What is a Plancha? Discover the Origin, Definition, and Cooking Techniques
What is a plancha?
A plancha is a cooking device that resembles a griddle but is thinner and made of metal. It’s used to sear and grill meat and vegetables. A plancha is also called a Spanish grill because it’s a staple of Spanish cuisine.
It’s a versatile cooking device that can be used to cook a variety of dishes, from meats to vegetables to pancakes. It’s easy to use and much easier than a traditional grill. So let’s look at what makes it special.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Demystifying the Plancha: What You Need to Know
- 2 The Origins and Definition of Plancha: A Look into the History and Technology of this Flat-Top Grill
- 3 Cooking on a Plancha: Tips and Tricks
- 4 How to Grill on a Plancha: Tips and Tricks
- 5 Plancha vs Griddle: What’s the Difference?
- 6 Conclusion
Demystifying the Plancha: What You Need to Know
A plancha is a cooking device that combines the best of a griddle and a grill. It consists of a flat, rectangular or circular surface that heats up quickly and evenly, allowing you to fry, sear, and grill a variety of food. The surface is usually made of smooth materials like cast iron, stainless steel, or chrome, which helps distribute heat evenly and keeps food from falling through. The plancha is also sometimes called a la plancha or a Spanish grill, as it is an iconic device in Spanish cuisine.
How is it Different from a Griddle?
While there are similarities between the plancha and griddles, there are also some key differences. Griddles are usually small and electric, while planchas can be larger and placed on a traditional grill or used as a standalone device in the kitchen. Griddles can be round or square, while planchas are typically rectangular or circular. Griddles are best for cooking pancakes, while planchas are ideal for searing meat, fish, and vegetables. Griddles are also more affordable, while planchas can be more expensive, especially if you want a professional-grade model.
What are the Benefits of Using a Plancha?
Using a plancha has a variety of benefits, including:
- Even heating: The plancha heats up quickly and distributes heat evenly, ensuring that your food cooks evenly.
- Versatility: You can cook a variety of food on a plancha, from meat and fish to vegetables and even pancakes.
- Easy to use: The plancha is easier to use than a traditional grill, as you don’t have to worry about flare-ups or hot spots.
- Signature sear: The plancha’s flat surface helps achieve a signature sear on meat and fish, which is difficult to achieve on a traditional grill.
- Affordable options: While some planchas can be expensive, there are also affordable versions available online or in stores.
What are Some Popular Plancha Dishes?
Some popular plancha dishes include:
- Gambas al ajillo: Shrimp cooked in garlic and oil.
- Patatas bravas: Fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce.
- Tigress backstop: A dish consisting of meat, fish, or vegetables cooked on the plancha and served with a variety of sauces.
What are Some Common Plancha Terminology and Colloquialisms?
If you’re searching for a plancha online or in stores, you may come across some common terminology and colloquialisms, including:
- La plancha: The Spanish term for the plancha.
- Spanish grill: Another name for the plancha.
- Plancha vs griddle: The differences between the plancha and griddle.
- Authentic plancha: A plancha made with high-quality materials and designed for professional use.
- Plancha ranks: A list of the best planchas available on the market.
By demystifying the plancha, you now have a better sense of what this device is, how it works, and why it’s a good option for cooking a variety of food. Whether you’re a professional chef or a home cook, a plancha is an essential device to have in your kitchen.
The Origins and Definition of Plancha: A Look into the History and Technology of this Flat-Top Grill
Plancha is a Spanish term that translates to “flat” or “plate,” and it refers to a cooking device or appliance that resembles a griddle or flattop grill. However, it performs differently from these other heating elements, resulting in a unique cooking experience and flavor. Here are some key differences between plancha and other grills:
- Plancha is a flat, thin plate that comes into direct contact with the food, while other grills usually have grates or bars that hold the food above the heat source.
- Plancha is usually made of metal, while other grills can be made of stone, clay, or other materials.
- Plancha is equipped with little to no grease drainage, while other grills usually have a system to collect and dispose of excess grease.
- Plancha is heated to a high temperature and creates a straight, radial heat source, while other grills can have uneven heat distribution or require indirect heat for certain recipes.
The History and Evolution of Plancha
Plancha originated in Spain, where it has been considered an essential element of traditional cuisine for centuries. The term “plancha” can refer to the device itself or the meal prepared on it, which usually consists of grilled vegetables, seafood, or meat. Plancha has a reputation for being an alternative to the traditional barbecue, which can be difficult to prepare and require a lot of space and equipment.
The earliest planchas were constructed of cast iron or stone and heated over an open fire. The technology steadily evolved, and by the 20th century, commercial planchas were engineered with electric or gas heating elements and equipped with grease drainage systems. Today, planchas can be found in restaurants and homes all over the world, and there are countless recipes and variations for preparing meals on them.
The Religious and Cultural Influence of Plancha
Plancha has a significant religious and cultural influence in Spain and other Southern American countries. In Spain, planchas are often used to prepare meals for religious pilgrimages or massive communal meals, known as “masses.” The advent of plancha technology has crossed over into France, where it has become relatively established in the southwest of the country.
How Plancha Works and What Makes it Unique
Plancha works by spreading heat evenly across the flat surface, creating a high-temperature cooking environment that sears the food quickly and evenly. The lack of grease drainage means that the food is cooked in its natural juices, resulting in a more flavorful and moist meal. The flat-top design also allows for more direct contact between the food and the heat source, resulting in a quicker cooking time and a more uniform sear.
Planchas can be circular or rectangular in shape, and they come in various sizes and materials. Some planchas are constructed of cast iron, while others are made of stainless steel or other metals. Some planchas are even equipped with radial heating technology, which spreads the heat out from the center in a circular fashion.
Cooking on a Plancha: Tips and Tricks
When cooking on a plancha, it’s important to choose ingredients that work well with high heat and a flat surface. Here are some tips to consider:
- Meats: Pork, beef, chicken, fish, and seafood are all great options for the plancha. Choose cuts that are thin and easy to cook quickly.
- Vegetables: Delicate vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, and bell peppers work well on the plancha. You can also grill heartier vegetables like potatoes and onions.
- Spices and Sauces: The plancha is a great way to create flavorful dishes. Consider using spicy rubs, sweet marinades, or tangy sauces to add an extra element to your meal.
Cooking on a plancha requires a slightly different process than cooking on a regular grill or griddle. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Preheat the plancha: Make sure the plancha is hot before adding any ingredients. This will help prevent sticking and produce a delicious sear.
- Keep it clean: Use spatulas to scrape off any bits of food that stick to the surface. This will prevent the plancha from getting too sticky and make it easier to cook the next batch of food.
- Fold small pieces: When cooking small pieces of meat or vegetables, consider folding them in half to prevent them from falling through the grates.
- Skewers and Kebabs: The plancha is a great surface for cooking skewers and kebabs. Just make sure to soak wooden skewers in water before using them to prevent them from burning.
- Bacon: Bacon is a traditional plancha ingredient in Spanish cuisine. To cook bacon on a plancha, choose a high-fat variety and cook it until it gets crispy.
Recipes to Try
Looking for some inspiration for your next plancha dinner? Here are some delicious recipes to consider:
- Grilled Pork with Ginger Sauce: Combine fresh ginger, soy sauce, and honey to create a sweet and spicy sauce that combines perfectly with grilled pork strips.
- Spanish-style Seafood: Cook fresh seafood like shrimp, scallops, and squid on the plancha for a delicious and easy dinner.
- Beef Skewers with Vegetables: Cut beef into thin pieces and combine with bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms for a colorful and flavorful kebab.
- Sticky Chicken: Marinate chicken in a sweet and tangy sauce before cooking on the plancha. The high heat will create a crispy skin and a delicious glaze.
- Vegetarian Dishes: The plancha is a great way to cook vegetarian dishes like grilled vegetables, tofu, and halloumi cheese.
Cleaning and Maintaining Your Plancha
To keep your plancha in top condition, follow these tips:
- Clean the surface after each use: Use a spatula to scrape off any bits of food that stick to the surface. Then, wipe it down with a damp cloth.
- Season the plancha: Just like a cast-iron skillet, a plancha requires seasoning to prevent rust and create a non-stick surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for seasoning your plancha.
- Store it properly: Keep your plancha in a dry place to prevent rust and damage. If you have a gas plancha, make sure to turn off the gas supply and disconnect the propane tank before storing.
How to Grill on a Plancha: Tips and Tricks
Grilling on a plancha is a simple and easy way to cook food. Here’s how it works:
- Heat the plancha until it’s extremely hot. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
- Pour a little oil or water on the plancha to make sure it’s evenly coated.
- Add your ingredients directly onto the hot plancha. This allows for direct cooking and creates a smooth, even surface for your food to cook on.
- Cook your food until it’s done to your desired degree. Make sure to check the temperature of the meat to ensure it’s cooked properly.
- Remove the food from the plancha carefully using spatulas or tongs.
- Let the plancha cool down before cleaning it. Use a small amount of water and a spatula to remove any dirt or food particles.
The Benefits of Plancha Grilling
Grilling on a plancha has many benefits, including:
- It allows for direct cooking, which means your food cooks evenly and quickly.
- The smooth surface of the plancha makes it easier to cook small pieces of food, like vegetables or sliced meat.
- It’s a great way to prepare traditional grilled dishes, like fajitas or kebabs.
- Planchas come in both electric and traditional steel types, making them affordable and accessible for all chefs.
- Grilling on a plancha creates a neutral flavor, which means you can add any extras you prefer to your food.
- It’s an iconic way to cook food, and many chefs find it comfortable and easy to work with.
Tips and Tricks for Plancha Grilling
Here are some additional tips and tricks to make your plancha grilling experience even better:
- Choose the right type of plancha for your needs. Electric planchas are easier to use and require less preparation, while traditional steel planchas allow for higher temperatures and better searing.
- Make sure to heat the plancha to a high temperature before adding your food. This will help create a better sear and prevent sticking.
- Cover the plancha with a lid or foil to help cook your food more evenly and retain moisture.
- Use a mix of oil and water to create a smoother surface for your food to cook on.
- Regular cleaning is essential to keep your plancha in good condition. Make sure to remove any dirt or food particles after each use.
- Plancha grilling is a great way to cook vegetables, as it allows them to retain their natural flavors and textures.
No matter what type of food you’re grilling, a plancha is a super way to achieve a good sear and produce a delicious meal. Try it out for yourself and see the benefits firsthand!
Plancha vs Griddle: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between a plancha and a griddle lies in their design and materials. A plancha is a flat metal plate, usually made of steel, that is placed directly over a heat source. It has smooth sides and a complete flat surface. On the other hand, a griddle is a flat metal plate with raised edges, commonly made of cast iron or steel, that is designed to be placed on top of a heat source. It has a flat cooking surface with a little bit of a lip around the edges to prevent food from falling off.
Planchas and griddles also differ in their cooking methods. A plancha is usually heated directly by a gas or electric source, while a griddle can be heated indirectly through a process called “dry heating.” This means that the heat is transferred to the griddle through the air, rather than directly through the metal plate. Planchas are commonly found in Japanese cooking, while griddles are more traditional in American cooking.
There are different types of planchas and griddles available in the market, and each has its own unique features. Some of the popular types include:
- Electric planchas and griddles: These are designed to be used indoors and are perfect for those who want to cook their food without the need for an outdoor grill.
- Double-sided planchas: These have a smooth side and a ridged side, allowing users to cook different types of foods.
- Professional-grade planchas and griddles: These are made of higher gauge metal and are designed to withstand regular use in a professional kitchen.
- Japanese-style planchas: These are smaller and are meant to be placed directly on the table, allowing diners to cook their own food.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Both planchas and griddles have their own benefits and drawbacks. Some of the benefits of using a plancha include:
- It allows for direct, high-heat cooking, which is perfect for creating a crispy crust on foods.
- It has a smooth surface that enables the user to cook delicate foods without sticking.
- It is easy to clean and maintain.
Some of the benefits of using a griddle include:
- It is versatile and can be used to cook a wide variety of foods.
- It allows for creating extra space for cooking multiple foods at once.
- It is generally less expensive than a plancha.
However, some of the drawbacks of using a plancha include:
- It has a limited cooking surface, which means that you can only cook a small amount of food at a time.
- It requires a higher budget than a griddle.
- It may not be suitable for cooking certain types of foods.
Some of the drawbacks of using a griddle include:
- It may not be as effective at creating a crispy crust on foods.
- It may require more oil to prevent sticking.
- It may take longer to heat up than a plancha.
Which One is Right for You?
When it comes down to it, the choice between a plancha and a griddle depends on your personal preferences and cooking needs. If you want a complete flat surface for cooking delicate foods and love the Japanese style, a plancha may be the perfect fit for you. However, if you want a versatile cooking surface that can handle a lot of different foods and don’t mind the raised edges, a griddle may be the way to go. Ultimately, it’s important to read reviews and do your research before making a decision on which product to buy.
So there you have it- a plancha is a cooking device that combines the best of a griddle and a grill. It’s a great way to cook a variety of food, especially seafood and vegetables. You can’t go wrong with a plancha! So, if you’re looking for a new way to cook, why not give it a try?
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.