Cooking on a flat top grill is different than cooking on other types of grills. This type of grill has its own benefits and it comes with its own challenges. So how do you learn how to cook on a flat-top grill? Let’s take a look at what you need to know when cooking on a flat-top grill.
A flat-top grill gets its name from the fact that it has an open-flame surface that’s completely flat with no ridges or peaks anywhere. The food never comes into contact with open flames and the flat surface means you can cook things like pancakes, eggs, or rice. Like other types of grills, remember to never leave it unattended when cooking.
No, we’re not talking about the seasoning you add to your food. In this case, we’re talking about seasoning in the way a cast-iron pan is seasoned.
Follow these steps to season your flat-top grill:
- Before anything else, thoroughly wipe down the entire surface with a damp towel
- Turn your grill up to its highest setting for 10-15 minutes; if the surface darkens or becomes discolored, you’re doing it right
- Now that your grill is hot, apply cooking oil and spread it evenly across the entire surface, including the sides and edges
- Let the oil burn off
- Repeat two or three more times
- While regular use of your grill may maintain the seasoning, many owners will reseason once per month or after every cook
Preheating helps distribute heat more evenly across the cooking surface and helps prevent burning or undercooking. When preheating, turn the burners on low and give the grill plenty of time to preheat to avoid flare-ups.
To prevent your food from sticking, you can use a cooking oil spray. Other options include vegetable oil, olive oil, or canola oil, which are good choices because they have a high smoking point. This makes them less likely to flare up into a fire on your cooking surface. Doing your prep while your flat-top grill is heating up is a perfect use of that time.
Flat tops behave differently than a stove, oven, or even a traditional grill. Plus, factors such as the thickness of your portions, evenness of your cuts, ambient air temperature, humidity, and even altitude can make it necessary to keep a close eye on your cooking.
Expect there to be a learning curve as you get the hang of it; grilling can be as much art as science. A meat thermometer can be very useful for keeping tabs on your cooking, as can a grill surface thermometer. While tending to the cooking is part of the fun of grilling, you’ll be able to multi-task better as you get more familiar with the cook times of your favorite foods in your particular environment.
One of the advantages of a flat-top grill is being able to clean it as you go. You’ll need a bench scraper for clean-up in general, but they’re a great tool to use while you’re preparing a lot of food. Always scrape in one direction from the furthest part of the grill towards yourself and your drip pan.
If you notice that there is food residue starting to stick to the surface, get ahead of the problem by scraping it all away in-between servings. It’s easier to remove residue while it’s still hot, especially if there is a lot of sugar in the food, such as in a sauce. Plus, this is less clean-up to do later.
As your food is getting close to being done cooking, turn off the heat completely. This will keep residue from burning onto the surface as you clear the food away and serve. After all your food is off the grill, spray the surface with hot water and scrape the grill clean immediately with a non-metallic scrubber.
Wipe down the surface, sides, and edges with paper towels or a rag while it’s still warm. Dry the surface with a microfiber towel, add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the surface and spread evenly. Turn it up to medium heat and let the oil season the surface for next time.
While there’s a little bit of a learning curve, cooking on a flat-top grill is well worth the reward. Nothing else gives you the same versatility with so little effort, and your family and guests will appreciate the fine feasts you can turn out with one. With some of the usual precautions, grilling can offer a healthier alternative to other forms of cooking, as well. Have fun, and bon appetit!