The modern-day grill has evolved from a cauldron of flame used to sear meat to become a versatile outdoor cooking appliance. This has been driven in part by innovation in grill design as well as grill manufacturer’s producing thoughtful accessories.
As the name implies, grill toppers are placed on top of cooking grates or directly over the fire to replicate many of the cookware and cooking appliances you use in your kitchen. They can be particularly helpful in the summer when cooking outdoors spares the kitchen from having to compete with the air conditioner.
The following is a list of some popular grill topper options for you to consider.
Aluminum Searing Plates
Searing plates are popular for meats that benefit from a quick hit of heat, yet don’t necessarily do well when exposed to direct flame. There are cast-iron searing plates and griddles for sale in this niche. Some are cheaper than aluminum searing plates. Yet you also have to put in the extra time to maintain the semi-nonstick seasoning layer. They also take a long time to cool down.
An aluminum searing plate heats up faster than cast iron, yet it can impart the same type of sear. It also tends to cool down much faster than cast iron. If you time it right, you might even be able to use the searing plate for direct service to the table.
Aluminum searing plates can be a little bit on the sticky side. If you are working with some delicate, like a fillet of fish, you might want to grease it up with a neutral cooking oil before applying the meat and placing it over the heat.
In a way, cedar planks are one of the first traditional grill toppers. Many Native American tribes used cedar planks to smoke and cook fish for centuries. Even today, it remains a great way to smoke or grill skin-on, wild-caught salmon and trout.
Today the cedar planks you find sold in stores and online retailers are milled to a consistent thickness and dried. You should never try to use a cedar board from the hardware store, as it has likely been chemically treated.
To use a cedar plank for smoking, you will first need to soak it in water for at least an hour. If you want to use the cedar plank for grilling and the wood will be placed directly over the fire, you should soak it in water for at least four hours.
Flexible Grill Basket
Flexible grill baskets are made from a wire mesh that is hinged on one end. It allows you to hold fish, pieces of seafood, and loose meats like a link or ring sausage, without risk of over handling it. Once the food is secured in the mesh and both sides are latched, you can flip it without worrying about it falling apart.
Himalayan Salt Plate
Himalayan salt plates are a relatively new invention spurred on by the wide range of similar products coming out of Asia. Though there are other mineral salt plate replicas available for sale by other retailers.
The salt is milled to a specific thickness. When placed on a grill it absorbs heat and then imparts that thermal energy to the food. It also helps season the food by imparting a pleasant salty flavor. They tend to work best with sliced meats, fish, seafood, and vegetables.
Thickness matters with this salt plates or salt blocks. Too thick and it takes a long time to absorb the heat. Too thin and the salt block can break down or potentially crack when you place cold food items on it.
To clean it, you need to thoroughly scrape away any food bits. Once it’s cooled down you use a clean, wet cloth to wipe it down. You should never submerge or place it under running water as it could cause the block to break.
Vegetable Grill Basket
This is very similar to a flexible grill basket, except it uses a finer wire mesh to help hold in grilled vegetables. Some manufacturers also offer narrow units that can be placed on the warming rack at the start of a grilling session.
With a vegetable grill basket, you want to pay close attention to the sides. Some will come with multiple latches on each side to help securely hold the loose vegetables and prevent unfortunately spills.
Non-Stick Perforated Skillet
These typically look like thin metal frying pays that have holes in them. Some claim that the idea comes from the famous open fire Spanish restaurant Etxebarri. The idea is that the holes are small enough to all heat and flame to pass through and affect the food, without allowing it to fall out.
They are meant to replace cast iron griddles and frying pans, which take a long time to cool down after you are done using them to saute vegetables.
A true high-quality wok is made from carbon steel. It needed to be seasoned and maintained much like cast iron. To truly replicate the open fire woks of Asia, you want to look for a unit that includes a fire ring and has a curved bottom. This allows you to concentrate the heat, while also keeping the food moving throughout the cooking process.
Keep in mind that there are flat-bottom woks and traditional round-bottom woks. With a round-bottom wok, you should also invest in a wok ring. This will keep it from rolling around and spilling if you ever need to set it still.
Quesadillas are incredibly popular and versatile. Making them in an oven can take time. Yet on a grill, you can pump out one quesadilla after another in just a few minutes. You could even cook things like chicken tenderloins and sautéed vegetables on the grill and let your diners load up their own quesadillas.
They work a lot like a smaller, round flexible grill basket. You place your tortilla and ingredients in the basket and lock it shut. Then you can quickly flip it over the flame to melt the interior and cook the tortillas, without having to worry about burning one side.
When shopping for a quesadilla basket, you want to make sure that it closes nearly perfectly flat and latches tight. The last thing you want is your quesadilla flopping around or spilling open when you cook it!
At first glance, a griddle is little more than a sheet of metal that meats up over the grill. You can then use it like a large, square frying pan. Cast iron griddles with a properly maintained hydrocarbon seasoning layer are the most common. However, you can also find them made from rolled steel or specially coated with a non-stick porcelain coating.
When you are shopping for a griddle, you grease management is important. There needs to be a tray or a lowered lip to hold excess grease and rendered fat. If the griddle is going to be going directly over the fire, you don’t want the grease to run off into the flames, or else you will be dealing with a major, and possibly uncontrollable flareup.