Frying Pan vs Grill Pan: What’s The Real Difference?

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When you’re favorite recipe calls for a pan, you may be wondering which type you should grab. It does matter which type of pan you use because they are designed to cook food differently. If you use the wrong pan, you could ruin the recipe.

A frying pan and a grill pan are very different from one another. Many people can spot the difference just by looking at them because the frying pan has a shallow and flat surface to cook on, while a grill pan has raised ridges to place the food on. These physical aspects ultimately determine how each pan cooks the food. 

If you’re a beginner in the kitchen (or simply starting to expand your cookware collection), you may be wondering what the real difference is between a frying pan and a grill pan. Keep reading as we will break down the two pans and explain the differences.

Grill Pan vs Frying Pan Compared- What’s The Difference?

In order to tell the difference between a grill pan and a frying pan, you must look at how they cook the food. Of course, you place both of them on the stovetop and place food inside to cook with these pans. Other than that, these pans are much different than one another.

To give you a better idea of what each pan is like for cooking, let’s take a look at how each one works.

Frying Pans Explained

Almost every kitchen will have at least one frying pan to work with. This piece of cookware can be used for a number of different recipes.

When looking at the frying pan, you’ll notice that the cooking surface is flat. The pan will also be shallow, allowing you to add liquid without having to worry about it spilling over. Frying pans are typically round and will come in a variety of sizes. There are also many makes of frying pans that are designed to go in the oven.

A frying pan was also designed for several different methods of cooking, such as:

  • Frying
  • Searing
  • Braising
  • Browning

Grill Pans Explained

Grill pans were designed for people who enjoyed grilled meat but don’t have access to a barbeque all year long. As the name of this pan suggests, it’s ideal for grilling meats and vegetables. Many people enjoy the charred lines on meat from grilling it because of juicy it turns out. The grill pan allows people to achieve these results from their kitchen stovetop.

When examining the grill pan, you’ll notice some key differences that set it apart from a frying pan. Grill pans are available in several shapes, mainly square, rectangle, and round. There are also raised lines on the surface of the pan that allow it to grill the food. These lines can range in size from 0.5 to 2 cm, depending on the make of the pan.

Grill Pan vs Frying Pan- Which One Should I Buy?

If you’re faced with the decision of “should I buy a frying pan or a grill pan?” the simple answer would be a frying pan. Every kitchen needs a frying pan, whereas a grill pan is a luxury item. While some people will use their grill pan more frequently than a frying pan, the frying pan is more versatile.

grilled meats

A single frying pan can be used to cook many meals. If you only have one pan in your kitchen, you would have no trouble making a variety of different dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With a grill pan, you would not be able to make a pancake breakfast or even fry an egg.

This doesn’t mean that a grill pan is not worth the investment. There are a lot of delicious meals that you can make with one. However, when someone is purchasing cookware for their kitchen for the first time and can only choose one, a frying pan is a more practical choice.

Grill Pan vs Frying Pan- Pros & Cons

To truly understand the difference between a grill pan and a frying pan, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the pros and cons. Let’s take a look at what you should expect.

Pros of Cooking With a Grill Pan

A grill pan is the closest thing you can get to safely bring the outdoor barbeque style of cooking inside your home. If you love how juicy grilled meat turns out, you can do a better job achieving those results using a grill pan over a frying pan. This pan also allows you to make healthier meat because the fat and juices drip out.

Depending on which type of grill pan you buy, you could end up with a larger surface area for cooking. Many grill pans are designed to fit over two burners at a time. Some grill pans are flat, which means that they could be reversible. If the grill pan is reversible, the other side will be a griddle which you can use for pancakes and eggs.

Pros of Cooking With a Frying Pan

One of the great things about frying pans is that there is a lot of variety to help you find one that matches all your cooking needs. There are several different materials that they are made from, including aluminum, stainless steel, Teflon, cast iron, and more.  While there is a wide variety of frying pans to choose from, there’s one quality they all have in common, they cook food evenly.

frying pan

The flat surface of a frying pan makes it easier for people to be consistent with how they cook a recipe because of the even heat flow. Most frying pans are very easy to clean after use and many types are also dishwasher safe, which makes cleanup even easier.

Always review the user’s manual of a new frying pan to see what it is capable of doing. There are certain makes of frying pans that can be put in the oven, which opens up your options for cooking even further.

Cons of Cooking With a Grill Pan

If you’ve invested in a double-burner grill pan but use a gas stove at home, you may notice that the pan fits awkwardly. This can present a bit of difficulty when it comes to getting even heat for the food. It can also be trickier to cook meat thoroughly, leaving you with a steak that is nice good on the inside, but the outside is burnt and tough.

You will need to have a fan on when using the grill pan, especially on high heat. These pans are known to smoke more than other types of cookware. Cleaning up after a meal isn’t fun either because grill pans are very difficult to get clean. Burnt food sticks to them, which makes cleaning them a chore.

If you are limited on cupboard space in your kitchen, you may also find grill pans take up a lot of space.

Cons of Frying Pans

With many types of frying pans, you have to be extra cautious about what utensils you use while cooking. If you use metal or steel utensils, you could scratch the surface of the pan. This also poses a problem as some types of scouring pads can also scratch the frying pan.

If the type of frying pan you are using scratches easily, it could present a health risk. This is because particles from the food can collect in the scratches on the pan, making it difficult to cleanout. These particles are so fine that a lot of people don’t notice them and mistake the pan for being clean. This leads to bacteria growing in the scratch marks.

A lot of frying pans are lightweight and will become damaged if they are used on high heat frequently. Some types of pans, such as enamel non-stick or glass, are prone to chipping easily.

What is the Difference Between a Frying Pan and a Skillet?

Another piece of cookware you may hear mentioned often is a skillet. A skillet is basically the same as a frying pan. This is a pan with a flat surface and slanted walls. However, these pans can often be mistaken for a saute pan. A saute pan has a flat surface, and the sides are straight.

Both skillets and saute pans can sear meats and vegetables. The main difference is that a skillet can quickly cook food with a small amount of oil, while saute pans are better for cooking that involves the use of liquid.

What are Grill Pans Made From?

There are three main materials that grill pans are made from:

  • Cast iron
  • Enameled cast iron
  • Teflon-coated aluminum

The Teflon-coated aluminum grills pans are easier to maintain than ones made from cast iron. However, they have the same effect as cast iron when it comes to charring the food. Most people who prefer using a grill pan notice that the cast iron pans do a better job at replicating barbeque grilled foods.

People who cook acidic foods or heavily fragranced foods do prefer to use a Teflon-coated grill pan. This is because Teflon doesn’t react to acid or salts and it doesn’t hold in smells. If your cook fish in a cast iron pan, it’s very difficult to get the smell out afterward.

However, if you prefer to use a grill pan for red meats, like steaks and burgers, you will get better results using a cast iron. This is because they distribute even heat that’s perfect for charring.

What are Frying Pans Made From?

When you are choosing a frying pan for your kitchen, you have a lot of varieties.

  • Copper
  • Cast iron
  • Stainless steel
  • Teflon
  • Non-stick ceramic
  • Aluminum
  • Enamel non-stick
  • Starfrit The Rock
  • Glassware

With so many varieties of frying pans and skillets, it’s easier to choose one that best fits your cooking style. Teflon and non-stick surfaces are easier to clean but do require you to be more cautious while cooking to ensure you don’t scratch the pan.

copper pan

While some of the frying pans styles may be more expensive, such as copper, stainless steel, and Starfrit The Rock, the quality of cooking is worth the investment. These pans are more durable and allow for optimal heat distribution.

For example, if you were cooking strips of chicken in these frying pans, the chicken pieces on the outside of the pan will be cooked to the same level as the piece in the center.

With frying pans, it’s easier to find one for all budgets. When you are ready to make a bigger investment for your kitchen, you can choose one of the higher-grade materials. However, if you’re buying your first pieces of cookware and on a tight budget, non-stick aluminum pans can be found at cheap prices.

Grill Pan vs Frying Pan- Are the Handles Different?

One last thing you may want to consider when comparing grill pans and frying pans are the handles. Most frying pans are alike when it comes to the handle. The handle will be directly attached to the pan and it’s long enough to safely hold. Some frying pan handles also have a ring at the end to place your cooking utensils through.

Grill pans are different. Smaller grill pans will have a similar handle to what frying pans have. Large grill pans, like the double burner style, will have smaller handles on the sides to make them easier to carry. Some makes of grill pans also feature handles that can be collapsed for easier storage.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the difference between a frying pan and a grill pan is essential before you start cooking. This is because they have different purposes. If you tried to fry an egg in a grill pan, you will end up disappointed.

A frying pan has a flat surface, which makes it useful for various different methods of cooking. Grill pans are specifically for grilling meats and vegetables. These pans have raised lines to give meat charred lines. How you want to prepare a meal will determine which pan you should use.

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