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.
That was the beginning of a very good thing.