Spring is amazing. The smells. The birds chirping again. The sun is getting stronger every day.
And the garage transforms from its winter slumber.
One of the things in my garage last winter was my 28″ Blackstone Griddle. We had done a few winter cooks with it, searing some steaks, making a few batches of pancakes. In the winter it does still work, but it’s not quite the same experience when gridding at zero degree temps in the garage.
Next fall I’m going to think real hard about coming up for a better winter home for it.
When spring hit, we decided it was time to move it out to the deck. Moving it wasn’t hard. I disconnected the propane tank, removed the steel top, and walked it through the house with my six year old carrying the lighter half. Then I was able to bring the top, and then the tank, both on my own. Score another win for the griddle. That was so easy.
As I put all eight burgers, then a pile of chicken, and a pile of potatoes on the griddle, I was once again mesmerized by the raw efficiency of the cooking process, and the deliciousness of the results.
Before researching for this article, I assumed all griddles were made of cold-rolled steel. That is not the case!
What is Cold Rolled Steel?
Cold rolled steel is different because of the extra processing done to it rather than the actual chemical composition or grade of the material. Various steel manufacturers websites like “Metal Supermarkets“, explain this process for us. Cold rolled steel is worked a second time at room temperature in order to produce desirable characteristics.
Cold rolled steel is essentially hot rolled steel that has had further processing
The outcome of that extra processing is a finished product that has tighter dimensional tolerances, slightly higher strength, and more options for surface finish.
Why should we care what our griddles are made of?
It’s the surface we’re interested in.
On a griddle, we need the smoothest surface possible so that food doesn’t get embedded and stuck while cooking. The seasoning process can mitigate these surface imperfections to some extent, because minor imperfections can be filled in by the oil that is heated to the polymerization point. That oil sticks in those holes, and creates a smoother surface.
The seasoning process can only do so much for us though. Cold rolled steel brings us the rest of the way to the finish line.
We also get the side benefits of a very durable, long lasting pice of steel. Along with that comes a slightly higher price tag for the steel, in order to do that extra processing.
Are there other suitable materials for a griddle top?
Alternatives to cold rolled steel are:
Stainless steel (Sometimes used on flat-tops in restaurants. This is an even smoother surface, but requires more attention to cleanup. A backyard example is the Blue Rhino Grill Griddle)
Hot Rolled steel (Cheaper, rougher unless they’ve done other post-processing)
Side note on Cast Iron: Anyone who has used the budget friendly modern cast iron knows the process leaves significant roughness on the surface. If you need more evidence, watch this video by Cowboy Kent Rollins. The more expensive brands will do surface finishing of various kinds to create a machined, or sanded smooth surface. This can be a good option, but is more costly, especially at the surface size we’re looking for in a griddle.
What should you do about with this cold rolled steel knowledge?
Look for cold rolled steel in any griddle you’re considering. If you don’t see it in the marketing material, just take a closer look at the surface, and thickness of the griddle top. You might still really like the griddle!
Lastly, let’s all take a moment, and be glad for the Griddle makers who are not just making a very useful piece of equipment, but also one made out of quality materials.
This is easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It’s something we stumbled upon this summer while combining stuff we had in the fridge. There’s something special about the crispy sour bread and the soft melted cheese inside combined with delicious contrasting flavors of a strong earthy pesto and stone ground mustard sharpness. I love this sandwich.
Sourdough bread (we get ours from aldi or Costco.)
Oven roasted turkey breast. Costco has some delicious thick cut turkey.
Cheese. I’ve done both Colby and Havarti. Equally delicious. Pre-sliced havarti made it quicker to assemble, for obvious reasons.
Pesto. Again, Costco has an amazing jar of pesto that works magnificently for this.
Stone ground mustard.
Fire up the griddle. Get it medium hot.
Head to your food prep area.
Grab two slices of bread
Butter one side of both slices. I like to put one slice of bread face down, butter up. Then put the other slice on top of that, butter down, face up.
Pesto that thing up. It’s delicious. Make sure you put enough to taste.
Layer the turkey and cheese on top of the pesto.
Spread stone ground mustard on the top of the turkey/cheese.
At this point you should have a sandwich on a plate with one open face.
Bring your prepped sandwich out to the griddle (or multiple if you’re making a treat for a friend, or your whole family). Take the slice of bread with all the goods on it and put it butter down on the griddle. Your griddle should fit a bunch of these should the need arise. Put the other slice on top, butter side up!
Optional step: put the steaming/melting dome over the sandwich to speed the cheese melting and keep things soft inside.
Wait until that sandwich is a perfect golden brown on that first side. Flip it. Keep the dome on if the cheese isn’t melted yet.
Ideally you will have the crispiest thinnest layer of butter fried bread on the outside of the sourdough. Something magical happens there. The sour flavors with the butter. Yes please.
You might be asking yourself “why on a griddle?”. Because it’s awesome!!! Everything is better on the griddle. I haven’t figured out why yet. There is something right about the experience of cooking this sandwich on the griddle.
Here it is again. It’s amazing. I’m not kidding that it’s high in my top five sandwiches ever.
There are times in life when a truly transformative tool comes along. For me, the griddle was one of those.
I have five young kids. On any given day my wife and I are cooking up a mess of food, and sometimes two messes at the same meal (dietary restrictions), which can result in a giant pile of dishes.
Kitchen cleanup can be touch-and go after meals, depending on how much wrangling has to be done to keep the young ones on track for the evening. And it has been HOT outside. Seriously hot. Don’t get me started about how I feel about heating food inside the house.
There have been many times my wife and I finish up an evening thinking “there has to be a way to make mealtime better”.
The dishes alone after a full meal prep and table service are daunting. I often find myself staring into the full sink thinking “this can wait” as we attempt to finish up the evening with parental integrity.
There has to be a way to make mealtime better
For some reason doing the dishes was THE dreaded chore in my family growing up. Repetition only served to increase that sentiment. Perhaps you can see why I say: eliminating a single regular offender from the sink is a big deal. Particularly if it has to be scrubbed, which means the sink needs to be relatively empty to get the necessary clearance to get after it. Clearly the best way to wash a dish is to not use it in the first place.
After I finished my first full meal on the griddle, I tossed some water onto the surface to release a pieces of food, scraped it down and gave it a light coating of oil. Then it hit me
I’m done. And I don’t have to wash anything
Like… for real done. The oil would smoke for a minute, cool, and then the layer nearest the steel surface would polymerize. The remaining oil would protect the steel from moisture.
I brought the pile of food inside, set it on the table and declared “The food is ready!” It wasn’t just the meat. I had steamed and grilled veggies, toasted buns, and cooked up some burgers. So if you tally up all the dishes I avoided using that night it is significant. Bonus: it remained a nice 75 degrees in the house.
This is going to be good. Very good.
Why Do We Love It
Consider the following about the humble Griddle:
Has a very large cooking surface
It can reach a very high temperature, and does it fast.
It is non-stick by virtue of a cast-iron like seasoned surface
It is cold rolled, rather than cast (aka – extra smooth)
It has sides. Seriously. This matters.
Clean up is a breeze
It can be used for the whole meal
You can cut on it
It sounds awesome. Like, the literal sound of using it.
There are just some times that you need all of the right things in concert together to make a single moment that’s bigger than the parts alone would suggest.
With that in mind, we’re going to do a series on this blog that is going to explore the world of things you can only do on a griddle. This idea will get mulled over, written about, exercised, and experimented with.
I’m hoping this will challenge us here at Griddle Smith to think outside the box, and try new things. I’m sure there are ways we can utilize the griddle that our grill-trained brains haven’t even considered. And I hope we can challenge you to use a griddle to its full potential, or to maybe this will be the inspiration you need to make the jump and get a griddle!
Earlier this summer, my friend Ian drops this one on me:
“What kind of bbq grill do you have? I’m in the market. Ours went up in flames and it’s toast.”
Woah. What!? For real?
Yes. For real. It was so bad.
I knew this was a big deal because Ian is a BBQ aficionado. If you’re invited to Ian’s for a meal, you’re in for a treat and it will involve a grill. Whatever culinary delight he chooses will be cooked to perfection, and if you’re lucky it will involve the smoker. If he has his way, there will be chicken wings involved.
It turns out Ian’s gas grill caught on fire during one of these sessions. Props to Ian for having a fire extinguisher on hand. Note to self, my fire extinguisher should be closer to the griddle. Ian’s neighbor graciously offered to cook the steak and brats so he could put food on the table. Standing by as the neighbor cooked on the charcoal grill, Ian noticed the Blackstone Griddle.
And it was there as he admired the griddle, that the idea was kindled.
After I answered Ian’s question about my grilling setup, we dove into the philosophical discussion of the ideal outdoor cooking apparatus. Later that day Ian sends me a slack message:
Check out this griddle. My neighbor has one and it is SO SO SO SO GOOD.
I had no mental framework for where a griddle would fit in to grilling setup, so in my ignorance I didn’t think much of Ian’s enthusiasm.
I had been cooking on a small charcoal grill. The amazing smokey flavor made the hassle worthwhile. And I had reduced that to using the charcoal chimney to sear up the meats I had been cooking sous-vide. (Thanks to a in-depth comparison done by Adam Savage and J. Kenji Lopez-alt)
They discovered that a charcoal chimney was the ideal way to get a delicious, crusty sear on a world class steak. Brilliant!
I still had issues. I wasn’t sure how long to wait for the ideal temperature. I resorted to using my battery powered leaf blower to get it blasting like a forge. And the grate was way to big for it. I could not cook more than one steak at a time. Burgers were tricky, but I could get two or three crusted at a time.
So like Ian, I was in the mode of re-thinking my grilling setup.
After Ian suggested the griddle, I started looking into it and decided to take it a bit more seriously. As I read and watched youtube videos it was as if the griddle-clouds parted. Sizzling sears on steaks and burgers. Veggies. Potatoes. Omelets. Hash Browns. Ground beef. Shrimp. Sauces. The list could go on and on! As one of my favorite sous-vide vlog hosts says:
And then… Pancakes.
In my family, we take pancakes seriously, which had historically meant long sessions of cooking them on our Calphalon square griddle pan on the stove. Cooking them on a big griddle would be so much faster. We had been trying to achieve Bob Evan level pancakes for years. The griddle would tip the scales in our favor.
That was enough. I was in. And in my typical weakness, I worked on Ian to convince him this was the answer for what to replace the grill with. This was the way to go. The next thing I know, Ian sends me this. One generous, sympathetic family member decided they would help replace the charred grill as an early gift.
A thing of beauty. Usually it’s enough to satisfy my curiosity when someone else does the experimenting. Something deep inside told me watching wouldn’t be enough this time.
On top if that we were renovating our kitchen and about to go camping for a week. I had seen plenty of marketing about how awesome it is to take one camping. I couldn’t wait any longer.