The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Flat Top Griddle Grate

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This blog describes the flat top griddle grate that I bought with my grill and until the last year rarely used. It explains why I’ve suddenly seen the light. I’ve had my grill for 8 years now, almost 9, and one of the big selling features for me was the modular grill grates that could be replaced by other items, a cast iron drip pan, a cast iron pan with a cover and a flat top griddle. The flat top griddle could be flipped to use a side with ridges to put “grill like” marks on the cooked food. For 7 of those nearly 9 years I used the griddle a grand total of twice. For the last year I’ve begun to use it regularly and really appreciate it’s usefulness. So why the change? Well to be honest I can sometimes be a bit rigid in my beliefs and sometimes I try to color inside the lines at all times. Now if you are wondering why you should care, let me mention that while my griddle was a custom accessory meant to replace a grill grate - they also make grill griddles intended to sit on top of the grates of most any grill. Read on to see why you might want to invest in a griddle.

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This is the griddle grate for my grill intended to replace one of the open grates. It is dual sided with ones side having raised ridges to make grill marks (left) and one side being flat (right). You can also see the raised perimeter ridge on all sides & the drain hole on one of the long sides.

Before I get into the “Why I didn’t use the griddle” story, let me describe the griddle grate itself. The grate is a two-sided heavy duty cast iron unit. It is so heavy in fact, you really need two hands to place it on the grill. There are two usable sides, one flat and one with raised ridge to create great grill marks. The unit has a raised perimeter lip to help confine things to the griddle itself. The griddle does have a small rectangular opening in the middle of one of the long sides. On the flat side of the griddle the actual grilling surface is sloped towards this opening, and on the side with ridges the valleys are sloped to drain towards this opening. My grill is not on level ground and so when I use the griddle grate, I use a level and shims fashioned from aluminum foil to help level the griddle grate.

For the first seven years I owned my grill, I used the griddle grate twice to make these quesadilla burgers.

But let’s return now to why I wasn’t using this griddle grate? It was basically me being stubborn and not thinking outside the box at all. On the one hand I make far more items on the grill than many other folks I know. Steven Raichlen has a mantra to the effect that if something is great cooked in the oven, on the stove etc. it is even better cooked on the grill. Generally I agree. But where I draw the line is doing something on the grill for the sake of doing it on the grill. If grilling an item doesn’t improve the flavor why do it on the grill? During this same time period I wanted to do breakfast on the grill but really couldn’t get past the idea of what would be improved by doing it on the grill? Last summer I finally did do breakfast on the grill and learned a few things in the process. Up until that point the only time I had used my griddle was to try to cook some tortillas and ingredients for the QUESADILLA BURGERS I made on the grill. Frankly I was underwhelmed. I didn’t get great grill marks despite using the side with ridges and the cleanup was more trouble than it was worth. Then last summer I decided to make BREAKFAST ON THE GRILL. So it was with some reluctance I replaced the center grill grate with the griddle grate-smooth side up. I planned to do fried eggs and pancakes on the griddle grate, something you cant do on the open grate. Now I could have brought out the frying pan and used the side burner, but I find I don’t have as much heat control with the side burner. Soon I found out that my grill ran too hot on a 90 degree day to do the bacon on the open grate. I had the biggest flareup ever learning this particular lesson. So now I had to add bacon to the list of things to do on the griddle.

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Breakfast on the grill showed the versatility of my grill & the grill griddle grate. I was able to grill up 4 eggs, 2 pancakes & 4 strips of bacon on the griddle grate (left). I had a 3 zone fire going: High for the grilled potatoes on the left, low for the griddle where the last two pancakes are cooking & medium low for the toast. The warming shelf is holding the cooked food.

This is when I found a compelling reason for cooking something on the griddle outside vs inside on the stove. SIZE matters. Indoors I would have had to use 3 different frying pans to cook the eggs, pancakes and now bacon. Because I hadn’t actually used it for breakfast before, I didn’t realize how much you could get on the griddle. Indoors I would have had to use 3 pans: One large pan could fit the 4 poached eggs, one large pan could have handled the bacon, and one large pan could only handle one pancake at a time. On the grill using the griddle grate, I was able to grill up the 4 eggs at once, plus all of the bacon and two large pancakes at a time. Now here staring me right in the face was the compelling reason for using the grill to make breakfast. You could cook up more food at the same time and only have one pan to clean. The other advantage here is while these items were cooking on the griddle I could simultaneously be grilling something else on the two open grates. With a 6 burner grill it is very easy to do a 3 zone fire with the griddle on low, and one open grate on medium and another grate with a high temperature zone. The size of my grill was an advantage too. Even with the griddle great taking up 1/3 of the grilling surface, I still had the equivalent of a conventional 4 burner gas grill to grill on. So now I realized I could tackle projects that I might not have attempted before due to the scope. But by using the griddle grate and the grill I could cook everything up at once.

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For Grilled Salisbury Steaks the meat was grilled on the open grate, then dredged with flour & browned on the griddle grate (left). For Steak & Egg w/ Gremolata the eggs were cooked on medium-low on the griddle grate, the toast was cooked on medium & the steak on was on high.

Now that my eyes had been opened about some of the potential of the griddle grate, I began experimenting with it and using it more. One of the next things I made on it was an experimental meal I wanted to try on the grill and that was GRILLED SALISBURY STEAKS. For this meal the large patties were both grilled on the open grate and finished on the griddle after being floured to help with the browning. This meal turned out to be a big success. Soon after I tried a breakfast sandwich called STEAK & EGG WITH GREMOLATA, which was another combo meal. The steaks and toast were grilled on the open grate, while the fried eggs were made on the griddle grate. Once again, this allowed everything together in sequence, all out at the grill. In the past I might not have attempted this meal at all, because I couldn’t be at the stove and out at the grill at the same time. Sure there was the side burner, but I find the heat control on the side burner problematic at times. A combination where I need low heat and the wind is blowing is a combination made in hell.

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For the Pastrami Burrito Dogs the griddle grate was used for briefly warming the tortillas (left) & grilling the pastrami while the dogs grilled over the open grate (right).

Another interesting sandwich I used the griddle for was the PASTRAMI BURRITO DOG. This was actually a hot dog which also used pastrami which was grilled on the griddle. The tortillas were actually warmed slightly on the griddle too and the chili was heated on the grille’s side burner meaning the entire operation from start to finish was done out at the grill. Everything finished at once and I came in from the grill with everything still hot and ready to eat. Another meal I was able to use the grill for everything was ASIAN PORK MEATBALL SKEWERS. The ground pork and spices were formed into meatballs which were browned on a frying pan and then finished with a glaze and cooked over an open flame. I used the griddle grate so I wasn’t running from the Kitchen out to the grill. Once again convenience and better food.

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For the Asian Meatball Skewers the meatballs were first browned on the griddle grate (left) & then were brushed with a glaze & finished over the open grill grate (right).

A month or so ago it occurred to me that I had been stuck in a chicken/egg type dilemma that the griddle grate had actually solved, once I finally started using it. One of the wishes I used to list every year in my year end Looking Back, Looking Ahead blog entries was to do more types of meals such as breakfast on the grill. But it just wasn’t happening because I was hung up on the concept that the grill had to bring something to the equation in order for me to use it. I was looking at the grill adding more and better flavor to whatever I made on it. Once I started using the griddle I began to realize that two additional items the grill brought to the equation was convenience and quality. Quality meaning a better meal where everything was nice and warm because it had all been cooked simultaneously. Now one other item that contributed to this equation was my improvement as a cook. For a long time I would cook one item at a time, two at the most, because I felt this was the most I could handle and turn out a good product. Making Paellas, first on the stove and then on the grill, really helped my skills as a cook. For many paellas I was cooking in the paella pan plus up to 3 other pans at the same time. This made me realize I could multi task with a little planning and practice. So now that I was willing to use the griddle grate and cook everything on the grill, more breakfast type meals were just a natural outgrowth of starting to use the griddle grate.

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For the SPAM & Egg sandwich the griddle is on low, the SPAM is being cooked on high heat & the rolls on medium (left). For the Breakfast Quesadillas (right) I learned I could make quality scrambled eggs on the griddle, despite the higher heat used. I also saw how much room I had to make eggs, because even using 4 eggs I had plenty of room to spare.

Just in the last couple weeks I have made two more 2 more breakfast type meals using the griddle grate: a SPAM & EGG SANDWICH and BREAKFAST QUESADILLAS. The former used fried eggs off the griddle while I grilled the SPAM on the open grates. The latter marked my first ever attempt at scrambled eggs, on the grill or anywhere else. Making the scrambled eggs on the grill griddle wasn’t without it’s challenges. Actually the first challenge was I’d never made scrambled eggs before. The real challenge was the griddle temperature. In the warmer weather where I can make these type of meals where you must keep the lid open, the lowest I can get the griddle down to is 400 degrees (204 C). Many people say eggs should be cooked lower than this. But there is also a school of thought that you can make perfectly good eggs on a griddle at a higher temperature. After watching some videos about how restaurants do it, I was able to produce some eggs that were amazingly good considering it was my first attempt. They weren’t to runny and they weren’t too fluffy. they were just right. This was a case where I had to give the eggs my full and undivided attention during the quick time they were cooking. As I was cooking the 4 scrambled eggs, I also realized that while I had plenty of room on the griddle grate, it would have been tight quarters if I was using even my biggest frying pan. But the bottom line here is: Where I once used to skip by many recipes using eggs made on the grill, I now seek them out.

So in conclusion, while it took me seven years to finally come around, here are some of the advantages theI’ve found the grill griddle brings to the table:

Griddle Grate Advantages:

  • You can make everything in one place and keep an eye on everything.
  • You are not trying to run back and forth from the stove in the kitchen to the grill outdoors. Never a good idea even if you cook something first on the stove and then hold it while you grill the rest.
  • Making everything together often shortens the overall cooking time.
  • Your food can come out all together, you don’t have to make and hold something on the stove
  • With everything coming out together you may be able to assemble your final product right out at the grill. You can use the top shelf as a holding area to keep the food warm while you assemble your meal. If you time it right you can come right from the grill to the table with piping hot food.
  • Depending on the size, the grill griddle grate can take the place of 2 possibly 3 frying pans.
  • Even if you are cooking only one thing, such as scrambled eggs, you can cook more of them at once and still have plenty of room to maneuver.
  • Once the cast iron griddle grate is seasoned the cleanup is quick and easy.
  • Unlike the non-stick pans which require special utensils, you can use your grilling tools for both the open grates and the griddle grate. This may mean less cleanup too.
  • Using the griddle grate allows one person to do more in terms of both cooking and the types of things you can attempt.
  • Depending on whee you live and if you don’t have air conditioning, making everything out at the grill avoids heating up the stove in hot weather. Or perhaps it is just such a nice day outside you’d rather spend as much time as possible outside cooking vs stuck in the kitchen for some of it.
  • I have a fairly small Kitchen and if you are like me people tend to congregate in there. Doing everything at the grill by using a grill griddle gets me out of the Kitchen into the great outdoors. If people choose to follow there is plenty of space out doors.
So I hope I given you food for thought in terms of getting and using a grill griddle grate. You might want to check to see if your grill maker make one for your grill, you may be surprised. I was surprised myself to learn that Char-Griller makes on for my smoker. Even if you can’t find one made specifically for your grill, there are plenty that are made to sit on top of the grates of any grill.


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