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We’ve all enjoyed food cooked on a griddle at one time or another. Griddle cooked food is unmistakably delicious, whether it’s light & fluffy pancakes or the perfectly seared diner-style burger. Maybe you’ve seen photos of smiling families standing around outdoor griddles in sales flyers. Perhaps you’ve noticed more and more online videos featuring outdoor griddle cooking.
You’re interested in the idea of getting an outdoor griddle, but you don’t know where to start. If you’ve never cooked on a large outdoor griddle, starting out can be intimidating. Outdoor griddles are large with huge heated surfaces. After you hook up the propane and ignite the fire beneath the griddle, now what? You’ve got the “griddle thing” down but you’re out of your element. What do you cook and how do you cook it? How do you clean a 55lb. steel griddle top? You might have lots of questions but most answers come with practice.
We’ll talk about the basics and I’ll give you some ideas to get you started on your adventure into the exciting world of cooking on outdoor griddles. If you’re like me, you’ll burn a few pieces of bread along the way. Don’t worry about it. Before you know it, you’ll be wowing friends and family with that perfect culinary creation only a griddle can provide!
Preparation & Maintenance
Think of your griddle top the same way you think of cast iron cookware. However, your griddle top is made of rolled steel. The more you season it, the better your cooking experience will be. Basically, seasoning is applying oil to the griddle top, spreading it around, wiping off the excess, heating it and allowing it to form a non-stick blackened coating on your cooking surface. Regular cooking will provide much of the necessary seasoning.
The griddle tops come coated with rust protective oil from the factory. Before you use it the first time, you’ll want to wash it with a grease-cutting dish soap and rinse. Coat your griddle top (both top and bottom) with cooking oil prior to its first use. You’ll notice a brownish, black color start to appear on your griddle top as you adjust the temperature from low to high. Your griddle top is getting discolored. Don’t worry; it’s exactly what you want to happen. You’re on your way to achieving a perfectly seasoned grill that will help to prevent food from sticking to the steel surface. The seasoning also helps achieve that picture-perfect coating on the outside of your food. Finally, the seasoning prevents rust from building up on your griddle top. When you get into the swing of things, seasoning your griddle top will become second nature. You’ll do it before, during, and after each time you cook.
Tools of the Trade
First, you’re going to need the right tools to cook on and maintain your new griddle top. Make sure to purchase two spatulas because you’ll be using both hands like the chefs at Japanese steakhouses before you’re done! It’s also a good idea to have two spatulas so you can avoid cross-contaminating different foods. There are many different types of spatulas on the market. Many have slots in the spatula which allow oils and grease to pass through the spatulas.
You’ll also want to pick up a good griddle scraper and/or chopper. The scraper is the most essential tool you’ll need for your new griddle. Before long, scraping your griddle top will become as natural as seasoning it. Scrape off particles prior to cooking and scrape off food residue when you’re finished cooking. I personally like a designated scraper with a somewhat sharp scraping end. Scraper/chopper tools allow you to chop & dice up vegetables on the griddle while you’re cooking. I also frequently use metal tongs to do everything from flip steaks to roll sausages.
Lastly, make sure to pick up a few squeezable oil bottles. You can keep your go-to oils in the bottles. They’re fairly small and easy to pick up when you’re in the midst of cooking on the griddle. I always have a bottle with vegetable or canola oil along with another bottle that’s filled with olive oil on hand. If you plan on cooking plenty of Asian-inspired dishes, you can have a bottle of sesame oil handy. If the griddle looks dry, give it a squirt of oil. You get the point.
The Joy of Griddling
Pancakes are a great way to start cooking on your griddle. Pancake batter is inexpensive or easy to make from scratch. For many years, I jumped from one batter recipe to another. A few years ago, I found a pre-made batter mix that knocked my socks off. It’s called Kodiak Cakes Flapjack and Waffle Mix. If you’d rather make your own batter, you won’t have a problem finding one that works for you. I just Googled “pancake batter recipe” and found 1.5 million results.
Ignite your griddle zone and prepare your pancake batter while the griddle heats up. You can adjust the temperature as you learn what works best for each type of food you’re cooking. If you burn a pancake, you’re only throwing away a penny or two. Practice and find out what works best for you. Say goodbye to the frustration of trying to use multiple skillets all over your cook top in order to cook enough pancakes for large groups. If you’re cooking regular or smaller pancakes, you can cook enough for several hungry folks at the same time!
Make sure you have a good coating of oil, spray, or margarine before you drop down your batter and get started on your new role as Proprietor of Pancakes. Be creative. I routinely make several different types of pancakes. For a special treat, I enjoy making a cinnamon roll-inspired pancake. I add cinnamon, pure almond extract, and pecans to the batter. I’ll add whipped cream on top of the finished pancake. Next, I drizzle real maple syrup and chopped pecans on the whipped cream. The end result is a pancake that tastes like a gourmet treat from your favorite breakfast spot!
One-Stop Cooking Shop
Griddles really shine when it comes to cooking several entrée elements that will later be combined. Take burgers for instance. Start by cooking bacon at one end of the griddle with your desired heat setting. Next, drop your burger patties in the center of the griddle and don’t forget to season them. Lastly, caramelize your onions on the other end of the griddle top. As your onions reduce, you can slide them into a pile next to your patties. Meanwhile, take a slice of cheese and put it on your nearly cooked patties. Then put the bacon on the patties followed by a pile of the onions. Now you’ve freed up some griddle space. Make sure you spray a little oil or butter first, and then drop the heels and crowns of your buns face down on the griddle. Depending on the temperature of your griddle, you will have perfectly toasted buns in less than a minute. Your burger patty will be seared on the outside with a tasty coating. The inside of the patty will be juicy and full of flavor.
You are now a Griddler
The griddle will also take your grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, French toast, fajitas, cheesesteaks, and everything else to the next level. I recommend Texas toast for your grilled cheese sandwiches. Use the griddle to cook your homemade flour tortillas or toast your corn tortillas for the perfect street taco. So long grilled burrito, say hello to the griddle burrito. From corned beef hash to sirloin steak, it’s a job for the griddle!
Odds & Ends
Once you become familiar with your griddle, you will be able to relax and even socialize while cooking. With an iced tea in one hand and a spatula in the other, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to purchase a griddle. Having said all that, you still need to be safe when operating your griddle. Keep small children out of reach of the hot griddle top. Make sure not to leave any plastic bags or containers too close to the griddle top as well. If you’re cooking on an uneven surface, like your backyard, you might have to level the griddle legs/wheels with a few thin sheets of cardboard or wood.
Closing up Shop
Scrape off all of the food residue after you’re done cooking. I also like to wipe my griddle top clean with a heavy cloth or rag. Make sure you’re wearing heat protective gloves so you don’t burn yourself. Apply a coat of cooking oil to the griddle top and wipe it in so it will be protected and ready for your next cooking experience. Empty & clean your grease cup, turn off your propane tank, and cover your griddle with a fitted cover or a tarp.
Article written by – Todd Toven who is a lifelong outdoorsman and cook. He works with and represents many cooking, outdoor cooking, game processing, hunting, fishing, and outdoor product related companies. His YouTube channel chronicles his outdoor adventures which range from backyard cooking to hunting and from wild game processing to fishing. You can find more information about Todd at http://www.RockyMountainMeatHunter.com or watch his growing library of over 250 outdoor videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/praisehisawesomename
Seasoning and Care:
- Seasoning is the preparation of steel or cast iron cookware for use. There are two reasons for seasoning:
- To coat the cookware to prevent rust
- To create a natural, permanent non-stick cooking surface Seasoning is an easy, but very important first step when using the Griddle.
Unlike synthetically coated griddles, steel and cast iron can be seasoned repeatedly, constantly restoring the cooking surface. When you season your griddle, you are preventing rust and providing the cookware with a natural, permanent non-stick surface.
- Remember: Seasoning is an ongoing process that takes time and repeated use before a griddle or pan develops a shiny, black surface like your grandmother’s cast iron cookware. The more often you cook on and season your griddle, the more non-stick the surface will become.
Cleaning Griddle FIRST TIME: Griddles are pre-seasoned with cooking oil to prevent rust and damage during shipping.
- For first time use, wash the griddle in hot, soapy water. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME YOU SHOULD USE SOAP ON THE GRIDDLE. Rinse and dry completely with paper towels.
- Proceed with seasoning instructions.
AFTER EACH USE:
- To clean the griddle after each use, scrape gently with a spatula and wipe down the griddle surface with a paper towel.
- For tough food residue, pour hot water onto the griddle surface and let it boil the residue off.
- Wipe again with a paper towel and dry completely.
- ¼ cup of table salt can also be used to buff off stuck on food. Proceed with Seasoning Instructions.
- Remove all food debris with spatula or scraper.
- Apply a generous, even coating of cooking oil (olive, vegetable, peanut, etc.) to the griddle surface.
- Use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly across the cooking surface of the griddle.
- Allow griddle to cool down and store in a cool, dry place.