Ode to Griddle
The longer I have been working from home, the more important and involved my breakfast routine has become. With colleagues in various timezones around the globe, it can be difficult to find time in the middle of the day to leave the house or make myself a decent lunch. A hearty breakfast however, can stretch from mid-morning all the way to an early dinner (5-6pm).
A vital part of my breakfast routine, and probably my most favorite tool in the kitchen, is my two-burner Lodge cast-iron Griddle. Those that follow me on Flickr no doubt recognize the griddle from my pictures of making english muffins or biscuits, but it is safe to say that it is the linchpin of my breakfast.
A typical breakfast will include, at a minimum, a couple eggs (sunny-side-up or over-easy) numerous slices of American-style bacon and a “starch”: pancakes or hashbrowns (recipes below). Occasionally, depending on what we have available at Croy Family Farms I might add grilled tomatoes or onions onto the grddle, or serve breakfast with sliced fruit or baked goods from the night before.
All of this, now that I am practised in the Art of Griddlin’, takes under 30 minutes.
Before I start Griddlin’ for the day, I typically wipe up the excess congealed grease from the day prior with a paper towel. This is the only regular cleaning I will do of the griddle.
Once it’s mostly wiped down, I turn both burners to medium (top burner slightly warmer) and walk away to finish whatever I was doing in the office for about five minutes while the surface heats up. Once heated, I use my square-end metal spatula to scrape any left-over bits, or excess grease, into the grease trap. I have found it is more effective to do this after the griddle heats up than trying get everything scraped away while it’s cold.
Because cast-iron doesn’t cool down, and I try to make everything only on the griddle, order and placement are important.
The griddle is basically split into some zones of various temperatures:
+------------+ | | | Top-burner | | (med/high) | | | | | | Middle | | (med/low) | | | | | | Bottom | | (med) | | | +------------+
First the bacon goes on, mostly on the top-burner with a few strips on the bottom burner. The bacon is guaranteed to provide all the grease I need for anything that follows. That isn’t to say everything I make is coated in bacon grease but I find a glistening, well-greased, griddle to be very useful for rapidly moving food on, off, or around the griddle.
While that’s going, I start preparing the starch, whether pancakes or hashbrowns. The bacon only needs one flip, so once I make the first flip the starch is ready to go onto the bottom-burner. While both hashbrowns and pancakes also only require one flip, hashbrowns tends to take a bit longer since the potatoes are thicker than the thin dollop of pancake batter.
Once the bacon is finished, the hashbrowns get flipped and that’s when the sliced vegetables (tomatoes, onions) are put onto the middle part of the griddle to cook for the remainder of the time. Since the bacon leaves behind plenty of grease and some other little stuck bits, before re-using the top portion of the griddle, it needs a good scraping with the square-edged spatula again.
Tidied up, eggs get cracked directly onto the top part of the griddle. If I’m making sunny-side-up eggs then I will grab a lid from a pot and put it over the egg after about one minute to ensure the yolk firms up a little. Over-easy is a lot simpler as I just flip the egg over after a couple minutes.
Regardless, once the eggs are done there’s typically a couple minutes remaining for the starch and vegetables to finish.
Everything cooks rapidly enough to where items are plated as soon as they come off the griddle. When cooking for two however, the ordering changes and I might place lids or foil tents over the plates while finishing items.
Each “part” of the meal takes between 5-7 minutes of griddle time total, but because the griddle is just one big flat heated surface, it’s very easy to get things cooking in parallel.
Cooking all this from scratch, I estimate the cost of my breakfasts to easily cost less than a couple bucks and, I believe, fairly healthy compared to a prepared breakfast.
I never grew up with a griddle and at under $50, as far as kitchen-ware is concerned, it’s easily one of the best kitchen purchases I have made.
Whole Wheat Pancakes
This is a Martha Stewart recipe I have adapted for relatively quick and easy whole wheat pancakes. Half of the batter is enough for a “short-stack”, which is rougly 3 pancakes. Depending on how hungry I am, a short-stack is sometimes insufficient so I eat a tall-stack (all the batter) in one sitting.
- 1/2 cup (60g) of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) of whole wheat flour
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 Tsp baking powder
- 1/2 Tsp salt
- 1 egg, ligthly beaten
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
Note: Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, but I find it easier to just keep cans of evaporated milk on-hand since we do not always have fresh milk on-hand. Generally the ratio would be 1 cup of fresh milk is substituted by 1/2 cup evaporated plus 1/2 cup water. I use 3/4 cup evaporated milk to provide more liquid for the whole wheat flour and to make the pancakes a little richer.
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
Note: Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp of melted butter. I use 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil as a time saver.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then throw all the wet ingredients together in the bowl too.
Whisk vigorously to make sure everything is mixed properly.
Pour batter onto a heated griddle, after bubbles have appeared and popped, flip the pancakes.
Wait about however long it took for the bubbles to appear and pop before removing the pancake from the griddle.
Prior to my cast-iron griddle, I actually had a lot of trouble with hashbrowns in my other pans. With a properly greased griddle I have found hashbrowns to be incredibly easy to get right.
- 1 yukon gold potato (unpeeled)
- Salt/pepper to taste
Shred the whole potato with a coarse grater.
Collect the shredded potato in your hands, and over the sink squeeze the everliving hell out of it, purging as much liquid as possible.
Spread the shredded potato onto the griddle, into about a 1/2-1 inch thick layer.
Cook for about 6-7 minutes per side.