Whether it’s the height of summer or a crisp winter day, a fire pit can transform your garden, becoming not only an attractive feature, but a practical one too. But, what about a fire pit that can also be used for cooking?
Yes, they exist! Plancha grills offer the best of both worlds – an incredible cooking experience and the ability to function as a powerful fire pit. Find out everything you need to know about plancha grills in our buying guide…
What is a plancha grill?
A plancha grill is basically a grill that features a large, flat metal surface. This surface becomes very hot and is used to sear meat, fish or vegetables in a way that other grills or cooking surfaces cannot.
Plancha grills originated in Spain where the ‘a la plancha’ cooking method was first developed. The a la plancha cooking method combines high-temperature searing with a small amount of smoking.
Plancha grills differ from other types of grills in that the surface of the plancha is designed to become exceptionally hot, with the heat dissipating towards the outer edge of the plancha’s surface. The plancha heating surface is generally circular, with a hole in the middle to allow flames to exit the burner.
How do plancha grills cook food?
Given that plancha grills are billed as being very different from traditional grills, a question we often receive is how are they different? The key difference is the way in which plancha grills cook food. Let us explain…
Plancha grills achieve a very high heat and therefore trigger the Leidenfrost phenomena. This is a phenomenon which occurs when a liquid comes into contact with a surface which is significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point. This produces an insulating layer of vapour which prevents the liquid from boiling off quickly. As a result of this insulating layer, food placed on a plancha grill will ‘float’ over the surface of the grill.
You’ll have seen the Leidenfrost phenomena at work when splashing water into a hot pan. The water droplets seem to skim across the surface – this is the Leidenfrost phenomenon in action.
Because of this effect, food cooked on a plancha grill achieves a uniform sear and develops a deeper, more flavourful crust and caramelised juices.
Trust us, food cooked on a plancha grill really is different from food cooked on a normal grill!
Because of the way plancha grills work, you can also cook food in a slightly different way. For example, on a traditional grill a chef will have to flip meat to a different, hotter spot in order to get a sear on the meat (everytime the meat is flipped it cools the grill down where it lands).
With a plancha grill, you don’t need to move the meat around. This is because it maintains a consistently high temperature, even if you’re repeatedly cooking food on it. This makes plancha grills ideal if you’re looking to cook for large numbers of people.
Choosing the right plancha grill materials
The majority of plancha grills on the market featured a stainless steel body. This is because stainless steel is lightweight, strong and proven to last – even in outdoor settings. You’ll also find plancha grills on the market that feature cast iron bodies. Cast iron is far heavier than stainless steel, but has an exceptionally long lifespan.
However, when you’re buying a plancha grill you should pay special attention to the material of the grill ring itself. There are many different materials used to construct plancha grill rings, and the material used influences the way in which the ring cooks food.
Below, we’ve listed the most common materials used to manufacture plancha grill rings and how each of these materials behaves.
Stainless steel plancha grill ring
Stainless steel is a very popular material for plancha grill rings. It can withstand high temperatures, offers great heat distribution and is easy to maintain. It’s also very hygienic and is easily scrubbed clean. However, it doesn’t conduct heat as well as cast iron or other types of plancha grill ring materials.
Enamelled cast iron plancha grill ring
Enamelled cast iron is regarded as the best material for plancha grill rings. It ensures great heat distribution thanks to the high thermal conductivity of cast iron. The enamelled finish maximises the Leidenfrost phenomenon, so food cooked on an enamelled cast iron plancha grill ring will be cooked to perfection. You do, however, have to look after the enamel and be careful not to damage or scratch it when you are cooking or cleaning the grill.
Chrome plated plancha grill ring
Chrome plating is rarely used on plancha grill rings, largely because it’s a very expensive option. However, chrome plated plancha grill rings are regarded as offering excellent cooking quality and easy care and maintenance.
Carbon steel plancha grill ring
Carbon steel is a good mid-price material for plancha grill rings. It’s very scratch-resistant and is hard wearing. Although, once the carbon coating eventually wears away (and it will!), the grill ring will quickly become corroded. If you’re after a budget option, then a plancha grill with a carbon steel grill ring is a viable choice, but you may be better off upgrading to a cast iron or stainless steel grill ring instead.
Which material grill ring your plancha grill uses will largely depend on cost. The higher-end, most expensive plancha grills generally feature enamelled cast iron grill rings, whilst more moderately or budget priced models will normally feature stainless steel grill rings.
Where to locate a plancha grill
Before you click buy and invest in a lovely new plancha grill, it’s important to give some thought as to where you will put it.
Enamelled cast iron plancha grills such as those manufactured by Hergom, can weigh as much as 199kg. So, once they’re in place, they take a lot of effort to move!
Ideally, you want to choose a location that is well ventilated, is inaccessible to children and has a solid floor such as a patio which will support the weight of the grill.
If you buy a lighter, stainless steel plancha grill, then it is possible to buy dedicated plancha trolleys which you can use to move your grill around as and when needed.
What fuels can you use with a plancha grill?
When thinking about buying a plancha grill, it’s important to decide what type of fuel you’ll feel most comfortable using.
Plancha grills traditionally use either seasoned wood or charcoal as a fuel source. This continues to this day, with the top plancha grills being designed to use seasoned firewood. Using these fuels helps to heat the grill to the appropriate temperature for cooking and also imparts a light smoking to the foodstuffs.
For the best cooking results, it is recommended that you use a mix of different woods. Hard woods such as oak are ideal for cooking thick pieces of meat, with the embers giving off more heat for longer. Other woods such as beech or walnut can be used to provide different smoky flavours to food. Woods such as almond, apple or cherry will impart fruity aromas to meats.
It is possible to buy plancha grills that run on gas or electricity, but these are predominantly used in professional catering and certainly don’t offer the visceral, enjoyable experience that you get with a wood or charcoal fired plancha grill.
How do you maintain a plancha grill?
Another consideration when buying a plancha grill, is the amount of maintenance you’re willing to do.
The amount of maintenance you’ll need to do will largely depend on the material used to construct your plancha grill.
The minimum amount of recommended maintenance is to clean your plancha grill after use. This is as simple as allowing it to cool, removing the ashes and then cleaning the grill ring with warm soapy water and a spatula to scrape off stubborn bits. If you’ve invested in an enamelled cast iron plancha, then you should be careful to use a spatula made from wood or a soft synthetic material, to avoid scratching the enamel. You should finish by cleaning the grill ring with a piece of cloth dipped in olive oil.
Many plancha grills come with handy ash draws which makes it easy to collect and remove the ash. If collecting ash is something you dislike, make sure you buy a plancha grill with an ash draw and it’ll make your life a whole lot easier (and cleaner!).
If you have bought a cast iron plancha grill, that’s about all the maintenance you’ll need to do! If you’ve bought a plancha grill made from another material such as stainless steel, you may need to periodically undertake a deeper clean in order to prevent corrosion.
Can you use a plancha grill as a fire pit?
Yes! The beauty of traditional wood and charcoal fired plancha grills, is that they also make perfect firepits. They are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can buy for your garden.
With most models of plancha grill, all you need to do to use them as a fire pit, is to remove the grill ring. This is generally very easy on most models, with the grill ring unclipping or sliding out of place.
What size plancha grill should you buy?
This leads us on to another important consideration; the size of plancha grill to choose.
If you are going to be mainly using your plancha grill for cooking, then you will want to select one with a ‘high base’. This means that the grill comes with a stand that sits beneath the grill, raising it so that it’s at the proper height for cooking.
If you choose a plancha grill with a high base, you may want to buy one that includes a small wood store within the base. This provides you with a handy place to store the grill’s fuel supply.
Whereas, if you are going to be using your plancha grill mainly as a fire pit, you should think about buying a ‘low base’ version of your chosen grill. This keeps the plancha grill at a low level, so you can comfortably sit around it and benefit from the heat of the fire.
In addition to thinking about the height of your plancha grill, give some thought to the size of the grill ring. If you’re going to be cooking large amounts of food, then make sure you buy a plancha grill that features a large grill ring. You’ll sometimes see these plancha grills advertised as ‘XL grills’, meaning they have a larger grill ring than normal.
What accessories do you need for a plancha grill?
As well as the grill itself, there are a number of accessories that can make your plancha grill much more enjoyable to use.
Below are some of the most popular accessories that are bought alongside plancha grills:
- Cover or hood to keep out rainfall.
- Trolley – some of the lighter versions of plancha grills can be moved around using a trolley.
- Cooking utensils – if you’re going to be cooking on your plancha grill regularly, it can be handy to have a set of dedicated utensils for doing so.
- Long handled spatula – related to the above point, it’s worth investing in a long-handled spatula. They are designed to be used over high heats, so are therefore perfect for use with plancha grills.
- Grilling gloves – plancha grills can give off a ferocious amount of heat, so it can be more comfortable to cook while using a set of grilling gloves.
The best plancha grills for UK homes
With all of that information in mind, we hope you’re feeling more informed and ready to think about buying a plancha grill. Throughout this buying guide, we’ve talked about the many different variations of plancha grill that are available on the UK market. So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular plancha grills on sale right now…
Hergom Firepit Outdoor Plancha Grill (Low Base)
The Hergom Firepit makes for a versatile addition to any garden. With the low base, the Hergom firepit is perfect for sitting around on those cool spring or summer evenings.
Hergom is based in Spain (the home of plancha grills), so if you want the most authentic, traditional plancha grill available, Hergom is the brand for you. This low base model firepit is finished with special weatherproof paint and has a high-quality enamelled cast iron grill ring, so you can achieve the perfect finish for your food.
This model is only suitable for use with firewood and will not accommodate charcoal.
Hergom Firepit Outdoor Plancha Grill (High Base)
This is the high base version of the plancha grill above. In addition to the high-quality cast-iron grill, this version features a steel base which incorporates a fire box for the storage of firewood. The base is finished in a special weatherproof paint and is fitted with stainless side bars, to help you move the grill if you need to.
As with the low base model, the Hergom Firepit Outdoor Grill (High Base) can only use firewood.
Buschbeck Yurok Large Firepit Plancha Grill
If you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly plancha grill that doesn’t compromise on quality, then the Buschbeck Yurok Large Plancha Grill is for you.
Buschbeck manufactures its plancha grills in Germany and is known for creating quality, functional plancha grills. Buschbeck’s Yurok model is one of their larger plancha grills and features a 4mm grill ring which allows heat to spread in a radial manner, making it easy to cook meat, fish or vegetables.
The Yurok’s grill ring is easily removed, so that you can turn this into a brilliant large firepit in only a minute or two. It also features a handy ash draw; simply pull it out and empty it.
Alternatives to plancha grills
We realise that plancha grills may not be to everyone’s taste. But, if you want something that’ll provide heat outdoors and allow you to cook a meal, why not try an outdoor stove and grill? We’ve set out some of the most popular options below.
Esse Garden Stove and Outdoor Grill
The Esse Garden Stove is an enclosed wood-burning stove designed specifically for outdoor use. It’s ideal for heating up your favourite corner of the garden all year round. But, it’s also capable of cooking your favourite meats and vegetables.
It comes complete with a hotplate top and includes a grill plate so you can get that perfect grill finish on your steak! Thanks to its detachable wheels, it can also be moved easily.
What’s more, this is a high-quality stove, being hand-built by Esse in Great Britain, using UK steel and UK cast parts.
Chesneys Heat and Grill Outdoor Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove
Functioning as an outdoor heater and barbecue, the award-winning Chesneys Heat and Grill is perfect if you like to entertain larger groups of friends and family. The Heat and Grill’s large grill surface and pair of metal side shelves, means you can easily cater to 6 or 8 people.
The Chesney Heat and Grill also comes with a flue pipe, an analogue thermometer, a pair of stove gloves, a scoop for removing ash and weatherproof cover.
Chesneys Garden Gourmet Wood Burning Barbecue and Outdoor Stove
If you prefer a more modern looking outdoor stove and barbecue, then the Chesneys Garden Gourmet is for you.
The Garden Gourmet is big enough to cater for 10 to 12 people and can be used to slow cook a huge 4-rib roast at low temperature thanks to its fully-sealed lid.
It also comes with a range of accessories including a flue pipe, pair of wooden side shelves, a digital thermometer, a pair of stove gloves, a scoop for removing ash and a weatherproof cover.
Pick up the perfect plancha grill today
We hope you’ve found our plancha grill buying guide helpful. If there are any questions that this guide hasn’t answered, feel free to contact us and one of our team will be happy to help!
Shop plancha grills at Direct Stoves now
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