Plancha is the name given to a flatbed cooking surface.
For many years these have been used in restaurant kitchens, but have now started to make an impression on the domestic BBQ market.
Having recently purchased one, I can confirm they are really versatile and easy to use.
The basic principle is a flat cooking surface with the option of regular heat distribution across the whole cooking surface. This is achieved by having a thick base plate that distributes the heat evenly. However, you do have the flexibility to turn one burner to a lower temperature, or even turn it off, if you require different cooking temperatures.
The cooking surface has a smooth porcelain finish on a cast iron base. The smooth finish makes it very easy to scrape off residue / fat – much easier than many traditional BBQ grill surfaces.
From a trade demonstration some time ago, I recalled watching someone cook meat with vegetables & garlic. Using some warm water to lift the residual juices he scraped the surface clean. He then immediately placed some almond nuts on the cooking surface and added sugar. The sugar turned into a sticky toffee consistency and coated the nuts. He placed this on a plate for use to taste – no residual garlic taste from the previous dish whatsoever. With my new plancha I replicated the dishes – perfect and no cross over of taste – try that with a traditional BBQ grill !
I then cooked a few homemade burgers. A bit of fatty juice made it’s way into the fat tray whilst cooking, but with no juices falling onto vaporiser plates, there were no flareups. I kept turning the burgers to avoid the meat surface becoming too burnt & then turned the heat down and placed some cheese onto the burgers. On the otherside of the grill I sprayed some ‘1 cal’ oil onto the cooking surface and placed chopped onions & peppers – kept turning these to ensure all were fully cooked. After a few minutes the cheese had melted and the onions / peppers were ready. The burgers were moist but not fatty & the onions and peppers were perfect.
A bit of warm water and a quick scrape of the cooking surface and we were ready to cook something else.
Next I had some chicken thighs that had been placed in a marinade over night. I always start to cook these in a smooth finished paella dish, but you tend to retain too much of the marinade and the chicken surface does not brown very easily. Therefore I normally transfer the chicken to the BBQ grill. But that makes a very messy BBQ and plenty of flareup’s to manage . So yesterday, I transferred the chicken to the Plancha. After a few minutes the marinade coated skin was crispy and the chicken was cooked through. Again a bit of warm water and a quick scrape and we were ready for something else.
A few more dishes cooked on the Plancha as the evening progressed. I have to say the sausages cook better on the BBQ grill – I cook Gluten Free sausages, so very little fat coming off the sausage and on a normal BBQ grill the heat coming through the gaps in the grill char the sausage skin fairly evenly. On the Plancha, any part of the sausage that was in direct contact was cooked, but other areas were still a light colour.
If cooking on a standard BBQ grill, you are then faced with the task of cleaning the cooking surfaces, the vaporiser strips and the base of the BBQ. With the Plancha, it was a simple application of warm water to the plancha surface and a quick scrape to remove any cooking residue, followed by a wipe clean with kitchen role. Then just the fat tray to clean and ready for the next cooking session.