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The 4 Best Pans for Outdoor Cooking

Cooking al fresco? Make sure you’ve got the right pan.

By Rachel Baron
May 17, 2023
steak on griddle system with live fire
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It’s almost that time of year again—and by that time of year, we mean the few months where we can justifiably eat nothing but grilled food. From Memorial Day all the way through Labor Day (and beyond), we try to spend as much time eating and cooking outdoors as possible.

Whether we’re using a frying pan, grill pan, griddle, or even griddle system, our hands-down favorite cookware to use is carbon steel. Durable but lighter weight than cast iron, carbon steel cookware is our Platonic ideal for high-heat cooking. Heat-safe up to 1200F, it thrives on the stovetop, in the oven, and especially over an open flame.

Here are some of our favorite styles to make the most of all that summer grilling.

For Grilling and Charring: Carbon Steel Grill Pan

Seasoned chicken pieces are being cooked in a black frying pan on an outdoor grill.

One of our favorite pieces of cookware for flame-kissed flavor is a carbon steel grill pan. Shaped like a regular frying pan but with a perforated bottom, carbon steel grill pans are perfect for cooking just about anything, but are especially handy for smaller proteins, seafood, and vegetables. If you’re using a Grill Frying Pan like ours, these perforations are optimally sized and spaced so that you get maximal contact between the flame and your food, without losing a single ingredient to grill grates or charcoals.

Like all of our carbon steel cookware, the Grill Pan is heat-safe up to 1200F, so it can be used on both the grill and for open fire cooking. And while we wouldn’t recommend a perforated pan for cooking paella or scrambled eggs, it’s definitely our top pick for perfect wings and smoky grilled zucchini and peppers.

For Searing: Carbon Steel Frying Pan

Two steaks are cooking in a frying pan on an outdoor grill.

You may already have a carbon steel frying pan for stovetop cooking, but did you know you can also use it on the grill? Much like a carbon steel grill pan, a carbon steel frying pan is lightweight and safe to cook with over a grill or open fire. And while a frying pan won’t give you quite the same level of smoky char as a grill pan, it does boast one distinct advantage: you can use it to sear and butter-baste steak or scallops and follow up with a simple, slightly smoky pan sauce.

For Camping: Carbon Steel Griddle

steak and eggs on griddle

If you enjoy being outdoors as much as you enjoy eating well, look no further than the Carbon Steel Griddle. Wide and flat with plenty of surface area, this “pan” is ideal for cooking up hearty breakfasts, burgers, and more.

Whether you opt for a standard flat top-style version (like our original Award-Winning Griddle) or something with a bit more flare (like the completely perforated Grill Griddle and the best-of-both-worlds Half Grill Griddle—our favorite for dual zone cooking), using a griddle will revolutionize how you approach outdoor cooking.

The excellent heat retention of carbon steel also means your griddle can handle a ton of food without losing much heat. Since it becomes naturally non stick with seasoning, you also won’t have to worry as much about scraping off stuck-on residue.

Because it can tolerate such extreme heat, our Griddle can adapt to an outdoor grill, a campfire, or even a beachside fire pit. Its welded handles offer safe, easy carrying from the kitchen to the campsite or grill, as well as sloping sides to keep moisture and grease from dripping and causing flare-ups.

For All Terrains: Carbon Steel Griddle System

griddle system outdoor live fire

The Award-Winning Carbon Steel Griddle brought the restaurant-style flat top to home kitchens, but the Griddle System—a modular kit that comes with an adjustable and removable Stand, a Lid, and a Grill Press—takes it even further. Designed for indoor-outdoor cooking, this customizable toolset allows you to take the Griddle from back burner to backyard to backwoods.

To set up, the sturdy, rust resistant Stand can be pushed into the ground to create a level cooking surface on uneven terrain—as long as you can light a fire or burn down a few coals to a medium-low adjacent heat, you can prepare lavish restaurant-quality meals. To reduce weight, opt for the Half-and-Half Griddle or Grill Griddle, which are varyingly perforated and offer perfectly flame-kissed flavor. Not only does this make them lighter, but it allows you to cook purely with dry heat—meaning you don’t need to pack any oil.

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With stellar heat retention and a sturdy but lightweight build, carbon steel cookware makes cooking over an open flame feel no more intimidating than cooking in your kitchen. Now all you have to worry about are the side dishes.