Living in a small apartment in a city, I spend too much time romanticizing backyards with grills. My nostalgia for cookouts and barbecues has burned strongly this summer, and for a while, I was torn between investing in an expensive indoor grill to recreate the taste of a great burger at home or going all out with a bag of charcoal at a nearby park and public grill.
As it turns out, I didn't need to do either: I only needed to look for the simple innovation of the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle. I'm a big fan of anything that a) promotes searing and b) doesn't take up half my kitchen (or backyard, if I had one!), which is why this reversible griddle now pulls double duty on all my roaring-hot cooking needs.
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Before I even started cooking with it, I basked in the glow of the pre-seasoned condition of the cast iron. This feature was not overlooked when I was researching grill alternatives, as I've had my fair share of meltdowns after forgetting to use cooking spray. For only $30, I felt like I'd purchased a family heirloom, because despite my lack of PAM, this thing will last decades.
To buy: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle, $30; amazon.com
When I'm feeling fancy and want sear marks on my sandwiches, I use the grill side to make "brick" paninis using whatever's heavy and close by in the kitchen—other cast-iron pans in a pinch—to press down on the bread until it's oozing with melted cheese. (And don't get me started on how elevated my quesadillas are now that they look like they're served from my local Tex-Mex restaurant.) I save the smooth side for original griddle cakes (pancakes) and cook my eggs and bacon right beside them to make the most of its large surface area.
The true test of any grill alternative is how it handles the classic burger, though, and that's where this grill/griddle truly shines. The cast iron heats up evenly across the surface in less than three minutes and retains the heat, which makes short work of cold patties. Unlike typical indoor grills, there's no cover, which means no steaming and more searing. While my favorite way to cook with it is stovetop, I can't wait to take it camping: Set up a fire, throw a couple of hotdogs on the grill, and you're ready for a cold beer.
Compared to a gass grill, or even a charcoal grill, this reversible grill/griddle is not only significantly smaller, cheaper, and more portable, but it's also incredibly easy to clean. Instead of scrubbing it down with fancy, specific grill brushes, I can simply wash it gently by hand (with or without soap), dry it with a paper towel, and rub it with a small amount of vegetable oil while it's cooling down.
The Lodge grill/griddle should be stored in a dry place. Personally, I love the look of it so much that I leave it on display next to my wooden cutting board for a rustic aesthetic (my attempt to be Joanna Gaines). This way, it's easy to grab and gives the illusion that great dinners for being cooked in this kitchen—something I may need to be reminded of after my fifth grilled cheese of the week.
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