Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter
When it comes to selecting a plancha grill, the options are endless. Between gas and electric models, carbon steel cooking plates and stainless steel frames, there are plenty of choices to make before you can start enjoying your favourite recipes a la plancha! Here are our top tips to guide you in the right direction.
- Cast iron
- Stainless steel
Finding the right plancha grill for your needs
Your plancha grill should be chosen with your cooking preferences in mind. Chefs with the most exacting standards should go for a gas-powered plancha for superior cooking quality, quicker heat-up times and more precise temperature adjustments. While typically larger and more expensive than other models, these grills can run on butane or propane gas meaning they can be set up far from the house.
Electric plancha grills are slightly more convenient in that they can simply be plugged in to the mains. However, they are less powerful and provide slower heat-up times. However, they are often more affordable and take up less space. In fact, these models can even be used on a kitchen table top or on the balcony! When making your choice, don't forget to consider the following points:
- the quality of the cooking plate: enamelled cast iron is a good mid-range option if your budget allows it;
- the size of your grill: should match the number of people you intend to cook for;
- the number of burners: to help you manage cooking times.
The main features of a plancha grill
Originating from Spain, plancha grills are designed to sear meats and vegetables using temperatures of over 350°.
These grills are made up of a high-temperature cooking plate, adjustment knobs, one or several burners and a frame. Fairly compact cooking appliances, planchas are usually set on top of a trolley. The quality of a plancha grill depends on the material used to form the cooking plate, the finish of the grill and the power rating of the appliance.
If you're looking for a high-quality plancha grill and don't want to splash out on a professional range, your best bet will be a model equipped with a cast iron cooking plate, stainless steel frame, three gas burners and an overall running power of at least 7,500 W for fast heat-up.
Gas vs. electric plancha grills
The power source of a plancha grill determines how quickly it is able to heat up and how much heat it can put out. Regardless of the technology, the parts used to heat a plancha – whether this be a heating element or a burner – will be installed under the cooking plate.
Electric plancha grills
While the heating element used to heat electric planchas does ensure quick heat-up times, it'll always be slower to reach top temperatures than a gas plancha. That said, electric planchas are safer to use and usually offer a wattage of 1,600 to 3,300 W. The maximum power produced is usually around 6.5 kW.
Gas plancha grills
Gas plancha grills are usually powered by butane or propane gas. These grills are more powerful and designed to reach higher temperatures in less time. The burners of a gas plancha can produce over 15 kW.
If you're a top chef or just looking for a little more in terms of cooking quality, a gas plancha grill is undoubtedly the way to go!
Gas plancha grills
Choosing your plancha grill materials
When it comes to materials, the plancha grill frame and cooking plate should be considered separately. In fact, choosing the right cooking surface is much more important than picking a frame that looks nice!
The structure of the plancha grill can be made of enamelled or stainless steel. As you can imagine, stainless steel models offer higher quality. That said, enamelled steel is still very resistant and offers a nice finish.
Plancha cooking plates come in a variety of materials. Your choice will come down to how exactly you plan on using your plancha.
- Enamelled cast iron ensures good heat distribution thanks to the high thermal conductivity of the material. Enamelled cast iron is undoubtedly the best material used for cooking plates in terms of cost-efficiency. However, it's still very important to check the quality of the enamel.
- Hard chrome plating is a top-of-the-line option, but this makes it fairly expensive. This type of coating allows for easy cleaning and maintenance and creates thick cooking plates. It also offers excellent cooking quality.
- Stainless steel can withstand high temperatures, offers good heat distribution and is very easy to maintain. It is also a very hygienic material. However, it doesn't conduct heat as well as cast iron or steel models;
- Carbon steel offers a good middle ground and a cost-effective option. Cooking plates made from this material are very scratch-resistant. However, when the protective coating eventually wears away corrosion can set in. With this in mind, you'll need to keep on top of maintenance. Once the coating has disappeared entirely, these cooking plates must be seasoned. As steel is an excellent natural heat conductor, these plates heat up very quickly;
- Enamelled steel offers good scratch resistance and is very easy to clean. Just be careful not to damage the enamel coating of the plate.
Your choice of cooking plate will depend on how often you plan on using the grill, as well as any specific cleaning or budget requirements you may have. Stainless steel frames are generally used for high-end models, while enamelled steel structures tend to make up most mid-range versions.
Accessories and add-ons for plancha grills
In addition to all the criteria mentioned above, plancha grills also differ in terms of their design features and accessories.
- Grease trays come as standard but may vary in design. Designed to collect cooking grease, these drip trays make cleaning and maintenance easier;
- Tilting cooking plates are really handy for increasing the flow of cooking fat;
- Piezo ignition is standard for gas planchas;
- A thermocouple enables gas flow and ensures the gas is cut off when there is no flame;
- Plancha trolleys can be a practical option if you plan to move your plancha grill around;
- A cover (or even a hood) will protect the plancha from rainfall.
Bear in mind that the more accessories you add on, the more expensive your plancha grill will be regardless of other factors like power source, cooking plate quality and material.
Final tips for choosing your plancha grill
The size of plancha grills varies depending on the number of burners or heating elements they feature. Gas planchas tend to use two or three burners but some can be fitted with four – these models stretch to over a metre! Countertop plancha grills are usually the best option when cooking for ten people or more.
Your cooking plate should be treated with care both during use and when cleaning – particularly when dealing with low-quality enamelled steel or carbon steel.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-range plancha grill, a gas-powered grill with three burners and a hard chome plate will fulfil all your needs and have you searing meat and vegetables in no time!
One last word of advice: the best manufacturers usually provide a 10-year warranty for cooking plates. If you're stuck between two models, go for the one with the longest quality guarantee. Then all that's left to do is track down some great recipes a la plancha!
Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 220 guides
Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!