I became enamored with the griddle after watching Francis Mallmann’s Chef’s Table episode a few years ago (I know, I know). Seeing the Argentinian chef lumbering in slow motion around his misty, ancient-feeling Patagonian island, pensively grilling a whole pig, pumpkins, potatoes, peaches, and whatever else he could find that started with the letter “P,” I vowed to one day become a master of the griddle (or, in Mallmann’s vernacular, cooking a la plancha).
Cooking on a griddle can be magical, because it’s a tool that makes you feel like you’re communing with nature in a way that mere mortals (i.e. non-chefs) cannot possibly understand. To get there, one really only needs fire and metal—elemental, primal components that you can pretty much find anywhere. But when those tools are combined with produce or meat, the result is often incredible. I’d tried using cast iron griddles before, and found them too difficult to wrangle; but when Made In finally released a carbon steel griddle earlier this year AND Francis Mallmann dropped a new cookbook about grilling fruits and veggies (Green Fire) it was like the cooking gods were giving me a sign. It was time to become a griddle master.
Naturally, there was a learning curve to overcome. I’ve been burned, literally and figuratively, by griddles in the past. For one, my previous cast iron behemoth wasn’t quite long enough to comfortably cover two burners on my stove, so it never heated evenly when I cooked indoors. It was also incredibly hard to clean, especially since it was reversible, featuring both a flat griddle and a grill side that I haven’t been able to get fully clean in, like, half a decade; on top of that, there’s the task of seasoning, which some consider to be a pain (comparable to the ever-ongoing debate about caring for other cast iron skillets). Furthermore, with cast iron there’s the question of whether it sheds trace amounts of iron into your food—many say it does, especially if the food you cook is more acidic—and whether that’s a good or bad thing. There’s a lot to consider, but if you think you’re the only person who’s given up on dealing with a cast iron pan or griddle, you are not—but more on that another time.
The Made In griddle is made of a mix of iron and carbon, and, clocking in at slightly under 10 pounds, it’s easy to move, but will stay where you put it. It’s heirloom-handsome in its design, which includes leather handle covers and embossed logos. It’s pre-seasoned with vegetable oil to get you started, but like anything worth using, it takes a bit to get used to. It can handle temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s powerful when placed on direct heat and is designed specifically to maximize caramelization and crispiness, and it’s naturally non-stick, so you just need a bit of oil or butter to get a killer sear on your food.
The first time I used it, I set out to make Mallmann’s signature smashed potatoes dish from Green Fire, which required boiling potatoes with vinegar, oil, peppercorns, and a bay leaf, and then smashing them with a dish towel and searing them on the griddle. I used my trusty Weber grill, but didn’t measure the griddle first, and realized slightly too late that it just barely didn’t fit flat on the grate. So, I balanced it on the lip of the grill while cooking some chicken directly on the grate. The potatoes didn’t sear or cook through exactly the way I’d hoped (a lot of heat is lost in those few, short inches), though they were still somewhat crispy and very tasty, so I considered it a successful maiden voyage.
A couple days later, I redid the recipe inside with the gas burners cranked to high heaven, and the result was excellent: crispy, charred, still-fluffy-inside potatoes, with a side of grilled sweet peppers, which I finished with some lemon zest, per Mallmann’s recipe.
What rules about Made In’s griddle
The griddle is excellent at multitasking and time-crunch cooking. Today, for example, I finished a salad with some quick grilled corn, mushrooms, and tempeh. All in all, it took less than 10 minutes for me to heat the grill, splash on some avocado oil, and sizzle my toppings. (And since you asked, yes, I did dress the salad with a bootleg Sweetgreen spicy cashew dressing that I made at home.) A couple days ago, I whipped up some fantastic blueberry pancakes that were perfectly brown on the outside and airy within; and they didn’t stick to the griddle at all. On breakfast sandwich days—an important ritual in my household—I’ll grill some onions and a protein on one half while my partner makes over-easy eggs on the other.
Whether you’re doing an involved main course or a couple crunchy bites, this thing puts in serious work. I’m sure that with further use—and I intend to use the hell out of this thing—I’ll become even better at controlling the temperatures and finding that perfect sear, whether it be chicken, squash, beets, or, of course, potatoes.
How to clean it
In regards to care and cleaning, it really just requires that you keep it clean and oiled, and that you don’t use soap on it. It’s not quite as easy to clean as super-slippery nonstick, but easier to maintain than a lot of other cast iron cookware.
TL;DR: The Made In pre-seasoned carbon steel griddle is a great cooking tool, both for cast iron haters and for people just looking to make excellent grilled food. It’s dynamic, light-ish, and easy to maintain.
Have I become the Francis Mallmann of Chicago? No. Did I at least dress up as Francis Mallmann for Halloween? Also no—I went as ketchup and put a mustard costume on my cat. But have I finally made good on my dreams to master using a griddle? I think so. The Made In griddle is the perfect entry point into a style of cooking that looks cool, feels amazing, and, most importantly, produces food that tastes phenomenal. Now, I just need my own South American island to retire to and I’ll be golden.
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