The teppanyaki cooking style that originated in Tokyo was an instant hit with diners, who enjoyed watching the skills of the chef as he put on a show while preparing their food in the main dining area. Recently, many other types of eateries have taken advantage of this type of Japanese griddle to provide a new way to serve customers.
High-volume settings such as buffets, casinos, and college cafeterias use these to prepare made-to-order meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mexican food such as fajitas and quesadillas can be cooked on this type of equipment. These are also being used to grill custom sandwiches using fresh ingredients selected by your patrons.
This type of drop-in griddle provides a graduated heat, which means it has different temperature zones. It's hotter in the middle, right above the burner, and has a lower temperature near the edges. This allows the chef to cook ingredients quickly at a high temperature in one area, and then move them to the edges for holding. This also allows many different types of foods to be cooked at different temperatures at the same time on a single surface.
Built to Last
The cooking surfaces on these models are designed to be durable, with a solid top made of stainless steel or chrome-plated steel. Griddle plates range from 3/4- to 1-inch in thickness, with thicker ones able to retain more heat than thinner ones. This distributes the heat more evenly and provides a quicker return to set temperatures when cold foods absorb the heat from the surface.
Chrome cooking surfaces are bright and eye-catching, enhancing the presentation value of these units. Chrome is durable, long lasting, easy to clean, and good at evenly distributing and retaining heat, which can reduce utility usage over time. Chrome-plated griddles are often preferred by master chefs and used in high-volume operations.
Like chrome, stainless steel griddles are durable, able to retain a consistent temperature, and easy to clean. They are a mainstay of many restaurants because they're typically less expensive than chrome.
Heat Sources and Controls
Griddles of this type can be either gas or electric with electric being more common because these are often installed in dining rooms that don't have gas hook-ups.
Temperature control is usually done with a manual or thermostatic dial. Solid state controls will keep your griddle surface at a set temperature without the need for adjustment. Manual controls adjust heat intensity from low to high, and require more attention and skill from the chef to maintain the correct level. Remember that these griddles will require a hood or other means of venting grease-laden vapors produced when cooking on an open surface. They will also reduce the amount of ambient heat released into your dining room. Check local codes and regulations before making your buying decision.
Care and Cleaning
It's important to keep your griddle surface clean, not only because these units are used for presentation cooking, but also because some of your customers may have food allergies. Ninety percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States are caused by foods commonly cooked on these griddles – most notably fish, shellfish, eggs, soy (sauce), and wheat (tamari).
It's a good rule of thumb, to clean with a grill scraper after each serving to avoid cross-contamination as well as remove excess food particles that may be sticking to the cooking surface. Be careful not to chip or pit the surface of your griddle when you use metal utensils, as that can create a place for rust or bacteria to form. For periodic deep cleaning, allow the griddle to fully cool, then apply a foodservice grade degreaser. Rinse and dry it thoroughly, and then reseason the surface to keep it protected.
Griddles need to be seasoned regularly to maintain a non-stick cooking surface, and prevent corrosion. To season your griddle, apply a light coating of oil to the cooking surface, then burn the griddle for about 30 minutes. Repeat as necessary to build up the right amount of coating. It is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines when you do this, as they will vary depending on the griddle you have.