The ability to sauté vegetables and make other side dishes at the grill side can save you a lot of time. You never have to take your eyes off the meat, and you don’t have to keep stressing out the air conditioner running back and forth from the grill to the kitchen.
Keen to answer this need grill accessory and griddle manufacturers have been offering up all kinds of different options to let you fry, sear and sauté at the grill side. Though some of the kitchen classics like Teflon-coated frying pans, aluminum and bottom clad sauté pans don’t really do well when you let them be kissed by an open flame. In fact, Teflon can even degrade and turn toxic when you bring it to the direct flame of a charcoal or gas grill.
When it comes to frying on the grill, the only truly feasible options are soapstone, cast iron, and cold-rolled steel. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Not to mention different quality offerings on the grill accessory market.
Using Soapstone for Sauteing on a Grill
Soapstone is naturally non-porous, non-toxic, and will not impart any additional flavors to the meat or vegetables you cook on it. The non-porous surface also means that you can sear meat and vegetables directly on it without having to add any extra oil or water for lubrication. It also makes for a very easy cleanup.
The thickness of a soapstone griddle means that it takes a while to absorb enough heat energy to really sear and saute. Though once it’s ready, you can get it safely super-hot to sear just about anything in minutes. This is one of the big reasons why it’s a common accessory for a lot of high-end kamado grills.
When you’re done frying, searing, or sauteing, you need to give the soapstone several hours to fully cool down. At that point, you can scrape off any food bits and wash the soapstone safely with warm soap and water. It’s non-porous and you don’t have to worry about rusting or cross-contamination.
Tips for Grilling with a Soapstone
- Give the soapstone at least 20 to 30 minutes to preheat
- Start bacon 15 minutes into the preheating to avoid burning
- Perfect for searing anything
- Doesn’t need extra oil
- Doesn’t develop a seasoning layer
- Give it hours to cool down safely
Best Soapstones for Grilling
Using a Cast Iron Griddle on a Grill
Cast iron has long been prized as a griddle or frying pan material for its ability to sear, sauté, and fry. Cast iron has the ability to absorb an enormous amount of heat energy and retain it without the temperature of the food affecting its performance. So, you don’t have to worry about thermal rebound with cast iron like you might with a traditional frying pan.
The surface of a cast iron griddle is one of the most critical factors to consider. Choosing the wrong one for your griddle style is essentially wasted money.
Bare Cast Iron Griddles
Bare cast iron needs to have a seasoning layer of hydrocarbons applied to it and maintained to keep it from rusting. This isn’t all that difficult to do. It takes about two hours the first time and then you just have to remember to reapply some oil after every cook to maintain the seasoning layer.
If you’re diligent about setting up the seasoning surface and maintaining it, you’ll be treated to a griddle that enhances the flavor of everything you cook on it. It’s also non-stick, but you can’t ever clean it with water, and even pancake batter can potentially strip some of the seasoning layer.
Porcelain-Coated Cast Iron Griddles
The biggest problem with seasoned cast iron is that if you screw up the seasoning or fail to properly maintain and store it, you have to scrape it down to start all over again. This can be a serious hassle that wastes an annoying amount of time.
Cast Iron griddle manufacturers have gotten around this foible by offering cast iron griddles that have a protective layer of non-stick porcelain applied to the surface. On the one hand, these replicate the non-stick properties of seasoned cast iron. It also protects the surface from rusting and makes for a very easy cleanup.
The drawback of a porcelain-coated cast iron griddle is that it doesn’t enhance the flavor of the food being cooked. Though this isn’t the sort of thing you’ll notice if you’ve never worked with a seasoning griddle before. You also end up paying a lot more for the porcelain/enameled coating.
Tips for Using a Cast Iron Griddle on a Grill
- Allow 15 to 20 minutes to preheat
- Bare cast iron needs an initial seasoning layer
- The seasoning layer must be maintained after every cook
- Porcelain-coated cast iron doesn’t need seasoning
- Allow at least an hour for the cast iron to cool down after grilling
The Best Cast Iron Griddles for Grilling
There are certainly some key points to consider when choosing whether you want a soapstone, seasoned cast iron, or porcelain-coated cast iron griddle for your grill. If you already have a kamado grill then the smart thing to do is go with a soapstone. It truly is an ideal pairing of grill and griddle material.
If you have a standard gas or charcoal grill the choice between bare and enameled cast iron becomes a little cloudier. I’ve had some great burgers and chops seared off on a thoroughly seasoned cast iron griddle that was magical with elevated flavor. I’ve also screwed up the seasoning layer on cast iron griddles in the past more times than I’d like to admit. I found the re-seasoning and maintenance to be frustrating.
A porcelain-coated or “Enameled” cast iron griddle will do pretty much everything a seasoned cast iron griddle will do. All with much easier cleaning and maintenance. It’s arguably the best option for a camp stove griddle and can make perfect bacon and pancakes every time.