Tonight is Pancake Tuesday, which is how Catholic Canadians celebrate Mardi Gras or Shrovetide. If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition, I wrote a bit about it here.
So yes, I’m eating pancakes for dinner tonight, which means I get to use one of my very favourite appliances, my West Bend counter-top griddle.
My parents received this griddle as a wedding present in 1981. It takes 120 V electrical and runs at 1500 W. It is a simple, flat, metal cooking surface, roughly 10″ by 16″, with a shallow trough along three sides, and a deeper, broader trough on the fourth to collect rendered fat. It is supported by hard plastic brackets that hold it above the counter on which is sits.
I can hear you: “Great description, Allan: it’s a griddle. Big deal. How is it different from the one I bought at London Drugs?”
Because the cooking surface is a six pound slab of cast iron, which gives it a heat capacity far exceeding any modern griddle. And I could do without the sarcasm, thank you very much.
The sheer mass of iron means that the surface heats evenly; there aren’t any hot spots where the heating coil runs beneath, which means pancakes brown evenly. Also you can load it with sausages and pancake batter without a serious sag in surface temperature. Plus it’s durable: this griddle has been making Shrovetide pancakes and hash browns for more than thirty years. It’s the only electric appliance I own that is actually older than me. (I feel obligated to mention that one of the electrical components was replaced by my father-in-law a couple years ago.)
Another way to know that this griddle hails from a by-gone era: on the underside it is stamped, “Made in Canada”. I’m personally not old enough to remember a time that Canada had a manufacturing industry.
A heavy cast iron griddle is all well and good, but the skeptical among you may suggest that it doesn’t do anything that a good cast iron pan couldn’t. To me the griddle’s value is in the quantity and variety of food it is able to cook all at once. Granted, if you are a family of five you would still need to do multiple batches, but since this is the largest cooking surface in my house, it is most often used on special occasions. At brunch, for instance, or to fry up a mess of colcannon on St. Patrick’s day. All this to say I have very fond associations with this implement.
My pancake recipe can be found here.
#ButtonSoupTools is a series about my favourite kitchen tools, the ones that appeal to me for reasons practical or sentimental.
1. Too soon?