I'm a cast iron skillet evangelist. Whenever friends tell me they're trying to cook at home more, I roll out my righteous sermon about how they really really need to invest in a cast iron skillet. You can cook absolutely anything in them! They're a cinch to clean, what with their non-stick powers and the pursuit of building up a patina! You can sear, sauté, caramelize, stir fry, and even roast in them! A stove top looks lonely without one! And cast iron skillets are indestructible to the point where I joke that if an intruder were ever to make their way into my apartment, I’d reach for my trusty ol' cherry red Le Creuset 12-incher to fend them off. Shamefully, then, for the last year or so I've been cheating on my cast iron skillet every weekend morning.
It all happened when, in a bid to snap out of the same old kitchen routine, I stumbled across the lesser-heralded round skinny grill pan. Effectively a smaller version of a skillet but with the addition of alluring ridges, I figured it would be a decent solution to grilling burgers and veggies indoors in a New York City apartment. But it wasn't long before I realized that the round skinny grill pan comes into its own when breakfast time calls—and now it's usurped my beloved skillet as the pan of choice.
First up, these grill pans make the best toast. There's no more seductive early morning sight than dark grill marks on your bread. Just turn the burner to a low setting, place your bread of choice on the grill pan (adding butter or oil if you so desire) and let the magic happen. It obviously takes a lot longer than using the toaster, but I've come to think of the wait as part of the charm of the grill pan: It thrives on a gentle heat setting, which fits into the rhythm of pottering around the kitchen on a lazy weekend morning when breakfast is to be enjoying as a full sensory experience, not just something to rush and smush into your mouth before hopping a train to work.
On those days when breakfast seems like yet another challenge in finding a fresh way to combine eggs and bread, the indoor grill pan encourages you to glance over to the vegetable drawer and add more produce to your repertoire. You can coat almost any vegetable in oil, salt and pepper—or marinate in your concoction of choice—and grill it into an easy and appealing accompaniment. As a starter, strips of eggplant and zucchini can give your first meal of the day a mediterranean twang (and go great in a bacon sandwich), but the indoor grill pan lends itself to far more: Okra chars wonderfully and will convert those averse to its slimy side; peas in the pod become a snappy twist on edamame; chunks of bitter lettuces like endive and radicchio reveal a smoky depth on the grill pan; and simply throwing on kale leaves gives you a healthy alternative to chomping through a bag of potato chips before your coffee. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
In fact, the only thing I've not yet attempted to breakfast up on my treasured indoor grill pan are eggs—and there’s an aluminum foil hack for that.