Scared of grilling? This is the only grill tool you'll ever need

Here’s the thing about grilling: It’s not as simple as slapping a steak over the flames and standing there with a beer in your hand.

Between sudden flare-ups, uneven heat levels, and that third beer, it’s way too easy to accidentally turn out dried-up burgers or a stringy steak. But even novice grillers can cook up smoky, juicy meats and perfect veg with the help of our most-loved kitchen tool: the cast-iron pan (or griddle!).

Cooking veggies on a grill has never been easier.

Cooking veggies on a grill has never been easier. (iStock)

Here are a few ways to make the most of your pan outdoors—and save yourself from shriveled-meat sadness.

Make a really awesome steak.

One of our favorite methods for cooking steak indoors is to sear it in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop to get a beautiful crust, then finish it in the oven—preferably with a few pats of butter melted on top. The only problem: Producing that beautiful crust can also produce a lot of smoke.

But it turns out you can slap that cast-iron pan on your grill and get a comparable steak without setting off your fire alarm. The pan’s evenly heated surface will produce the same deep crust you’d get on the stovetop. Skip the oven and cook the steak in a pan directly on the grill (over direct heat for a hard sear, indirect heat to finish), finishing it off with a knob of butter for perfect pan sauce. Just make sure you remove the steak to a platter immediately after you’re done cooking, otherwise the meat will keep cooking and undo all of your not-so-hard work. And as a general rule, avoid leaving a dry pan on the grill for a prolonged period of time, or you’ll risk burning off the seasoning.

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Easily grill up little veggies.

You’ve lost countless green beans, asparagus stalks, and cherry tomatoes to the cause.

But with a cast-iron pan and a drizzle of oil, even your tiniest, most delicate veg will no longer meet their untimely deaths deep within Mordor (a.k.a. that place beyond the grates of your grill). Plus, this is your one chance to justify purchasing those tiny cast iron pans that are only big enough to fit five cherry tomatoes and basically nothing else (they are also excellent for melting a sh*tload of cheese for dipping).

Check out more must-know cast iron grilling tips.