Choose your plancha
Which plancha to choose?
Features for choosing your plancha: plate thickness, sufficient power, burner shape, sufficient but not excessive ventilation, etc. You will also find a wide range of materials, and your decision will certainly determine how you will cook with the plancha in the future.
MATERIAL AND PLATE THICKNESS
On the market there are plates of carbon rolled steel, ground steel, hard chrome-plated steel, enamelled rolled steel and enamelled cast steel, but all of them have an optimal thickness, the characteristics we will see below:
Carbon rolled steel plancha: This material is one of the most used for its price, but also for its quality and resistance. Normally, the plate should be at least 6 mm thick. The steel properties in the field of cooking are widely known, and due to its thickness, it allows cooking at different temperatures in different plancha areas, which is very useful for cooking different kind of food at the same time.
You can cook a premium rib in a hot area at full power and vegetables at a lower temperature, in a colder area, in a corner of the plancha or in the area of the other burner that is set to minimum.
On the other hand, the thinner the plate, the less thermal inertia it has, which means that the temperature of its surface drops sharply when you put a cold meal on the plancha. On the contrary, the thicker the plate, the easier it is to increase its surface temperature. To remedy this disadvantage, the power must be sufficient so that the temperature can rise quickly and the plancha quickly seals the food to hold all the juices.
The other disadvantage of this material is that it rusts, so it must be handled more carefully: after each use, pour ice cubes or very cold water on the plancha plate, which is still hot, to remove grease, clean it with a degreasing detergent and dry it thoroughly. Dry it thoroughly, making sure that no moisture remains on the plancha. To do this, you can light the plancha for a minute after cleaning or leave the plancha in the sun while eating and then apply a thin layer of oil that will protect the steel until the next use. These planchas are used by many small restaurants and home cooks.
Ground steel planchas : It is the same material as the previous one, but with a different manufacturing process. Usually these plates are thicker; 10 to 12 mm, and the cooking surface is finely polished. These plates have a more uniform temperature, although it is possible to create warm zones around the edges, reducing the temperature of one of the burners to a minimum. Their thermal inertia is greater due to their thickness. Therefore, these plates do not require as much energy after heating. The disadvantages are as follows: it is also a material that rusts, it must be properly maintained and it takes a little longer to reach the operating temperature because the stell volume to be heated multiplies. In professional catering, they are used by all kinds of restaurants and by moderately demanding amateur chefs.
Hard chrome planchas : They are plates with a thickness of 16 to 20 mm with great thermal inertia, the same material as the previous ones but a greater thickness, polished and coated with hard chrome, which gives the top extreme durability and allows it to maintain its new appearance and non-stick properties for years.This plate certainly has the best thermal inertia, but it takes longer to heat up (about 15-20 minutes) and does not provide warm areas. Therefore, chefs need to be more skilled. It is important that the plate is well polished and covered with a hard chrome film larger than 30 microns.
Hard chrome is easy to clean with ice cubes or cold water, and even ten years after leaving the factory, the plancha plate is like new. The plate does not withstand shocks very well, but it is very resistant to abrasion (scratches from spatula, etc.). It is made of stainless material, non-stick, durable and practical, and offers the best cooking. These plates should ALWAYS be equipped with a thermostatic valve, as hard chrome should not exceed a certain temperature. This is the high range for the catering area, they keep the temperature throughout the day and can also be used as teppanyaki planchas. This product is a luxury that is achievable for home cooks and will take them to the next level.
Enamelled rolled steel planchas: These are rolled steel plates with an enamell application to prevent the plate from rusting. These are usually plates of 6 to 8 mm, which, depending on the thickness, have an average thermal inertia, but have enough power to work perfectly. The planchas make it possible to work with different temperature ranges without any problems, but they require caution so as not to make sudden changes in temperature that can chip the enamell.
Therefore, they should not be cleaned with ice cubes or too cold water, as thermal shock can damage the plancha plate. This is because the rate of expansion of rolled steel is different from that of enamell, and if two bonded materials don´t expand in the same way, it is very likely that they will eventually separate. This plancha plate type offers cooking similar to steel, with stainless properties, but with a much more fragile plate. These plates are not used in the professional kitchen field and, at a certain level, are only suitable for home cooks for whom the maintenance of a rolled steel plate is not a problem.
Enamelled cast iron planchas: strictly speaking, it is not a “planchas”, but a plate shape with molten steel, which is then enamelled and glazed. This material is very “modern” because maintenance is minimal and since it is enamelled, it does not rust.This type of manufacture was chosen because it basically makes it possible to obtain a stainless steel “plate” that is more resistant to temperature changes. It is clear that enamell and cast iron combine better than enamell and rolled steel, and in this case enamell is much more stable. You should also avoid cleaning the plancha with ice cubes and avoid sudden changes in temperature and shocks.
Traditionally, this material has been used for pots, ideal for simmering and simmering for hours, since it does not require contact heat transfer, but enveloping and stable heat. To be resistant, the cast iron plancha plate must have a thickness of at least 6 mm and high-quality enamell. Refuse plates made of inferior materials that are not made in Europe. Thermal inertia is similar to rolled steel. You should know that once the plancha is turned off, this plate type can stay hot for some time. They take a long time to heat up and cool down and have to wait 15 minutes for the plancha to reach operating temperature (i.e. higher power consumption). This plate type is not used at a professional level, because the enamell, except of course for maintenance, does not contribute anything to the kitchen. In the hobby kitchen, these planchas are reserved for those who prefer to sacrifice a little culinary level and have a plancha that is easier to maintain.
Stainless steel: Not to be confused with hard chrome plates. Stainless steel is nothing more than … Stainless steel, thanks to its more or less good nickel alloy. We are trying to figure out how to solve the “disadvantage” of real carbon steel plates – rust. In this case, with collateral damage, which, in our opinion, does not compensate for the complaints. Of all the materials mentioned, stainless steel has the lowest thermal inertia and expands strongly with temperature.
The thermal inertia is so low that if you cook a steak in this plate, and it is in direct contact with the burner, it cooks relatively well, but the food is not properly sealed in the other areas. It will lose cooking juices and it will cost you time and money. Similarly, the coefficient of thermal expansion, which is so high that 230-250 ºC cannot be exceeded in this plate, and does not allow the food to seal.
If rust is really a problem, you can choose an enameled cast iron plate or, even better, a hard chrome plate. Stainless steel is certainly an excellent material, but it is not suitable for this type of cooking. It is not used in the professional kitchen area, and at a special level, these plates are only suitable for home cooks, for whom the care of a plate is a real problem.
POWER AND SHAPE OF THE BURNERS
The power you need depends largely on the plancha size and its thickness. Normally, a 60 x 40 or 75 x 40 plate with a 6 mm rolled steel plate needs a little more than 6 kW. With this power, you can reach the operating temperature in just 5 minutes, but since the thermal inertia is lower, you need this power to quickly increase the temperature when you put a raw meal on the plancha. A 12 mm thick ground steel plate can work correctly with the same power because its thermal inertia is higher, but it takes almost twice as long to reach the operating temperature. For thicknesses of 16 mm or more, such as hard chrome plates, the power requirement is significantly higher.
The burner shape is also important, especially for plates with a thickness of 8 mm or less, since the area in direct contact with the flame heats up first and therefore a good distribution of the flame is preferable. Certain plate burners with a thin plate are usually “H” shaped with a double flame outlet on each ramp. They can also be placed in a single-line row in the form of an “I”, but then you should know that they need twice as many burners and valves. That is: 2 “I” is equal to one “H”. For thicker plates, the shape of the burners is not so important, since the plate heats up more evenly thanks to thermal inertia, although an “H” burner is always better.
In some plates equipped with single-line or round burners, the burners are placed further away from the plate, so that the heat is distributed more evenly over the plate, but at what cost? Burners that are further away from the plate require more energy to heat it, and therefore higher energy consumption and unnecessary costs.
You should know that electricity is also synonymous of energy consumption and therefore money. It doesn’t make sense to work with more power than you really need because you’re spending money unnecessarily. The best is to buy a good thermometer for the plate and know the ideal cooking temperature for each food. This is the best way to cook well, nicely and cheaply.
WHICH PLANCHA SIZE IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Choosing the ideal size for your plancha is just as important as anything else. Think about how many people you need to cook for and choose the size of your plancha based on:
- 50×40cm: 4-6 persons
- 60×40cm: 6-8 persons
- 75×40cm: 8-10 persons
- 90×40cm: 10-12 persons
- 100×40cm: 12-14 persons
- 125×40cm: +14 persons
GAS PLANCHA OR ELECTRIC PLANCHA?
Each energy source has its advantages and disadvantages, and you should evaluate the one that best suits you, depending on the benefit we give to the plancha. As for the use of the plancha, the gas allows to have more power and the plancha reaches the temperature of use faster. On the other hand, the power of the plancha is somewhat limited, since you cannot usually connect devices of 7 or 8 kW to the home network. However, electricity is a cleaner and safer source of energy than gas. Electric planchas have a very important advantage: they allow you to control the exact cooking temperature, thanks to a thermostat that indicates the plancha plate temperature.
A good plancha is a long-term investment, whether for use in gastronomy or at home. Like other products, the planchas can be found on the market at all prices, for domestic use for less than 100 €, for professional use over 1,000 €.
If you think you will use the plancha often, we recommend that you invest in a good product to enjoy it for many years.
Who doesn’t know these sentences?
Buying cheap is expensive!
Buying cheap costs twice as much!
And finally, our favorite quote:
Quality lasts longer
Of course, it is better to cook with professional equipment for many years than to cook with inferior equipment that does not give the expected results and lasts less, only to have to buy a quality plancha in the end.
A plancha can be thought of as an appliance, such as a dishwasher, refrigerator or washing machine. In addition, a plancha costs less than a high-quality stone barbecue.
In the end, buying a good plancha means saving money. You can eat high-quality food at home, cooked like in a restaurant.