect for a backyard barbecue, but you can use them to cook nearly anything, as long as you have the right tools. One of the best additions you can get for your grill is a cast-iron skillet. It makes an excellent companion to a grill and will expand the range of meals you can cook outdoors. 

From bringing your barbecue game to a new level to trying out different methods of cooking, you’ll find hundreds of uses for a skillet. But before you start experimenting, it’s essential to know what to use it for and how to care for it over time. As long as you know the basics, you’ll be able to cook excellent cast-iron BBQ.

Keep Delicate Foods Intact

Ever want to cook something on the grill, but it’s soft or small enough that you run the risk of it falling through to the coals? It’s no problem at all with a cast-iron skillet. You’ll be able to cook various types of flaky fish and other foods without worrying about foil or fallout. 

If you’re in the habit of cooking side vegetables indoors, you might be running inside and outside to keep an eye on the grill and stove at the same time. A cast-iron skillet makes your job much easier. From asparagus to mushrooms, you can cook your meat and sides while standing in the same spot. Searing a cut of beef for steak sandwiches? Toss some peppers and onions in the skillet to cook alongside it. 

cast iron grilling to keep delicate food intact

A skillet also works well for shrimp, scallops and various other kinds of seafood, and you can add in garlic, butter and other seasonings without them dripping into the flame. Many cast-iron grill pan recipes are for more delicate foods and non-grillable items, so you won’t be short on ideas.

Reheat or Warm Cooked Foods

Putting already cooked foods back on the grill is risky business. Whether you’re looking to keep your barbecue warm or you want to heat up leftovers and add to the smokey flavor, you have to be careful with the temperature and direct exposure to flame. If you set the skillet as far away from the direct heat source as possible, it will still absorb heat, but just enough to keep your meat, vegetables or other foods warm and at a safe temperature.

While there’s a much better chance you won’t burn or overcook anything, there’s still the possibility of your meat getting dry. Since the skillet has raised sides, you can add stock or sauces to keep your cuts moist — something you can’t do on the grill alone. It’s perfect for keeping things like pulled pork warm and servable. You can also make new dishes out of leftovers with cast-iron grilling recipes like pulled pork macaroni and cheese or steak fajitas.

Sear and Grill 

For many cuts of meat, there is no single best way to cook. More often than not, the best method uses a combination of styles. One of the most useful and versatile fusions is searing and grilling. Searing involves short exposure to high temperatures. Grilling provides lower temps for longer periods and helps to ensure the meat is cooked all the way through. 

By cooking with a cast-iron skillet on the grill, you can do both simultaneously, or one right after the other. Searing after you cook the meat through at a low temp is referred to as reverse searing, and it is practically interchangeable with regular searing. Either way, you have to bring the pan to its highest temp before using it. 

Regular Searing

To sear your cut the original way, you first have to place the meat on the cast iron’s surface. Give it about one minute on each side, then move it to a spot on the grill where it can finish cooking on indirect heat. 

Reverse Searing

For reverse searing, you start with the grill. Bring your meat up to an internal temperature about 10 degrees lower than your desired cooking point. The differential compensates for later exposure to high heat. When you’re ready to finish it off, place the cut on the preheated pan for about one minute on either side. 

Bake Outdoors

Yes, you can bake on a grill. Cast iron has the ability to evenly retain heat, cooking its contents at the same speed, regardless of where they sit in the pan. And a covered grill provides similar heat distribution to a convection oven. There are plenty of cast-iron skillet on the grill recipes for baking.

cast iron baking on the grill

While you can bake simple cakes in it, you may want to err on the side of savory baking rather than sweet, as the bread can pick up on some of that smokey flavor — especially if you’re cooking meat at the same time. Or, if you like the mix of savory and sweet, grilled cinnamon rolls make a great skillet baked good. 

But the skillet is excellent for baking things like biscuits to go alongside breakfast ham, or cornbread to pair with smoked barbecue. You can also venture into something new, like making dough from scratch and baking a delicious BBQ pizza. From the crust and the meat to the vegetable toppings and melted cheese, you can craft the entire thing on the grill.

Increase Your Heat

Grills are only as reliable as your fuel source and the quality of the unit. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get to that desired heat range, especially if you’re trying to keep your meat away from direct flame. A cast-iron skillet can help you reach a higher heat without sacrificing the cook of your cuts. The metal has the ability to absorb and hold heat, distributing it evenly across its surface. 

To reach your desired temperature, all you have to do is preheat the skillet on your grill for about 10 minutes or so. Then, you can lower the flame, move the pan away from the heat and use the grill at the same time. The cast iron will retain the heat for long periods, so you won’t have to worry about it cooling off mid-cook.

Caring for Cast Iron

Once you start using a cast-iron skillet, you need to know how to maintain it properly to get the best results every time. From using it with care to maintaining a proper cleaning routine, if you treat it right, your skillet will last longer than your lifetime. 

Inspection

Cast iron contains oils that prevent the metal from rusting at high temperatures. If they break down, it can expose the bare metal, leaving the skillet susceptible to damage. After each use, leave the pan to cool and, once it’s no longer hot, give it a thorough inspection. Look for any patches of exposed metal. If you find any, you need to provide additional oiling after you finish cleaning it. Be sure to check the bottom, as it’s the most likely place you’ll find heat damage. 

Cleaning

It’s also important to thoroughly clean your skillet after each use. Otherwise, all your dishes will start to taste like the last thing you cooked. First, try to get as much gunk out of the pan as possible with a stiff scrub brush and hot water. It’ll take most of the stubborn bits and food debris out without using soap. Scrub the exterior as well. 

Next, to ensure the exterior is as dry as possible — sitting water will generate rust — put the skillet over high heat for a minute or two. Once the pan is warm, put about a teaspoon of a variety of kitchen oil into the pan. Use a paper towel to coat the pan all around, but be sure not to absorb too much of it. It should look slightly shiny. If you found any exposed metal earlier, be sure to give those areas more attention with the oil. 

Pair Your Cast-Iron Skillet With Grilla Grills

To become the master of cast-iron skillet grilling, you need to have a reliable grill — one with enough space to support your skillet and let you cook on the open flame. Grilla Grills has you covered. Our grills and smokers are engineered for the serious outdoor cook, with quality materials made to last. But we don’t make you pay like the pros. With any unit from our lineup, you can impress the neighbors with your barbecue prowess at a price that won’t break the bank.

pair your cast iron skillet with a grilla grill

Join the Grilla Grills family — browse our collection of pellet grills and smokers or contact us with any questions.

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