Made a Plancha

Posted by Martin Perkins on

A heavy duty, flat top surface has been on the hit list since Mark 1 of the Heirloom Burger Press. I’ve had quite a few requests to make a companion piece to cook smash burgers outside. Smart people every one of them. 

“Why don’t you just you use a frying pan on the hob” I hear you whine…nasally.

Smoke alarms. Grease spatters. That delicious but not always welcome smell of rendered animal fat lingering in your curtains. That’s why.

So we made one!

I’ve been cooking similarly on a flat griddle for ages but while perfectly functional, it wasn’t quite right for me.

First problem is that it’s rectangular so tricky to heat up evenly on a circular barbecue. Second it has a little lip on it, I assume for preventing rendered fat from getting all over your hob. I don’t need that when I’m cooking outside. In fact I welcome a little fat dripping down. Any flareups are deflected by the underside of the plancha and it smells/tastes good in the final dish.

Mostly though, the lip limits its usage for other things requiring a heavy, flat, highly conductive surface. Like home made oven pizza. 

‘Can’t peel through a lip’ as Nigalla probably said. Sexily. 

This is a thicky at 6 mm so it’s big and heavy enough (30 cm x 30 cm, 4.7 kg) to have a decent thermal mass that retains a lot of heat for a long time so you don’t have to re-heat it between smashes. But it’s not so big that it takes up your entire grilling space.

Making steak fajitas the other day, I used the flat surface to cook my veggies (safe from the negative space of my grill grates) while still getting a wicked sear on the accompanying meat. AT THE SAME TIME!

Finally, the thermal conductivity for steel is around 4 x higher than that of ceramics meaning when you peel your pizza onto it, the metal transfers its energy to the dough much much faster than pizza stones are capable of.

Say hello to leopard spots on your dough. Say goodbye to your pizza stone as it flies out the window, breaking on impact because it might as well be peanut brittle.

I had one once that cracked on its second use. Turns out it was only meant to be heated to 200c. Pathetic.

For the record, you could hoss the steel out of the window and it will defiantly end up better off than whatever it lands on.

One of the cool things about this venture is getting to tweak existing things to suit my cooking style. (Then making videos and writing about my style as if it is the one true way of doing).

That’s what this is. It’s my plancha. The one true plancha! 

Another thing I’ve come to love is finding out about new uses for our kit:

  • The Chimney Topper being used as a little vegan island in meat ocean.
  • The Heirloom Burger Press being used as a chapati press to help them puff up and the Indian mother in law who begrudgingly admitted it was better than her traditional one made out of cork.
  • The Universal Grill Handle being kept by the bed in case of intruders.
  • Or when Marty McFly puts a plancha under his poncho as a rudimentary bulletproof vest in Back to the Future 3.

Cross utility is very much in mind when creating new products. If people are willing to spend extra money on rare, handmade products, I want them to get as much value as possible out of them. Hopefully for a lifetime. Single use kitchen items end up being clutter 99% of the time. With the exception of my egg clacker. I love my egg clacker. 

So uses one, two and three covered. Smash burgers, home oven pizzas, deflecting bullets. There is room for one more.

A5 Utility

Malloys, one of the excellent butchers local to me, are purveyors of some of the rarest meat available in this country. The kind of steak that looks like the cow had butter for blood.

We were talking once and they told me that when they sell these £250/KG steaks, they ask how they intent to cook it. Most say ‘outside on the grill of course’.

Grilling, it’s fair to say is bloody brilliant. Droplets of rendered fat drip through the grates, kissing some white hot charcoal to produce a lick of smoke that rises up and perfumes whatever you are cooking. That’s the romantic view anyway. You need to have your grill dialled in pretty well to nail it.

What is easier to achieve is a stream of fat pissing out of a sausage causing an inferno and ending in it looking like you are serving literal Guinness turds to your guests. Kind of excusable when they are 10p a piece, 50% ash, and everyone is there for Kathy’s potato salad.

Turn that up to a billion when doing something like wagyu. No amount of ‘Heston flip’ technique or temperature control will save you. You’re ruining that steak and god will judge you.

You need a flat cooking surface. 

This has genuinely been a long time coming and a very fun project of trying out different thicknesses of steel at different temperatures and different heights aways from the grill.

I’ll write another post or maybe make a video detailing how best to use it soon. For now, we have made a short run of these. If they sell, we will make more.

The plan is to finish putting together a whole smash burger kit which I’m hoping will make an excellent gift for your favourite outdoor cook enthusiast worthy of your generosity.