How to griddle your food

Griddling is one of the most ancient of cooking techniques. Pre-historic man would throw pieces of meat onto a flat stone heated over an open fire. These days we use metal pans, flat or ridged, on our stove tops to provide a similar, evenly heated, flat area for cooking.

First, of course, you’ll probably have to buy a griddle pan.

As with all equipment, it’s worth buying the best one you can afford. a good griddle pan will last a lifetime and provide you with a million healthy and tasty meals.

Griddles come in two basic flavours – flat and ridged.

Flat griddle pans can be used for making delicacies such as pancakes, eggy-bread, scrambled eggs, eggs and bacon, omelettes etc.

Ridged griddle pans are ideal for cooking meat, fish and many vegetables. One of the great things about them is that the ridges take fat away from cooking meat, making it healthier to eat.

A flat griddle can be handy for preparing egg and bacon, for example, as both ingredients can be cooked together in the same pan

One of the downsides of griddling, grilling or barbecuing meat is the very thing that makes it tasty and attractive – the charring – which can produce undesirable molecules that can be dangerous to your health. So whilst it’s OK to eat it occasionally, it’s probably not a good idea to overdo it.

For health reasons, I wouldn’t recommend choosing a non-stick griddle pan. The coating can come off quite easily and the materials it is made of have been shown to be bad for your thyroid and, no doubt, other aspects of your health.

Buy a cast iron griddle and season it with oil before using it. Look at any basic cook book to find out how to season a pan – Chinese cook books will usually tell you how to season a wok – it’s the same thing.

How to griddle your food

1. Cooking on a flat griddle

  • Either put a little oil on the surface of a flat griddle pan before heating it, using a spray or applying it directly with a paper towel or pastry brush -
  • Or apply a little oil to the food you want to cook
  • Heat the griddle over a medium heat. If a drop of water sputters violently, the pan is too hot, so turn down the heat and let it cool a little before you begin to cook
  • For solid foods (meats, sandwiches etc) just cook them as in a normal frying pan
  • For liquid foods, pancake batter, scrambled eggs, omelettes etc, make sure the pan is level to prevent the liquid from running over the edge.

It must be said that a decent skillet (frying pan) makes a fair substitute for a flat griddle if you’re not a utensil junkie or you’re a bit broke.

2. Cooking on a ridged griddle

These are the pans that make the distinctive brown criss-cross marks on food.

  • As with the flat griddle, you can apply oil either to the pan or the food itself. In either case, don’t overdo it.
  • Heat the pan over a moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes – a drop of water should sizzle violently on the surface and evaporate
  • Lay the food crossways over the ridges
  • Food is ready to turn over when it no longer sticks to the pan – delicate foods will fall apart if you try to turn them too early
  • Turn the food with a good broad fish slice
  • If you are cooking fatty foods, you may have to drain the fat off occasionally
  • The thinner the food for griddling the better. If it is more than a couple of inches thick the outside will burn before the centre is cooked.
  • Remember to turn food so that it is at 90 degrees to its last orientation to get that nice criss-cross effect

How to choose and prepare food for griddling

  • simple foods are the best
  • choose fresh high quality fish and meat
  • choose firm fruit and vegetables – leafy veg are not ideal, though fennel works well
  • marinade your ingredients for added flavour
  • blot fish, meat or poultry with kitchen towel before placing on the griddle
  • pour a little oil on the food if you are not oiling the griddle pan

What foods should you griddle?

  • fish
  • seafood such as scallops or clams
  • steaks
  • chicken breast
  • lamb cutlets
  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • polenta

How to serve griddle foods

  • with fresh lemon or lime juice
  • sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs
  • with salsa
  • with sauces such as holandaise, bearnaise, tomato, mustard, balsamic vinegar etc
  • with crunchy salads or steamed vegetables, steamed rice, risotto or other grains

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